Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not. – Oscar Wilde

Life is not a bed of roses, they say, and this is quite true. However, only a few are able to understand that this is the beauty of life. If it was all good and fair for each one of us, it wouldn’t have been that interesting. While many people feel that they are living in misery, it could be sometimes a blessing too. To explain this phenomenon in a better way, Oscar Wilde said “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not”. While the quote may seem quite straight forward with regards to life and fairness, it has a deeper meaning and analogy which is discussed below. 

Oscar Wilde

Who was Oscar Wilde?

Oscar Wilde was an Irish Poet and Storywriter who lived between 16 October 1854 and 30 November 1900. From a very young age, Wilde showed exceptional abilities to write on classicalism as he had a philosophical approach as well. The life of Oscar Wilde is full of classics, novels, plays, and poems that helped him earn good fame throughout his life. Some of his famous works include An Ideal Husband (1893), The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and many others as well. 

However, the life of Wilde was not always as good despite the immense success that he gained. In a trial, Wilde was charged with gross indecency with men with regard to homosexual activities. For this reason, he was sentenced to prison with maximum penalty and punishment as well. During his time in jail, he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) which was also his last work that focused on the harsh life he spent in prison. 

Origin of this Quote

Oscar Wilde first used this quote in his play “An Ideal Husband” which was published in 1893. The play focuses on the corrupt vices in politics as well as the element of blackmail in society. The four-act play got so famous that there were two films released on it later on. In his play, the quote “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not” is said by Lord Goring to Sir Robert Chiltern. The quote from this play got quite famous later on. 

A photograph of Oscar Wilde

Meaning of this Quote

The quote signifies the meaning of a fair world and an unfair world. It explains how the world being unfair is fair for many. 

Do We Deserve This Life?

The main question that many people ask themselves is whether or not they deserve the life that they have. Some people feel that they should have gotten better while others just feel overwhelmed and start to doubt whether they actually deserve a good life or not. For both situations, there is an important aspect to consider. 

Firstly, most people believe that they are not being given a fair life. They believe that they have more problems than blessings. This is wrong thinking. Most people are neglecting the blessing that they have and are only focused on pointing out the mistakes. In reality, if we start to observe our behavior towards life and those who are a part of our lives, we might be ashamed to be blessed so much. 

For example, a person who has some work-related stress might feel that life isn’t fair to him. Let’s say, this person has been scolded by his boss several times in a week, for an unfair reason. The immediate thought that comes to mind is that the boss is wrong and the person is right. However, the person does not realize the countless blessings that he has. For example, he has a job, good accommodation, enough food to sleep every night, and even some savings. The person has his whole body with him while many are physically challenged in this world. The only thing he sees, for now, is that he has been scolded unfairly so he will feel that his entire life has become unfair to him.  

In other circumstances, let’s say, this person has lied to someone. He has cheated on a loved one, and even tried to make fun of his colleagues in a bad manner. With all that context, does he even deserve a good job? Most likely not. Why? Because he himself is getting more than what he “fairly” deserves. He is doing way worse to other people but only feeling it to be unfair for himself. 

This is the case for most people today. If we take a quick glance at our lives including all private and public doings, many of us will feel ashamed of our behavior. We would realize that probably, we are already being given way ahead of what we actually deserve. Oscar Wilde is right when he says that an unfair life is probably a good thing for most people.  

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And this is quite related to the aspect of spending a fair life. 

Be Thankful

One of the hidden meanings of this quote by Oscar Wilde is to be thankful for the countless blessings we have. Most of us don’t see the good things in our life and only complain about the bad things happening. We don’t see the basic facilities, as well as extras that are provided to others. 

There is a story that can explain this point further. A man with a million-dollar car was going along with his chauffeur in his car. He saw a plane flying in the air and wished that he could have gotten his private jet. By this time, he didn’t feel thankful for the countless blessings he had despite his possible wrong actions and doings. He just saw that he was missing a plane. Going a few miles ahead, another man saw this million-dollar car while being in his Toyota himself. He wished that he had the same car. Yet again, he does not feel thankful to nature for giving him a car when so many people can’t even eat. 

Be Thankful

Another man walks by on foot and wishes he had a car for convenient traveling. The aspect of thankfulness is missing again and all that matters is the extra wish. Going further, the man who was walking sees a man who does not even have a leg on his own. At this point, the man without a leg wishes he was just able to walk. 

The moral of this story is that we don’t realize how blessed we are. We are rarely thankful for the blessings we have and only compare our lives to others. Life is not fair to us because it is always granting us more than what most people deserve. What if the millionaire had been involved in fraud to gain so much money to be able to afford a car? What if the person who was driving a Toyota tried to trick someone into a loss? Considering these vices, do they even deserve what they had? No. However, because life is unfair, they got more than they deserved. For this reason, Oscar Wild believes that most should be considering the unfair aspect of life a good thing. 

Even Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about life and ease focuses on the same values.

The Feelings Diminish

If life was fair, we would have not felt the element of happiness or sadness. Why? Because it would have been extremely neutral and natural for all of us. We wouldn’t be able to feel any emotions because they wouldn’t be new to us. Happiness comes when a person feels sad first. Always feeling contented and satisfied would eliminate the aspect of being happy because one would get used-to to it. The aspect of being thankful would eliminate even further if life was too fair to all of us. 

What would there be to wish for if you were happy all the time? Nothing. Will you ever feel happy if you were never sad? No. Will there be happiness if there was never ever a sad time? No. With everything fair, will anyone ever get a second chance? No. With life being too fair, would there be forgiveness? Probably not. If life was too fair, on what principles will it ever get fair? There are infinite questions about the aspect of fairness. Perhaps, for this reason, Oscar Wilde believes that an unfair life is a good thing for most of us. 

It is Not a Good Thing for the Minority 

While we do agree that it is a good thing for most of us, life is not a good thing for the minority. The minority always gets the trouble for all the unfair aspects. The unfair life affects the poor community in the most troubling ways. A homeless person might be of good character and has never done wrong to anybody else. However, with fate deciding for him, he gets an unfair life by spending it all on the roads. These poor people have an unfair life in a bad manner instead of a good way. 

For this reason, Oscar Wilde specifically mentions in the quote that life being not fair is a good thing for most but not for everyone. Few suffer even if they do good. Few suffer even with the most ideal personalities while most enjoy even the poor personalities and vices of society. 

A poor man with a bowl in his hand


The quote by Oscar Wilde takes us on a journey to evaluate the extent of fairness in life. We can conclude that life being not fair is actually fair if we consider it from a selfish aspect. Everyone wants to get relaxation from doing wrong and get all the good stuff out of life. They don’t want to have a self-evaluation and be treated the fair way or be punished for their wrongdoings. The quote explains that we should be thankful, happy, and grateful for the blessings in life while helping the underprivileged to help them lead a better and fair life.