The Picture of Dorian Gray Essay Topics

Published: 2017-10-06 15:41:03
1468 words
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University of Richmond
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The Picture of Dorian Grey Summary

Oscar Wilde’s novel, “The Picture of Dorian Grey”, brought concepts about the traditional way of life in England. The writer was the first to explore the issue of aesthetic lifestyle. According to Livesey (2011), aestheticism is defined as the elevation of taste in the pursuit of beauty as the main principles in life and art. However, the new concept of aesthetics that was developed in in Europe during the 19th Century denies the moral beliefs and values of the Victorian England society, and instead, exalts the pleasures of beauty and life. In light of this view, Oscar Wilde shares the concepts of aesthetics in his novel, which was widely criticized for being exceptionally filthy. Wilde supports the principle of aesthetics by highlighting the worship of being beautiful. The novel suggests new moral norms that through the novel, the author shares by encouraging the concept of aestheticism. The concept is closely related to the aim of art. As Wilde (1979 77) puts it, the artist can be seen as creators of things that are beautiful, and thus, revealing art and concealing the artist is the main aim of art. In effect, it can be derived that individuals who in most instances find ugly meanings in beautiful things are mainly corrupt without the provision of being charming. It is evident that Wilde brings an insight that art’s aim is to bring pleasures without moral content. For this reason, Wilde is a critic of people, asserting that people obediently follow what is encompassed in social norms, and do not follow what necessarily brings freedom and happiness to a great extent.

In addition, as Duggan (2009:61) points out, aestheticism supports the behavior that maximizes happiness and beauty in a person’s life, which is encompassed in hedonistic view. For this reason, it can be derived that an aesthete’s ideal life is seen to mimic art primarily because it is beautiful, but it is impractical beyond its beauty. Wilde supports the idea that the aesthetic tendencies of people should be taken with prudence, and also, they should be practiced only within reasonable limits that uphold morality. As such, only being controlled can guarantee that adverse effects are avoided in the society, as well as the person who openly lives by aestheticism. When these parameters of moral grounds are not upheld, negative consequences are inevitable. In essence, Wilde, through the novel, showcases his idea. It demonstrates the fatal impact that is derived from living a life that purely is driven by aestheticism. The main character, Dorian realizes these consequences and finally acts on impulse, which is by then too late to rectify the destructive effects of leading an aesthetic life. At first, Dorian is innocent and acted within the moral parameters, but with time, his morals are continuously eroded. Therefore, Dorian develops as a character from an innocent and one who upholds morals and changes to an individual whose morals are eroded due to leading an aesthetic life, which matures to death, and thus, in the Wilde’s novel, mortality achieves its purpose against the value of art and aestheticism.

The Picture of Dorian Grey Analysis

Wilde, in the novel, revealed that pleasure was the main driver of the characters in the novel, and Dorian is no exception. Leading a hedonistic life is not always bad when done under norms and morals, however, in the case of Dorian, the search for pleasure is fatal when taken in his hands. In the novel, it is clear that Dorian changes his opinions about leading a pleasurable of hedonistic life, with aesthetics being the major driver of his decisions. His opinions pertaining to pleasure, which were largely contributed by Lord Henry made him o escape reality. Wilde introduces Dorian as a young and innocent man. In the novel, Wilde describes him as a person who “had kept himself unspotted from the world” (Wilde, 18). As such, it can be derived hat Dorian had no let aesthetics rule his life before, and thus, he had not let the environmental evils affect his innocent and moral nature. However, a portrait that depicts his handsomeness and beauty, not only in the outer appearance, but also his very soul, he realizes that, as Wilde (18) pointed out, he “would grow old, horrible, and dreadful” while his portrait would always remain beautiful and reveal his young nature. The beautiful portrait fully transforms Dorian. He begins to desire the thought of forever being young, by adopting the frozen appearance that was engulfed in his portrait in his life while the portrait would take on his aging nature and the suffering of his soul. As such, he wanted to be young and the portrait to age and encompass his suffering soul. In effect, after he wished this, Dorian experienced substantial corruption of innocence and morality that was shown in the portrait rather than his own bodily appearance. His immoral acts turn him into an ugly person, but he physically appeared immortal and youthful while his soul suffered. The suffering was shown in the portrait.

In essence, through his attractive physical appearance, as well as personality because he does not age, Dorian easily dominated any room he entered. He is handsome and he struck his immediate audience as charming, polite and personable. In essence, these inviting attributes of his mental and physical well-being allowed him to easily manipulate the individuals he encountered, which caused him to build supremacy and power. Wilde (18) depicts him as wonderfully handsome and had scarlet lips that perfectly complemented his blue eyes and crisply gold hair. In addition, Wilde (131) describes Dorian as graceful and charming. Lord Henry also influenced his belief that he had supreme beauty and youth that was not easily altered, and thus, this was the reason why he started becoming ignorant. Dorian’s innocent beauty and youth caused people to question how he was lucky enough to escape the stain of aging. With his comprehension of his power emanating from the appealing personality, as well as well as his physical qualities, came hand in hand with the transformation from morality to immorality via leading an aesthetic life that consequently brought doom in their life. Dorian committed various horrible crimes, which apparently were inhuman and evil, that what he did took a toll on his internal soul appearance, and caused gruesome transformation.

Dorian’s changes were gradual and the entire transformation and the resulting downfall can be seen as a series of events. It is clear that his character was slowly deteriorating and can be described as a continuous downward spiral, which emanated from poor decision-making that he believed fulfilled his aesthetic living. For instance, Wilde (132) clearly articulates that Dorian had hunger for living an aesthetic life that grew more ravenous everyday as he sought to feed them. In essence, the hunger was the sinful decisions he made. In essence, Wilde’s novel asserts that Dorian had no conscience for all the bad things he did and said. Even though he had been taught different lessons by his friend Henry that began changing his personality, the act that first tainted his personality was murdering Sybil Vane, the beautiful actress. Lord Henry was highly opinionated, and Dorians listens to his ideas about holding a hedonistic view of the world. Dorian drastically begins thinking that beauty is a life’s aspect that is worth pursuing. Its influence is what first makes Dorian to wish that his portrait image would age instead of him. In essence, it can be derived Henry had wrongful, delightful, and rather poisonous theories that changed Dorian. He is a charming talker and of brilliant intellect, and it is for this reason that Dorian falls under his spell. However, his theories are radical and aim a attempting to topple the already established notions of truth, but in the end, it is proven that he was naïve and he fails to realize the implications of what he says to Dorian. In essence, as opposed to Dorian, Lord Henry has a static character and does not change much and has the same dry wit as the novel ends. He spoils Dorian because he advocates equal pursuit of both morality and immorality. Even though he attends theatres and parties, he rarely indulges in immoral behavior, which is unlike Dorian. His philosophy is detrimental to Dorian and he does not know the extent of damage he has on Dorian. For instance, he claimed that Dorian was incapable of murder because he posited that crime only belonged to lower orders, which demonstrates the fact that he has limited understanding of the human soul. As such, it is for this reason that he does not appreciate  the meaning of Dorian’s downfall. 


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