Dead Man's Smile
Dead Man's Smile
Oscar Wilde and Dead Man’s Smile
(title in UK & USA)
| Reading Group
Guide | Q
& A with Gyles
Group Discussion Questions
- As a reader, what were your first feelings toward
Eddie Garstrang? What were your first impressions of Edmund LaGrange?
How did your emotions towards these characters change throughout
the book? What were major turning points for you?
- Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile is set
in America, London and Paris. Each of these places has unique
characteristics, but share some general similarities. How are
these places and communities similar and different?
- What was the effect of reading the storyline through
Robert’s eyes? How would it have been different if Oscar
had done the narrating?
- Oscar writes in his journal of Madame LaGrange,
“Old age has no consolations to offer us. The pulse of joy
that beats in us at twenty has become sluggish. Limbs fail, senses
rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memories
of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite
temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.” (p.
47) Do you agree with his harsh words about old age?
- Speaking to Robert, Oscar says, “Many a young
man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which,
if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by imitation
of the best models, might grow into something really great and
wonderful. But, as a rule, he comes to nothing. He either falls
into careless habits of accuracy or takes to frequenting the society
of the aged and well-informed. Both things are equally fatal to
his imagination.” (p. 68) Is Oscar right? What does he mean
by this statement? Is it directed more at the fate of young men
or the essence of imagination?
- Throughout the novel, rumor and innuendo play a
large role in shaping people’s perceptions. What is different
about rumors in the 1890s versus the present day? What is the
same? In which time period did rumors play a larger role?
- Of morality Oscar says, “I never came across
anyone in whom the moral sense was dominant who was not heartless,
cruel, vindictive, log-stupid and entirely lacking in the smallest
degree of humanity…. I would rather have fifty unnatural
vices than one unnatural virtue.” (p. 173) Do you agree
with him? What does this quote reveal about Oscar’s perception
of the world around him? Do you trust Oscar?
- How does the author use language and imagery to
bring the characters to life? Did the book's characters or style
in any way remind you of another book?
- “It’s a story told by actors and, as
you should know by now, stories told by actors are rarely to be
trusted.” (p. 267) Which of the actors in the story did
you trust the most? Trust the least? Why?
- Whose story is this? If you had to pick one, is
it Oscar’s story, Robert’s or the LaGrange’s?