The Meaning Of Wickedness Is A Myth By Oscar Wilde Explained

Let’s check out the meaning of wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.

This is a quote taken from Oscar Wilde’s Phrases And Philosophies For The Use Of The Young. source

(The quote is also found here.)

The Phrases And Philosophies For Use Of The Young was first published in Vol. 1 No. 1 December 1894 issue of The Chameleon.

The Chameleon was an Oxford University journal created by Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas (aka Bosie).

This particular article is on page one of this journal.

You can see the original journal here.

Meaning of wickedness is a myth

Meaning Of Wickedness Is A Myth

Before we explain the meaning of this quote, let’s break it down.

Wickedness means depravity; sinfulness; criminality or just evil thought.

Another definition is mischievous or playfully malicious.

For instance, a wicked sense of humor or a wicked smile/grin.

This quote is a typical Wildean wicked witty line.

Good People & Other People

Wilde uses the terms: good people and other people.

The good people are the law-abiding, God-fearing, morally-upright and self-righteous folks.

Yes, people who keep on the straight and narrow.

Contrary to “other people” in this context, it means the hedonistic, the nasty or simply bad people like Oscar Wilde and his peers.

Those who are self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking, law-breaking and fast-living.

He is mocking at those so-called good people.

According to Wilde, wickedness is just a story or fallacy concocted by the goody-goodies.

Now, let’s look at this line:

to account for the curious attractiveness of others

The phrasal verb to account for something means to give a reason or explanation for (something).

So it means to explain the curious attractiveness of other people.

The curious attractiveness of others means the strange and unusual appeal or allure of other people.

To put it in another way, it is their own inquisitive fascination with the strange or unacceptable behavior of other people aka bad people.

These good people themselves who are eager to know (curious) the unconventional lifestyle of bad people.

It is human nature (curiosity) to be attracted to the weird, eccentric or even repulsive.

Related: There are many articles about why people are fascinated with true crimes and serial killers.

You might have read about hybristophilia (also known as the Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome).

According to Scott Bonn, professor of criminology at Drew University and author of “Why We Love Serial Killers“:

The public’s fascination with them can be seen as a specific manifestation of its more general fixation on violence and calamity. In other words, the actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the spectacle.

Note: You can read/download this free bookWhy We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers” over here.

Interestingly, there is a thriving market for crime-related magazines (True Crime, Murder Most Foul, etc).

And not forgetting the popular True Crime Podcasts.

To the so-called bad people, for them, they do not consider their acts as wrong, wicked, sinful or illegal.

For them it could be amusement, pleasure, pride, monetary gain, or power.

It is the “good people” that considered them as bad or wicked.

Flamboyant and unconventional Wilde uses this tongue-in-cheeks epigram to make fun at the average Joes or Jan Does.

As they say there is no such thing as good or bad.

They are comparisons to our expectations.

Then we also have the conflicting views on ethics and morality.

Witty Wicked Wilde

Incidentally, Oscar Wilde is fond of the word “wicked“.

These are a couple of quotes with the word “wicked” taken from Oscar Wilde‘s writings:

“As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination.When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.” – Oscar Wilde

(Intentions: The Decay Of Lying, Pen, Pencil And Poison, The Critic As Artist, The Truth Of Masks, Brentano’s, 1905, The Critic As Artist, Part II, P. 212) source

(The quote is also found here.)

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.” – Oscar Wilde

(The Importance Of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde, Boston: Walter H. Baker Company, 1920, Act I, Cecily, PP. 50-51 ) source

(The quote is also found in: The Importance Of Being Ernest By Oscar Wilde, Prestwick House Inc, 2005, Act I, Cecily, P. 36) source

“I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like every one else.” – Oscar Wilde

(The Importance Of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde, Boston: Walter H. Baker Company, 1920, Act I, Cecily, PP. 50 ) source

(The quote is also found in: The Importance Of Being Ernest And other Plays By Oscar Wilde, UK: Puffin Books, 1986, Act I, Cecily, P. 277) source

“As we grow to know him he stirs strange questions for us, and makes us feel that it is not the wicked only who do wrong, nor the bad alone who work evil.” – Oscar Wilde

(Reviews By Oscar Wilde, Edited By Robert Baldwin Ross, 1908, A Batch Of Novels, Pall Mall Gazette, Vol. XLV. No. 6902, May 2, 1887) source

(The quote is also found in: A Critic In Pall Mall: Being Extracts From Reviews And Miscellanies By Oscar Wilde, LitRes, 2017, Russian Novelists) source

(Another source of the quote is found here.)

Wicked Quotations

Here are a few wicked quotes from various sources:

“My own feeling is that if adultery is wickedness then so is food. Both make me feel so much better afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut,

(Hocus Pocus By Kurt Vonnegut, New York: Berley Books, 1997, Ch. 14) source

“It is very difficult to make one’s way in this world without being wicked at one time or another, when the world’s way is so wicked to being with.” – Lemony Snicket

(The Penultimate Peril: A Series Of Unfortunate Events Book The Twelfth By Lemony Snicket, Harper Collins, Ch. Twelve, P. 316) source

(Another source of the quote is found here.)

“You are vain and wicked- as a genius should be.” – Günter Grass

(The Tin Drum By Gunter Grass, Translated From The German By Ralph Manheim, London: Vintage, 2004, Herbert Truczinski’s Nack, P. 156) source

The world loves a spice of wickedness. Talk as you will about principle, impulse is more attractive, even when it goes too far. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(The Complete Prose Works Of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Vol. II, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin And Company, Hyperion: A Romance, Ch. VII, Lives Of Scholars, P. 1147) source