women bother one. Good women bore
These examples prove that Oscar Wilde wishes to give a musical value to every phrase. The parallel constructions produce a certain rhythm, wonderful sound and expressiveness.
Enumeration is the next syntactical stylistic device used by O.Wilde in his plays.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., enumeration is a stylistic device by which separate things, objects, properties or actions are named one by one so that they produce a chain, the links of which, being syntactically in the same position (homogeneous parts of speech), are forced to display some kind of semantic homogeneity, remote though it may seem.31
e.g. “Bad women as they are turned, may have in them
sorrow, repentance, pity, sacrifice.” (p. 67)
“She has got a capital appetite, goes long walks, and
pays no attention at all to her lessons.” (p. 301)
“I have also in my possession, you will be pleased to
hear certificates of Ms. Cardew’s birth, baptism,
whooping cough, registration, vaccination,
confirmation, and the measles”. (p.340)
Analysing these sentences we can see the musical chain of enumeration. It gives more objective value of the character’s speech. It gives the variety of thoughts and feelings.
One of the most typical phenomenon of Wilde’s plays is ellipsis. But this typical feature of the spoken language assumes a new quality when used in the written language. By Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., ellipsis is an intentional omission from an utterance of one or more words.32
Ellipsis makes the utterance grammatically incomplete. The meaning of omitted words is easy to understand. The context helps to understand the meaning of such words and the whole situation.
e.g. “Been dining with my people”. (p.45)
“Quite sure of.” (p.149)
Chasuble: Your brother Ernest dead?
Jack: Quite dead.” (p.312)
Ellipsis gives the picture of real life, real people, their feelings and emotions, the simplicity of their speech. It adds a certain charm to the conversation. It is right to suppose that the omission of the words in these sentences is due to the requirements of the rhythm.
Syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices add also logical, emotive, expressive information to the utterance.
There are also certain structures, whose emphasis depends not only on the arrangement of sentence members but also on their construction with definite demands on the lexico-semantic aspect of the sentence. They are known as lexico-syntactical stylistic devices.
Chiasmus is a good example of them.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., chiasmus is based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern but it has a cross order of words and phrases.33
e.g. “All the married men live like bachelors, and all the
bachelors like married men.” (p.114)
The effect of a cross order of words in this example produces an ironic character. Like parallel construction, chiasmus contributes to the rhythmical quality of the utterance.
e.g. “The body is born young and grows old. That is life’s
tragedy. The soul is born old but grows young. That is
the comedy of life.” (p.111)
In this example the effect is increased because the members of chiasmus are antonyms “young, old, comedy, tragedy”. Usually chiasmus is a syntactical stylistic device, not a lexical one, but in this example the witty arrangement of the words gives the utterance an epigrammatic character. This can be considered as lexical chiasmus. Examples show the brilliancy of Wilde’s style.
One more stylistic device used by Wilde is antithesis.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R antithesis is based on relative opposition which arises out of the context through the expansion of objectively contrasting pairs.34
Syntactically antithesis is just another case of parallel constructions. But unlike parallelism, which is indifferent to the semantics of its components, the two parts of an antithesis must be semantically opposite to each other, as in these examples from O.Wilde:
e.g. “Don’t use big words. They mean so little.” (p.252)
“Curious thing, plain women are always jealous of
their husbands, beautiful women never are!” (p.108)
Here we can see the semantic contrast, which is formed with the help of objectively contrasting pairs “big – little”, “plain – beautiful”, “always – never”.
e.g. “She certainly had a wonderful faculty of remembering
people’s names, and forgetting their faces.” (p. 98)
In this example we can see antonyms: “remembering” and “forgetting”, which create the contrasting pair and make the antithesis more expressive. But in his antithesis Wilde also uses some contextual antonyms.
e.g. “Men become old, but they never become good”.
“Men can be analysed, women merely adored.”
“…if one plays good music, people don’t listen, if one plays bad music, people don’t talk”. (p.199)
It is important to note, that Wild’s antithesis is always accompanied by parallelisms, thus showing the difference of phenomena compared.
e.g. “Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of
everything and the value of nothing”. (p.72)
Thus we can make a conclusion that syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices play an important role in Wilde’s style. Wilde is a talented writer who can make us feel the way he wants us to feel. This co-existence is built up so subtly, that the reader remains unaware of the process. It is still stronger when the aesthetic function begin to manifest itself clearly and unequivocally through a gradual increase in intensity, in the foregrounding of certain features, repetitions, of certain syntactical patterns and in the broken rhythm of the author’s mode of narrating events, facts and situations.
One can find different syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices in Wilde’s plays such as parallel constructions, repetition, chiasmus, antithesis and many others. These expressive means help the author to create his clear-cut and elegant style, to give rhythm to his language. They give a musical value to every phrase.
Wilde’s writing is skilful, playing, and understandable to everybody. It has a great charm and brilliancy of the author’s personality.
Thus, in the English language not only lexical expressive means and stylistic devices but also syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices are used. Considering these stylistic devices and expressive means and their characteristic features we should say that out of the number of features which are clear in the styles, some should be considered primary, others-secondary. They are not equal in their significance, some of them bear reference to the main importance, others are widely used in everyday speech.
Having analysed the four plays of Oscar Wilde: “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, ”A Woman of No Importance”, “An Ideal Husband”, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, I came to a conclusion that it is not an easy task to single them out.
Some of them make the speech of the characters vivid, interesting, humorous, ironical, emotional, understandable ; they reflect their thoughts and feelings.
The following tables give us an idea of the frequency of the usage of all expressive means and stylistic devices tackled in this diploma paper.
Table ¹ 1
This table shows that Wilde resorts to the use of lexical expressive means and stylistic devices more than to the use of syntactical ones. According to this table we can make a conclusion that lexical stylistic devices prevail in Wilde’s plays.
The following table shows the frequency of the usage of the most used lexical EMs and SDs in O.Wilde’s plays.
Table ¹ 2
Thus, we can see that Wilde pays much attention to epigrams and paradoxes which are his most favourite lexical stylistic devices.
The next table shows the frequency of the usage of syntactical expressive means and stylistic devices in O.Wilde's plays.
Table ¹ 3
O.Wilde resorts to the use of syntactical stylistic devices , and the most favourite of them is antithesis.
As it is seen from the tables the number of all stylistic devices is not equal. But all of them are based on the effect of defeated expectancy. All these stylistic devices are accompanied by one and the same stylistic phenomenon, which creates a single – whole – Oscar Wilde’s brilliant style. At the same time stylistic devices reflect various kinds of phenomena: everyday events, strange happenings, social reality and fantasy. They are all vital in creating a social atmosphere of those times.
For example, the sentence “In England a man who cannot talk morality twice a week to a large, popular, immoral audience is quite over as a serious politician.”, shows clearly the English Society of that time.
Some stylistic devices are rarely used in O.Wilde’s plays: chiasmus, inversion, metonymy and others.
I do not think it testifies to their rare occurrence in English in general. It is evidence of O.Wilde’s private likes and dislikes as an artist.
Oscar Wilde has no rival in the brilliancy of his dialogue. There seems to be no plot in his plays – only brilliant performance of witty remarks.
The plays produce an unforgettable impression not only due to the context but also to a great extent, I am sure, due to the author’s language, his individual style in which the use of stylistic expressive means and stylistic devices is the very important part.
The fact that none of his comedies has lost its aesthetic value now, proves that the secret of their long life lies in Wilde’s brilliant style and in his individuality.
1.”Learner’s Dictionary of Current English ”, by Hornby, Oxford, London, 1994.
2.”Oscar Wilde” by R.K.Miller, Frederick Ungar publishing Co.,
New York, 1984.
3.”Oscar Wilde” by H.Montgomery, Eyre Methuen, London, 1976.
4.”Oscar Wilde. The Critical Heritage” by K.Beckson, London,
Rotledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.
5.”A Short Guide to English Style” by A.Warner, London, 1976.
6.”Style in language” by T.A.Sebeok, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960.
7.”Analitical Reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., Moscow, 1974.
8.”A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., Moscow,
“Higher School” publishing house, 1986.
9.”Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., Moscow, “Higher School”, 1977.
10.”Linguistic Stylistics” by N.E. Enkvist, Mouton, The Hague,
11.”Seminars in Style” by Kukharenko V.A., Moscow, 1971.
12.”An Essay in Stylistic Analysis” by Galperin I.R., Moscow,
13.”Plays” by O.Wilde, Foreign Languages publishing house,
14.”Stylistic Analysis” by Soshalskaya E.G., Moscow, 1976.
15. «Âîïðîñû ÿçûêîçíàíèÿ», Âèíîãðàäîâ Â.Â, ¹ 1, ñòð.16.
16. Ïðîõîðîâà Â.È, Ñîøàëüñêàÿ Å.Ã «Õðåñòîìàòèÿ àíãëèéñêîé ëèíãâèñòè÷åñêîé ëèòåðàòóðû ïî ñòèëèñòèêå», èçä. ÌÃÏÈÈß,1971.
*“Learner’s Dictionary of Current English” by Hornby, Oxford, London, 1994
**“Stylistic Analysis” by Soshalskaya E.G. , Moscow, 1976, p.12
* Aesthete – is one who professes a special appreciation of what is beautiful, and endeavors to carry his ideas of beauty into practical manifestation (Oxford English Dictionary).
1 Aristophan was the great ancient Greek poet – comedian, the so called “Farther of the Comedy” (Oxford English Dictionary).
2 “The Critical Heritage” by K.Beckson, Great Britain, 1970, p.325
3 “The Critical Heritage” by K.Beckson, Great Britain, 1970, p.301
4 “Oscar Wilde” by R.Keith Miller, New York 1984, p.256
5 “Plays” by O.Wilde, Moscow, 1961, p.121
6 “The Critical Heritage” by K.Beckson, Great Britain, 1970, p. 21
7 “A Short Guide to English Style” by A. Warner, London,1961,p.142
8 the same source , p.141
*”Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.9
9 “Analytical reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B.,p.65
10 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R.,p.184
11 here and further the examples taken from “Plays” by O.Wilde, Foreign Languages publishing house, Moscow,1961.
12 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.146
13 “A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., p.46
13 “Analytical Reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.65
14 ‘Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.149
15 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.157
16 “Analytical Reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.55
17 “Analytical Reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B.,p.52
18 “A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., p. 37
19 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.139
19 “Analytical reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.51
20 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.167
20 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R.,p.176
21 “A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., p.57
22 “Analytical Reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.66
23 “Âîïðîñû ÿçûêîçíàíèÿ”, íîìåð 1, 1953 ã., ñòð.16
24 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.144
25 “Analytical reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.53
26 “A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., p.89
27 “A Book of Practice in Stylistics” by Kukharenko V.A., p.76
28 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.203
29 ‘Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.211
30 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.208
31 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.216
32 “Analytical reading” by Sosnovskaya V.B., p.68
33 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.209
34 “Stylistics” by Galperin I.R., p.222
35 “O.Wilde. The Critical Heritage” by K.Beckson, London, 1970, p.125