Omri Herzog On:
The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde knew very well that pretense is a constitutive element of human existence, and therefore as well of literary writing. Imagination is fully portrayed with all its glory only while it does what it takes to protect a lie; that is the motivation of storytelling. An existence with no secret – an existence that assumes complete identification of the interior and the exterior – is not a sustained part of human territory.
Nevertheless, a secret is not enough just for itself, since a character is fully realized in all his or hers otherness only when their secret is revealed. Wilde, in order to establish such revelations in his writings, dwells on decorative mats, in costumes, and behind masks that secrets hold so dear.
This narrative structure characterizes Wilde’s entire body of work, as in this sweet short story, which is all about transforming the cunning and sophistication of disguise into pleasure, and on the act of revelation by an innocent man. Revelation does not leave the secret simply naked, ashamed; nor does it judge its meaning harshly. The burden of this poetic condensation is dropped on the weary shoulders of moral tales. With Wilde’s, the revealed secret is celebrated with great splendor and grandeur as a victory of the human spirit, as well as the generous victory of art – and the stories it reveals.