Compassion for the Criminals

In Oscar Wilde’s letter, “De Profundis,” it was disheartening to read of people’s reaction to seeing him handcuffed in his convict’s uniform. Evidently, he recalls the experience and describes, “I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed… When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came up swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement… For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob” (97). Hence, people thought the situation was humorous and lacked compassion for someone who was suffering. All in all, just because of his attire and appearance as a criminal, people’s initial reaction was to make fun of him. Notably, no one had any inclination of sympathy or attempt to understand his situation. Similarly, the way that people made instinctual judgements because of his appearance can be compared to Magwitch in Great Expectations. Indeed, Pip’s initial reaction to him is fear, based on his appearance. However, after learning about his character and situation, he grew to be more understanding and tried to help him in an escape plan. Thus, this proves how by getting to know someone, and not making assumptions based on appearances, that can change your whole perspective. If the people who were laughing at Wilde actually tried to get to know him and his situation, they might have more compassion for what he is going through. Not to mention, it is easy to make fun of a stranger because there are seemingly no consequences because there is no personal attachment. Therefore, appearances don’t tell someone’s full story and instead of making assumptions about people who you don’t know, if you get to know them and try to understand their situation, that can change your entire outlook on the situation.

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