As Wilde's "The Decay of Lying" centers on Vivian's argument in favor of Art for its own sake, it could have easily been written as an essay or speech, the forms used by most of the sages and satirists we have previously read. However, Wilde chose to write this piece as a dialogue. What use do passages such as the following have in this piece, and is it most effective as a dialogue?
VIVIAN. Shall I read you what I have written? It might do you a great deal of good.
CYRIL. Certainly, if you give me a cigarette. Thanks. By the way, what magazine do you intend it for?
VIVIAN. For the Retrospective Review. I think I told you that the elect had revived it.
CYRIL. Whom do you mean by "the elect"!
VIVIAN. Oh, The Tired Hedonists, of course. It is a club to which I belong. We are supposed to wear faded roses in our button-holes when we meet, and to have a sort of cult for Domitian. I am afraid you are not eligible. You are too fond of simple pleasures.
CYRIL. I should be black-balled on the ground of animal spirits, I suppose?
VIVIAN. Probably. Besides, you are a little too old. We don't admit anyone who is of the usual age.
CYRIL. Well, I should fancy you are all a good deal bored with each other.
VIVIAN. We are. That is one of the objects of the club. Now, if you promise not to interrupt too often, I will read you my article.
Does this little piece of banter have anything to do with "The Decay of Lying"? Is it just filler, an amusing interlude designed to entertain the reader before Wilde launches into the crux of his argument, or does it relate to the argument itself? Does the overall structure of the piece as a dialogue help Wilde argue that Art creates Life, and that purely creative art — "lying" — is in dire need of revival?
Last modified 14 March 2002