Tag Archives: decay of lying

Fictional Characters

“The only real people are the people who never existed, and if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not boast of them as copies.  The justification of a character in a novel is not that other persons are what they are, but that the author is what he is.  Otherwise the novel is not a work of art.”

-from page 14 of The Decay of Lying by Oscar Wilde, edition published in 1905 by Brentano’s in New York.  Retrieved from digital copy at: https://archive.org/details/intentionsdecayo00wild

I think it’s impossible for a fictional character to truly be a “copy”, even when inspired by a real person.  The best it can be is a representation of how the author imagines that person, or a lie.  The character is still a person who never existed.

High and Low Lies

They never rise beyond the level of misrepresentation, and actually condescend to prove, to discuss, to argue. How different from the temper of the true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence. If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might just as well speak the truth at once.”

Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying” in Intentions (London James R. Osgood McIlvaine & Co., 1889) 6

This is interesting to me because it calls out the difference between what Wilde was discussing, important lies, and the base lies of politics.