The Picture of Dorian Gray


Figurative Language and Literary Devices Used in The Picture of Dorian Gray

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The setting of the respective novel is essential for the overall development of the characters and the plot as it provides a foundation for the readers to visualize and understand the social as well as the psychological mindset and the typical behaviour during the era. It also sets the gothic mood and atmosphere for the readers as the setting provides an eerie-like ambiance since it was a time when black magic and witchcraft was well feared. Moreso, the setting produces clues as to what to expect in the novel which can be accomplished through referencing one’s historical knowledge regarding the time period. The Picture of Dorian Gray was set around the 19th century also known as the Victorian era, specifically the year 1890 in London, England a period of time when famine, poverty and even racism such as slavery were at an all-time high, while the wealthy almost did absolutely nothing but to continue on with being rich.

Though, the beautiful protagonist Dorian Gray, contradicts from the typical low class family at the time since he was born in a rich, wealthy and luxurious family. He was able to afford and sustain his lavish lifestyle through his father’s money, specifically to support his luxurious entertainment being the highest forms of art – may it be paintings, operas, novels and music – which he glorifies so much, but his love for the arts would later cause an irony as it will be the one that would generate his inevitable downfall. Moreover, poverty was visible in the novel; depicted through women using their body in exchange for money, as well as the immense difference between the prosperous West End which consists of well known places where the riches of the rich hangout, such as “Grosvenor square” and “Curzon street” while on the other hand, the East End which consists of underprivileged citizens and was described by the author Nartia 7 as “a black web of some sprawling spider”. The quotation provides an imagery for the readers to comprehend the dirty, fearful and filthy environment of how the East End looks like; more so, beyond the difference of classes which was represented by the West and East ends, the division of the setting also reflects Dorian’s behaviour. Each ends parallels Mr. Dorian’s two-faced persona. The West End signifies Dorian Gray’s brilliant side, a man who enjoys the arts and is admired by many, while the East End represents the young man’s evil character who commits inhumane immoral acts.

The protagonist of the novel being Dorian Gray is a young man whom most would consider in our society as extremely beautiful; though, his intense desire to stay young and handsome has led him to be corrupt to the point that he’s willing to sell his soul to the devil, to which in return for his non-aging good look, has ultimately produces chains of supernatural events beyond the scientific understanding nor the natural state of nature, conclusively establishing the gothic elements of the novel which adherence to his immoral acts of killing the innocent lives of others as well as his inevitable demise. The youthful Dorian Gray was once innocent and naive, but due to the wrongful guidance of the manipulative Lord Henry, it negatively influenced him to live a morally wrongful life of having such a hedonistic mindset; only caring for one’s youth and beauty while ignoring the struggles of others in the society, as well as neglecting the essential elements of having a genuine life such as being kind and compassionate to others. In addition, his eagerness and longing for a life-time youthfulness and beauty constructed his development towards immortality, in which he exchanges his life for, causing his soul to be trapped in a piece of painting of himself. Moreover, Lord Henry has severely instilled the importance of outer image in Dorian’s head, ultimately altering and reshaping his beliefs, morals and views in life which highlights his distorted judgement. Lord Nartia 3 Henry further tarnish Dorian’s mindset about the significance of beauty, he stated, “Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your

beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those means triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats”. Lord Henry’s input of Dorian’s physical appearance has reshaped Dorian Gray’s intense obsession for his beauty. Dorian’s desire to have a flawless outer facade further manifests his character to be overly ambitious which consequently caused his downfall, leading him to be prone to all sorts of diseases and illnesses. Moreover, Dorian Gray’s longing to maintain his physical appearance overstrips his intuition to be righteous.

The respective novel is in the point of view of an anonymous third person who has an exclusive insight on every character’s internal thoughts, mindset, feelings and perspective; therefore, such credible ability to read each individual’s minds and personal motives, as well as to fully understand the environmental state or tensions surrounding the characters, establishes the omniscient narrator’s reputation as fair, trustworthy and dependable. The narrator’s ability to know almost everything provides a perspective for the readers to analyze the genuine intentions of the characters without the other characters of the novel fully understanding what one is feeling, it ultimately makes the readers as analytical thinkers as it has an effect on one’s imagination; almost as if it’s forcing the audience to create their own personal assumptions concerning the characters of the novel. It also enables the audience to fully comprehend and understand what is going on, which causes them to be more engaged throughout the literature. Moreover, through the usage of a third person point of view, the readers were able to be aware of every aspect of the play.

The setting of the novel being the nineteenth century is a way to introduce that the novel is in fact gothic, as such literature was becoming a trend during the Victorian era. The Nartia 4 way the narrator describes certain places through the usage of pessimistic and gloomy words was one of the essential elements that has successfully influence the plot to establish its genre as gothic, an example for this would be the room in which Dorian would be locked up in when he was young, ultimately causing his flashbacks regarding his traumatizing childhood. The novel also includes the presence of a demonic character which is depicted through the character of Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry was a wicked man of manipulation, leading the innocent Dorian Gray to commit inhumane acts, especifically murder. He also gave a gift to the naive youngman a venomous yellow book, which Mr. Gray would read religiously as if its his holy bible, completely dominating and influencing his ways of life. The symbolism of the yellow book is the potential damage art can do to a vulnerable individual when one is easily and heavily influenced by it. When Dorian Gray wanted to keep his beauty, he stated in the novel “I would give my soul[…]”.

Dorian communicating or bargaining with the devil by surrendering his soul for the sake of an immortal youthfulness and beauty shows another important piece of a gothic element which further contributes to the plot as the demon itself has essentially became a character of its own in the novel. Moreover, a women in distress is also a major material in the respective novel. Sibyl Vane and Dorian Gray has completely fallen in love with each other; though, Dorian’s love for her was external, he only loved her for her beauty. He described Sibyl as “a little flower-like face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion.” Through analyzing the quote, one can say that Dorian Gray only described Mrs. Vane’s physical appearance, not her personality, which further concludes his supposedly love for her was only lust. The abusive romantic relationship of Sibyl and Dorian was tragically short, as she later killed herself.

The author being alive during the Victorian era has immensely influenced and affected his way of living as he has been exposed to the negativity of the time period; therefore, he Nartia 5 uses the novel as a way to divulge and reveal the hidden barbaric features of it. The respective novel consists of multiple arrays of themes concerning our societies social issues that are still relevant even up to this day. The theme also touches upon the subject of human nature and its vile qualities. Specific themes regarding social issues that were explicitly visible in the novel are: classism which were exhibited and depicted by how the narrator describes the differences and boundaries between the rich East End and the poor West End, sexism or prejudice against women who were described in the novel as simply a charming necessity whose job is to provide sexual pleasure to men, and the conscious ignorance of not providing aid for those who are in need, especially the poor. They would rather exploit and use those who are underprivileged to further maintain their wealth. Other themes that were explored regarding the selfish side of human nature are: how individuals see more of an importance and value to one’s external appearance and physical attractiveness than one’s internal and genuine beauty, how manipulation can negatively influence the mindset of those who are vulnerable, specifically the youth, ultimately leading and reshaping them to be corrupt in one’s society, and how committing evil acts can only provide temporary pleasure and would later cause one’s downfall.

The major conflict of the novel is depicted by the devil-like character of Lord Henry who majorly influenced Dorian Gray’s stance in terms of the value beauty and youthfulness possess, as well as the power it contains. Dorian’s best feature, which is his beauty, is also the cause of the diminishment of his moral which establishes his arrogant persona, as his mindset to having good looks holds more worth in his mind, in which it overstrips his desire of having internal beauty, due to his selfish fear of losing the current pleasure he’s experiencing in which he gains through using his physical appearance. Dorian Gray’s obsession for immortal beauty establishes his major conflict in the novel. His outer facade does not parallel with his characteristics, behaviour and attitude, ultimately causing his demise, an example for this is the way he psychologically abused, mistreated and used Sibyl Vine, his once lover, which she later Nartia 6 killed herself. When Dorian Gray was arguing with Sibyl, he stated “You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realised the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid.” Dorian’s diction highlights his mistreatment to Sibyl, which is essential to understanding on why she committed suicide, as his ignorant and cruel behaviour has immensely attributed to her decision. Other conflict that caused Dorian his reputation’s downfall is his need to feel and be superior to others. His toxic and obsessive personality trait had influenced his immoral decisions, consequently tarnishing his one’s innocent and well-admired reputation, ultimately leading him to sell his soul to the painting as it might produce happiness, though, his desperation to obtain happiness from the form of looks has generated and led to his miserable state of mind.

The novel exhibits multiple literary devices which produces a double entendre, ultimately developing the literal and figurative meaning of the texts. Lord Henry was a walking allusion throughout the novel as he references a religious belief, specifically the devil, which he conveyed through his diabolical acts of manipulation and evil dictions. Symbolism and allegories were also essential for the development of the plot of the novel as there was a collection of them. May it be the yellow book which signifies Dorian’s intense obsession over such a physical object to the point that it’s affecting how he lives. The yellow book is also a symbol of Lord Henry’s intense control and manipulation over Dorian as he was the one who gave him the book, ultimately leading him to be so addictive which makes the book’s contents as his ideal lifestyle. Dorian Gray’s painting of himself is a living allegory as it is a visual image of Dorian’s soul and inner self in which he exchange for immortal beauty and youth, it also get tarnished everytime he commit something immoral almost as if it is its own character in the novel. The importance and the significance of the painting is gained through the narrator’s diction. He, she Nartia 7 or they stated “This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul”. The quote further highlights how the painting portrays Dorian’s inner self: his characteristics, attitudes, behavior and mindset, which the painting turns ugly as it parallels who he truly is on the inside. These examples of figurative language and literary devices helps the readers connect to the storyline to further understand and enjoy the plot.

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A Question Of Morality According to The Picture of Dorian Gray

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Morality in The Picture of Dorian Gray


Morality and one’s own moral scale plays a large role in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Morality can be described as one’s own principles regarding the distinction between right and wrong. One’s moral scale is constantly shifting due to factors in the world around them, which is usually the people one surrounds themselves with. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian finds himself committing wicked actions due to changes in his moral scale. In the novel, we see that Dorian is made aware of his youthful good looks and wishes to be young forever. He then uses this to his advantage as he is able to get away with committing horrific acts because of his good looks. Regardless of this, the shift in Dorian’s moral scale and thus the wicked acts he commits are a result of Lord Henry’s mentorship rather than his own pursuit of eternal youth.

Lord Henry’s Morals in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Starting in the very beginning of the novel, it is made obvious that Lord Henry’s morals do not align with what one would a consider a highly moral person. We immediately see that Lord Henry is amoral. This lack of morality is portrayed when he is discussing his marriage with Basil as he says “You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing” (Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 3). Saying that deception is necessary in a marriage contradicts what a marriage should be about. Deception/lying is the last thing that should be present in a good marriage. This idea gives initial insight into where Lord Henry’s morals lie.

Later in the story, Lord Henry gives us another look into what his morals are. While he is having a conversation with Dorian and Basil, Lord Henry states “Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life – that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, individualism has really the higher aim” (Wilde 57). Lord Henry is saying that one should not be concerned with other people as it is more important to be concerned with one’s self. He stresses that individualism is way more important than being worried about other people. Lord Henry then goes on to state “Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out” (Wilde 58). By saying this, Lord Henry is saying that women inspire men to be great but they hold them back from actually obtaining greatness. Through Lord Henry’s statements regarding marriage, individualism, and women, we see that he is selfish and amoral. He is truly only concerned with himself and not those around him.

Dorian Gray in the beginning of The Picture of Dorian Gray

In the beginning of the novel, Dorian is portrayed as being young and handsome as well as pure. He is neither highly moral or amoral, he is immoral. This young innocence is best described by Lord Henry when he notes that “he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity” (Wilde 11-12). Dorian is a handsome young man who has never done anything un-pure. His youth and innocence go hand and hand with each other and this makes it easy for anyone to trust him. Lord Henry immediately notices this which leads to him wanting to influence him.

Lord Henry’s Influence Over Dorian

Shortly after Lord Henry meets Dorian and notices the distinct characteristics, he wastes no time before talking to him and influencing him with his ideals. When talking to Dorian, Lord Henry says “Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, or the vulgar. […] Be always reaching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing […] The moment I met you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are” (Wilde 16-17). Lord Henry immediately tries to instill his selfish values upon Dorian. He wants Dorian to enjoy his youth and not waste any of time helping others. He believes that Dorian should only be focused on himself and finding new pleasures in life. Soon after Lord Henry’s initial introduction to Dorian, he is thinking to himself when he notes “he would try to be to Dorian Gray what without knowing it, the lad was to the painter […] He would seek to dominate him – had already, indeed, half done so” (Wilde 27). Lord Henry wants to influence Dorian in the same way that Dorian influenced Basil. He wants to shape the way that Dorian sees the world. Lord Henry is aware that he has already made a strong impression on Dorian, but he knows that there is still more to be done if he wants to fully transform him.

Early on the novel we are told of Lord Henry’s amoral views on marriage and women. He then tries to use these ideas to influence Dorian to feel a similar way. While having a conversation with Dorian, Lord Henry says “’Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious: both are disappointed. […] My dear boy, no women is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say” (Wilde 34). Lord Henry takes his views on marriage and his personal experience to influence Dorian to not want to get married. He wants Dorian to enjoy his youth as marriage could get in the way of that. As soon as Dorian mentions him being in love with a genius actor, Lord Henry states that women can’t be geniuses and refers to them as a “decorative sex”. By telling this to Dorian, Lord Henry wants to influence him to adopt his immoral views of women since being in a marriage may ruin the person that Lord Henry wants Dorian to be.

When Dorian finds out that he has essentially murdered Sibyl Vane he is at first devastated as he exclaims “Oh Harry, how I loved her once! It seems years ago to me now. She was everything to me” (Wilde 72). Lord Henry proceeds to influence Dorian by saying “But you must think of that lonely death […] as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy […] The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died […] The moment she touched actual life, she marred it, and it marred her, and so she passed away” (Wilde 75). Lord Henry was able to convince Dorian that Sibyl’s death was less real than a death in a play. Since Sibyl was an actress, she never really lived and therefore she never really died. At this point, it is made clear just how much of an influence Lord Henry has had on Dorian’s morals as he is able to now look past the death of a women he once loved.

Dorian’s Moral Regression throughout the story

Dorian begins the shift to being amoral early on in the novel. Dorian is planning to go to the theatre with Lord Henry and Basil would rather he not go as he says “’Don’t go to the theatre to-night, Dorian […] Stop and dine with me’” (Wilde 22). But regardless of what Basil wants, Dorian responds by saying “’I can’t, Basil […] Because I have promised Lord Henry Wotton to go with him’” (Wilde 22). This scene represents Dorian’s shift from the high moral ways of Basil to the amoral ways of Lord Henry. Dorian choses to leave Basil to go to the theatre with Lord Henry just as he chooses to leave the pure and innocent life behind and choose a life of selfishness and lacking morals.

Following this incident, the next event that displays a major shift in Dorian’s values is his relationship with Sibyl Vane. Though he had previous broken Sibyl’s heart, he initially wanted to make amends and even not see Lord Henry anymore as he knew the influence that he was having on him. When referring to the incident and Dorian’s thoughts, the narrator states “He would resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry anymore […] He would go back to Sibyl Vane, make her amends, marry her, try to love her again. Yes, it was his duty to do so” (Wilde 67). Dorian understands that he has done wrong and is not amoral at this point in the story. He knows that the right thing to do is to marry Sibyl Vane regardless of if he loves her or not. Once he learns of her suicide and meets with Lord Henry, he is then able to shrug off her death and move on quickly. While later talking to Basil, Dorian refers to Sibyl’s death as “one of the great romantic tragedies of the age” (80). This incident displays Dorian shifting further on the moral scale to being amoral.

The final incident that displays Dorian’s complete lack of morals comes later on in the novel when he murders Basil. The narrator states “Dorian Gray glanced at the picture, and suddenly an uncontrollable feeling of hatred came over him […] He rushed at him, and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear, crushing the man’s head down on the table” (Wilde 116). Basil had higher morals than anyone else in the novel. Dorian’s murder of Basil represents his complete loss of morals as Basil cared for Dorian in a way that wasn’t selfish. After the murder, it is clear that Dorian has been completely corrupted by Lord Henry and is now amoral.


One could argue that Dorian’s moral scale shift and becoming amoral is a result of his youth/desire for eternal youth and the vainness that came along with it. He could have been doomed due to his amoral ways regardless if Lord Henry had been influencing him or not as Dorian was simply being his real self. The idea of Dorian’s desire for eternal youth is brought up early in the novel when he exclaims “How sad is it! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young […] If it were only the other way!” (Wilde 19). Dorian continues to exclaim that “When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself” (Wilde 19). Through Dorian’s desire to remain young forever, he becomes vain and selfish. When Basil is upset with Lord Henry for negatively influencing Dorian, Lord Henry responds with “It is the real Dorian Gray – that is all” (Wilde 20). Dorian was not an amoral person when the novel began. He neither had high morals or was amoral. He was simply an innocent young man. It was Lord Henry who instilled his wretched ideas into Dorian along the way until Dorian eventually became amoral. Had Lord Henry not been influencing Dorian, he would not have abandoned and killed Sibyl Vane and he thus would not have killed Basil. Lord Henry knowingly worked to corrupt Basil throughout the course of the novel.


By the end of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian was amoral. He committed multiple wicked acts against innocent people. He began the novel as an innocent young man but as a result of Lord Henry’s mentorship rather than his own pursuit of eternal youth, he only cared about his looks and began to live a selfish life without regard for others.

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Morality and Immorality (The Picture of Dorian Gray and A Streetcar Named Desire)

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.

Thomas Babington

Morality is the very foundation of goodness and the pillar of righteousness. Immorality, however, is the threshold towards conspicuous malevolence. These two extremes are often but a step between which we are baffled and bemused. Morals undeniably establish the confinements of one’ behaviour in any given society. Should these principles crumble, ethical boundaries would give way to anarchical freedom. Both works explored in this analysis illustrate the succumbing to immoral conduct for selfish purposes. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, we are intrigued by a charming Englishman who discards his innocence and embraces loathsome hedonism. Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire confronts us with a stout and virile figure who abides to no opposing authority than his own. Two unscrupulous characters surface from different worlds with the equivalent dismissal of moral values common to humankind. Although one is characterised by beauty and the other, by potency, they share the same vivid animation of unrestrained cruelty. It is in their ominous acts that their factual embodiment is exposed. Wilde and Williams reveal, through these depraved beings, the basis of humanity’s intrinsic flaw: the loss of inhibitions. I will further discuss, by means of relevant characters, the yearning for moral ideals as well as the clinging onto immoral philosophies.

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is set during the late nineteenth century England, a period marked with the exceeding importance of social stature and personal image. The protagonist, Dorian Gray, rises as the archetype of male pulchritude and youth. His aristocracy and stunning beauty enthral his surroundings. He often poses for Basil Hallward, an artist of great talent whose art is inspired by Dorian’s charisma. While Basil’s most prodigious painting is in the midst of being completed, Dorian is introduced to Lord Henry Wotton, a cynical philosopher and skilful orator. Dorian is easily seduced by his manipulative tongue and his scornful theories. Wotton envisions fashioning, corrupting the vulnerable boy into an unrelenting hedonist. Through him, Dorian faces the harsh realisation that his physical attributes are ever fading. Upon this sudden insight, he dreads the physical burden of ageing. He envies the perpetual attractiveness of Basil’s masterpiece. …If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that! (Wilde p. 31). The materialisation of this wish and the metamorphosis it will ensue are to bring his demise.

Dorian’s figure remains immaculate while the picture bears his abhorrent transformation. This is first confirmed following his amorous liaison with Sibyl Vane, an actress he meets at an infamous theatre. Like him, she is characterised by an entrancing beauty and a youthful naivety. Mesmerised by one another, they promptly exchange vows of fidelity. Dorian invites Henry and Basil to the theatre, if only to be dreadfully embarrassed by Sibyl’s artificial performance. In a fit of anger yet unknown to him, Dorian reluctantly reprimands his fiance. You are shallow and stupid. My God! How mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now (Wilde p. 98). This vindictive refusal leads to her suicide. Upon returning to his dwelling, he is bewildered by a hideous discovery: his portrait had slightly altered, hinting the sinful transfiguration that would occur throughout his debauched existence.

Dorian conveys strong feelings of contrition upon learning of Sibyl’s needless death. He is conscious of his wrongdoing and feels profoundly culpable. However, Lord Henry encourages him to discard the incident and to revel in his present freedom. Dorian is torn apart as his egoism weighs heavily over his conscience. By overlooking the death he caused and indulging in pleasure, Dorian incarnates Lord Henry’s philosophy. With the knowledge of his physical imperviousness to the aftermath of any consequence, he adopts hedonistic values. The complete denial of responsibility in Sibyl’s death is but the beginning of his moral degradation. He relishes in observing the mutilation of the picture, thus his soul. His further meetings with Henry simply magnify this descent into profligacy. …You were the most unspoiled creature in the whole world. Now, I don’t know what has come over you. You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry’s influence. I see that (Wilde p. 120) From then on, Dorian progressively mingles with sin; provoking scandals, visiting opium dens and frequenting prostitutes.

Dorian often gazes at the painting with horror, but is unable to divert from this lifestyle, aroused by its wickedness. He is undoubtedly aware of his ethical dissipation and, despite the beautiful items in which he surrounds himself, is appalled by the ugliness of his soul. He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption, and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence to others, and had experienced a terrible joy in being so (Wilde p. 241) Dorian’s fear of his predicament being discovered grows as the tableau alters with every misdeed. Although it is hidden from prying eyes, the bareness of his soul is ever-present in his mind. His hot-tempered murder of Basil not only signifies the peak of his immoral demeanour, but his obliteration of moral barriers. His iniquitous act throws him in a state of guilt-ridden paranoia. He is world-weary and borne down by the weight of this infamy.

Wilde’s protagonist was not a villainous nor unprincipled man, simply pliable and somewhat narcissist. Under Lord Henry’s overwhelming influence and the portrait’s enticing protection, he succumbs to a world free of restrictions, tempted by self-gratification. When breaking apart from the moral confines that establish order, Dorian is thrust into a chaotic freedom. Without the ubiquitous prison that symbolises morality, anarchy and evilness reign, destroying the goodness in one’s nature. When he strikes the diabolical picture, beleaguered by remorse and maddened by regret, he wishes to purge his soul and reacquire the proper values that once governed his life. Therefore, by destroying the wantonness that marred his spirit and the guilt that plagued his conscience, he kills himself.

Lord Henry is an extremely patronizing and cynical character. His actions are not as overtly sinful as Dorian’s, since he is not shielded from their repercussions. Although preaching hedonism, he never acts on his philosophies, remaining within the boundaries of what society deems tolerable. He thus has little knowledge of the pragmatic effects induced by his philosophy. He is portrayed as a coward, utilising Dorian to make flesh of his theories, but not venturing on them himself for fear of ruining his social figure. He is a brilliant intellect, although he has a narrow understanding of human behaviour. For instance, when he asserts: All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian to commit a murder… (Wilde p. 234), he is entirely oblivious to Dorian’s tragedy.

While most of humanity is constrained to moral hindrances, there are those who drift away from these ideals, and become the source of misdemeanours2E Although morality and ethics are restraining concepts, they shelter the individual and thus, mankind. Without them, there could only be degradation and self-destruction, as illustrated by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience. One may enjoy life and have no fear from death if he obeys his scruples.

Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire formulates a medium to reflect upon the morbid aspects of humanity and the result of these societal downfalls. Stanley Kowalski emerges from an impoverished rural setting in New Orleans as the epitome of flagrant barbarity. His speech is coarsely uneducated and his actions display instinctive crudeness. He adheres to mankind’s most primitive rule and basic code: to hunt or be hunted. His household symbolizes his territory and anyone who menaces this tenure should be eliminated. The metaphorical episode in which he casually tosses to Stella, his wife, a bundle of bloody meat emphasises his ape-like qualities. He has little notion of courteousness, which understandably repulse his pampered sister-in-law, Blanche.

The image of a delicate flower amongst a mound of litter is comparable to Blanche Dubois arrival at the Kowalski household. Her expression is of shocked disbelief. Her appearance is incongruous to this setting (Williams p. 15). She appears inherently refined and somewhat ostentatious, having seemingly never witnessed indignity. However, her false decorum is a rather deliberate effort to save herself from misery. Blanche exists in a self-fabricated universe in which she blinds herself from reality’s bleakness. Her haughty manners contrast with Stanley’s uncouth behaviour and clash from their first encounter.

Stanley imposes his animalistic vigour upon Blanche since he feels threatened by her presence. He despises her aristocratic ways, her diminutive expressions concerning his origin and her dallying about with his friend Mitch. His hatred of Blanche is intensified by her unflattering dialogue with Stella. He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s even something – sub-human – something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! (Williams p. 72). This culmination of anger is manifested in his enquiry of her promiscuous past and in his spiteful birthday gift. He relentlessly thwarts her relationship with Mitch, sabotaging her illusions of rescue. In his vile quest to bring Blanche’s ruin, he brutally exposes her to the harshness of her position.

Stanley’s final effort in tarnishing Blanche’s image is animated by chauvinism. Although his past attempts were strictly psychological blows, he now wishes to exert physical power upon her. In Blanche’s state of vulnerability, he rapes her, devastating the remainder of her sanity. His degenerate character, first insinuated after hitting his pregnant wife, is given full evidence following this acrimonious sin. The concluding scene consists of Blanche being ostracised to an asylum and the depiction of Stanley as the dedicated husband, soothing his wife as she embraces their newborn child. The fallaciousness of this image, given what we have learned throughout the play, paradoxically brings into perspective society’s erroneous conception of right and wrong.

The settings of The Picture of Dorian Gray and of A Streetcar Named Desire differ immensely. Dorian is immersed in a tumultuous social environment, caught in the intricate web of social demeanour. Stanley, on the other hand, resides in a modest yet impecunious milieu. In Wilde’s work, the innocent is poisoned, succumbing to immoral growth and subsiding into internal deterioration. In Williams play, remorseless animosity is the dominating asset, as modern man’s conduct is banished. Although these events take place at nearly a century’s interval, one remaining constant is observed : the consequences on the self and on others resulting from the dismissal of morals.

Dorian and Stanley are above all human, and as every human, are subjected to the similar dilemma: to remain within the borders of moral beliefs, or to venture across into immoral conditions. The laws of ethics impose restrictions and greatly limit humankind’s actions, but allow the world’s proper functioning. Both characters break free from this psychological incarceration and therefore, represent the dark side of human nature.

It is critical that we, as a community, comprehend the necessity to abide by the restraining order of morals. Only then will violence and havoc cease to exist. Is it not in our power to differentiate the good from the bad? This question lies not underneath a compulsory set of rules, but rather within the depths of our conscience. Wilde and Williams have magnified, through their enlightening characters, the step between morality and immorality. In the end, it is in our hands to decide on which to stand.

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Linked Imagery in ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Throughout the Gothic novel Dracula, Stoker uses symbology and imagery to reveal social anxieties and fears of the late Victorian era, for example the use of animalistic description and blood. Wilde, in his own Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray uses imagery to explore the nature of man, especially in relation to sin, pleasure, and influence. These differing uses of somewhat similar devices show how sharply these two novels diverge. While Stoker focuses mainly on the social fears of the time, such as the degradation of man into beast, Wilde intensively explores the psyches of his troubled characters.

One of the dominant themes within Dracula is duality, a fear of the double or doppleganger. In Dracula there is a struggle in defining the blurred lines between man and animal, a struggle conveyed through the physical appearance of Count Dracula himself. The character’s introduction is fraught with animal-like descriptions. He is described to have “moved impulsively”, acting on instinct as an animal would as opposed to conforming to morals that dominated 19th century Britain. The count’s hair curls in its “own profusion’, he has “peculiarly sharp white teeth”, and his ears are “extremely pointed”, like those of a wolf. It is evident that Dracula is an example of the liminal: he is right on the threshold of devolution from man into beast. This hints at the Victorian fear and belief that just as man could evolve (in light of Darwin’s then recently released theories) man could also devolve. Whereas Stoker employs the Gothic motif of the double to divide man and beast, Wilde uses the double to divide body and soul. The most obvious example within the novel is the portrait that Basil has painted, and what it is symbolic of. As Dorian wishes, the painting grows old and records the ill doings of the boy, and he, in turn, receives eternal youth and beauty, thus dividing the body and soul. Dorian can then indulge in the pleasure of his sins and live out his newly found hedonistic lifestyle whilst keeping his bod;, consequently, the portrait alters and begins to show signs of “cruelty”. This is partly to do with the Victorian ideal of keeping up appearances, that it is better to look good rather than to actually be good. It observed that despite Dorian’s vile character, his immediate influence over others because of his physical beauty is still great. Perhaps Wilde’s use of the double reveals the impracticality of his own homosexual lifestyle, the fact that he would need to hide his lifestyle and repress homosexual tendencies in order to keep up public appearances.

Another prominent, related theme within both novels is that of seduction. Within The Picture of Dorian Gray, imagery of music or musical instruments is used. When Dorian meets Henry for the first time he’s described to have a “low, musical voice”. Sybil is also described as lulling her audience and making them as “responsive as a violin”: she had “long drawn music” in her voice. Wilde frequently uses imagery of music in association with seduction, particularly in voices, as a literary allusion to Greek mythology, in particular the Sirens which feature in Homer’s Odyssey. (Sirens were creatures which enticed sailors to their destruction with their irresistibly beautiful singing.) In the former case, Henry is able to seduce Dorian with his influence, which is the irresistible “singing” that ultimately leads to Dorian’s destruction. Stoker also makes use of musical imagery, for example during Jonathan’s seduction by the Count’s brides. They have “such a silvery, musical laugh”: an irresistible vibrato in their voice seduces Jonathan and leads him to wait in anticipation of what’s to come (again, an allusion to the Odyssey).

Wilde also offers up the symbology and imagery of flowers of many kinds, all of which carry different sentiments and illustrate different meanings. First, in the beginning of the novel, Lord Henry “plucked a pink-petalled daisy…” and “…pulling the daisy to bits”, disposed of the flower. This imagery of the destruction of the flower relates to the theme of influence; specifically, it illustrates the effect of Henry’s influence on the premature Dorian, represented as the daisy. The “pink” colour of the daisy perhaps makes Dorian somewhat more effeminate than the other two men, potentially adding to his natural beauty which could be likened to that of a flower. The narrative also conveys a sense of carelessness on Henry’s part, unaware of the damaging effects of his influence on the young, impressionable Dorian. The flowers within the novel are used frequently in association with Sybil Vane. The “petals of her lips” are mentioned along with her description of a “pale rose”. The “petals of her lips” suggest a delicacy to her character, a fragility; the description of “pale rose” appears, converting innocence, impressionability and purity. These meanings could foreshadow that Dorian will have a damaging impact on Sybil, just as Henry had a damaging impact on Dorian. The lips could also bring connotations of strong sexual desire, a love based purely on lust, and to a certain degree, Dorian’s narcissistic vanity. Furthermore, the flowers in the novel carry specific symbolic meaning relevant to their positioning. In chapter seven, when Dorian has disposed of Sybil carelessly (much like the Daisy that Henry listlessly tore apart) and is walking through London, many images of flowers appear on his walk, helping the reader interpret what Dorian’s emotions are in relation to the confrontation with Sybil. “Huge carts filled with nodding lilies” rumble down the street, “lilies” being symbolic of hatred in some cases. Also, there are boys carrying crates of “striped tulips” which convey love. And finally, the boys are carrying “yellow and red roses” as well, the former carrying meaning of a broken heart and apology.

Other symbols relate to the events of Wilde and Stoker’s era. During the nineteenth century, medical science was making progress, perhaps one of the most important developments during that time. The scientists invented a new science based on blood which was, according to them, connected to racial and sexual issues. For the Victorians, an exchange of blood was symbolic of an exchange of seminal fluid, making blood highly sexualized. Indeed, Stoker uses blood as imagery for sexual encounters and loss of innocence and virginity. In chapter seven, when Lucy is first bitten by the Count, Mina arrives to find that “on the band of her nightdress was a drop of blood”. We know that the exchange of blood is a sexual act, and the drop of blood on the “white” nightdress is symbolic of a deflowering of the demure Lucy, a loss of her virginity. Following this, Lucy continues to fall very ill and once again blood is symbolically important, this time in the form of several transfusions. Van Helsing states that she will “die for sheer want of blood”: with the connotations of blood already explained, this conveys a certain sexual appetite, which will quickly be quenched with continuous transfusions from three men. In effect, Lucy is quenching a sexual hunger by having bodily transactions of blood and thus having sexual relations with many men. This provokes the Victorian fear of female sexuality, which contradicts the widely accepted belief that women were meant to be passive during intercourse and not enjoy sexual pleasure of any kind.

One final symbol that both Gothic novels use is that of the book in relation to the theme of forbidden knowledge. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Henry gives Dorian a mysterious “yellow book” to read, undoubtedly linked to his beliefs and ideals in line with new hedonism. The “yellow book” is self-evidently the strange and perverse French novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature (1884), a novel based around French decadence. This yellow book is the symbol of forbidden knowledge for Dorian, containing the theories of new hedonism that will ultimately lead to Dorian’s demise. Much like in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula also contains a book of forbidden knowledge. It is the journal kept by Harker (chapters 1-4). Harker gives Mina the book, since he has forgotten all that had happened to him since his brain fever, and asks her to “share [his] ignorance” and not read it but instead keep it safe. In a departure from The Picture of Dorian Gray, the discovery of the knowledge of vampires (when Mina eventually reads the diary) is very beneficial, a means of preventing a downfall. Both of these forms of forbidden knowledge are underpinned by the theories of Sigmund Freud, who argued that once you transgress and gain forbidden knowledge you can’t ever return to the state you were in before that discovery, that you simply can’t forget. This is true in both The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula and calls to mind the story of Genesis. After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they could never return to the purely blissful and ignorant state they were in before, and so neither can the characters from Dracula or Dorian Gray.

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Murder and Mental Breakdown in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and The Picture of Dorian Gray

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Dr. James Knoll, a forensic psychiatrist, says, “The paranoia exists on a spectrum of severity. … Many perpetrators are in the middle, gray zone where psychiatrists will disagree about the relative contributions of moral failure versus mental affliction.” Dr. Knoll mentions that, in murderers, the line that defines their motives tends to be rather grey. Both Dorian Gray of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” harbor serious psychological, eventually leading them to murder; the motives behind their actions have similar roots: insanity. Dorian Gray and the Tell-Tale Heart narrator both have paranoia and progressively become mentally worse over time, showing the grey area of moral versus mental issues.

The Picture of Dorian Gray paints a very vivid succession of events that shows a young man’s complete transformation from innocence to corruption. Dorian Gray’s journey towards depravity is clearly outlined in the novel: starting with his initial contact with the real world and ending with him having murdered a friend and then killing himself (Wilde 21, 229). Dorian is not born with a damaged soul, in fact, he creates it himself, “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that–for that–I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that! (Wilde 28)” He is haunted by this realization but is not actually affected by it until he jilts Sibyl Vane and gains a hideous wrinkle on his portrait (Wilde 96). After this, his descent from purity to tainted to utter corruption gains momentum. In fact, at one point he “grew more and more enamored of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul” (Wilde 191). This culminates with Dorian stabbing himself at the end of the novel (Wilde 229). For his part, the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” does not start off wholly deranged in the beginning of his story; the old man’s cataracted eye freaked him out (Poe 64). However, the way he went about trying to rid his mind of the “Evil Eye” was entirely mad. His progression towards insanity is much faster than Dorian Gray’s, but, as this is a short story, the progression makes sense. At first, he is simply disturbed by the eye, however, entering the old man’s room at midnight to shine a light on the offending eye for a whole week is simply strange (Poe 65). Finally, he spends the whole night entering the old man’s room, he wakes the old man and suffocates, kills, and dismembers him; he does not neglect the appendages, as they are stuffed neatly under the floorboards (Poe 66). When he is “confronted” by the police, he believes in his deranged mind that they are mocking him and therefore confesses to the murder, attempting to salvage his demented pride he holds from his perfect plan (Poe 67). This shows just how far gone the narrator is in terms of his mental health, although he claims in the first sentence that he is perfectly fine (Poe 64). Both Dorian Gray and the narrator have a wild but defined progression from mental clarity to mental sickness.

As Dorian Gray commits more and more awful deeds for the sick amusement of visually tainting his soul, he becomes more and more paranoid that someone will find his portrait, in all its old, wrinkly, ugly glory. It starts with Basil’s first visit to Dorian after Sibyl Vane’s suicide, when he asks Dorian why he has covered the portrait and why he will not let him, the artist, see it (Wilde 115). Dorian is terrified that Basil will find the wrinkle on his otherwise perfect face and something unsavory will happen. As he perpetrates more questionable acts, he becomes both more enamored with his tainted soul as well as protective of it, going as far as to lock it in his old schoolroom and even leaves abruptly in the middle of parties to dash home and make sure nobody has found his disgusting secret (Wilde 125; 144-145). He accumulates an innumerable amount of riches and luxurious things to pass his time, yet he is still afraid that, “What if it should be stolen? The mere thought made him cold with horror. Surely the world would know his secret then. Perhaps the world already suspected it” (Wilde 145). This is a very narcissistic view on his problem, considering the unlikeliness of the event. When Basil comes to talk to him about Dorian’s public image and the validity of rumors, Dorian finally relents in showing the artist the portrait and, taking command from the portrait itself, he stabs his friend in the neck (Wilde 153; 160; 162). To add on to this monstrosity, Dorian, instead of turning himself in or doing something of a moral nature, he blackmails an old friend into dissolving Basil’s body in acid (Wilde 172-178). He tells Alan Campbell that, “You are the only one who is able to save me. I am forced to bring you into this matter” (Wilde 172). Alan, in a burst of bluntness, says, “Your life? Good heavens! What a life that is! You have gone from corruption to corruption, and now you have culminated in crime” (Wilde 176). Dorian’s morality at the end of the novel has disintegrated into mere shreds of humanity, showing this is a moral issue.

The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” truly believes he is not mad and that his actions are completely normal and justified (Poe 64). His paranoia starts in the form of his plan: he is so terrified of the eye that he is willing to murder the old man just to get rid of it instead of leaving that situation like a normal person. He checks on the eye every night for a week like clockwork, showing more of his true colors (Poe 65). His paranoia increases when he chills in the old man’s room for a solid hour after he wakes him, just to make sure he does not detect his presence until finally the narrator attacks the old man with fury and kills him because he can hear his heartbeat (Poe 66). In order to cover up his crime, he stuffs the old man’s body parts under the floor with a calm disposition, harking to his deranged mental state, which has psychopathic tendencies (Poe 66). When talking to the police officers, the narrator is in obvious distress, but, at first, hides it well. However, after what he has done has been left to stew for awhile in his brain, he becomes more and more anxious, thinking that the police know exactly what he did but are just smiling and nodding to mock him (Poe 67). Finally, as he reaches his mental break, he loudly confesses to the crime he committed, partly due to the fact that he believes the old man’s heart is still beating under the floorboards and the police can hear it too (Poe 67). This shows how paranoia and mental illness affects the main character’s decisions and therefore the outcome of the story.

The Picture of Dorian Gray and “The Tell-Tale Heart” are revealing literary examples of the grey area of morality and mental issues in terms of paranoia and mental degradation. The two main characters, having murdered one person each, definitely have things in common concerning their motives, but the line for motives is fuzzy at best. Dr. James Knoll says that the line between moral and mental is hard to determine when it comes to a murderer’s motives, but there is a level of paranoia in any case.

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A queer theory reading of Oscar Wilde’s: A Picture of Dorian Gray | English Literature Dissertation

April 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Aestheticism dictates that life should be lived by an ideal of beauty and a movement embodied by the phrase of ‘art for art’s sake.’ There is perhaps no greater advocate of such beliefs as Oscar Wilde, and the characteristics of aestheticism run through much of his work, both plays and stories, particularly in the character of the dandy. It would be difficult to analyse any of Wilde’s work without considering his own personal life and consequently, almost impossible to analyse his use of aesthetics without tackling the elements of homoeroticism.

Living in a society largely intolerant to homosexuality, Wilde was obviously restricted to some extent with regard to what he could writeabout explicitly and as a result secrecy becomes an important influence over Wilde’s work. This makes for an extremely interesting relationship between aestheticism and homoeroticism, and it is this relationship that will form the main focus of this essay. What are the forms and techniques that Wilde uses to aestheticise homosexuality, and why? And how by doing this his literary works reveal aspects of his own life and sexuality, ultimately creating ‘the figure of Wilde the aesthete, dandy, and campy witticist’ who has become a public icon forhomosexual men in Britain and America.’ It will focus primarily on The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Happy Prince and Other Stories.

‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H’ portrays Shakespeare as being a slave to beauty – ‘that is the condition of the artist!’ This concept of theartist as worshipper of beauty is a recurring characteristic of Wilde’s literature and will be dealt with later in this chapter. Firstly, itis necessary to look at the ideal of beauty that Wilde presents as worthy of worship.

There is an overwhelming resemblance between Wilde’s portrayal ofbeauty and the concept of beauty in the Greek era. As Summers observesin his book Gay Fictions: Studies in a Male Homosexual Literary Tradition, both The Portrait of Dorian Gray and ‘The Portrait of Mr.W.H’ focus heavily on portraits of androgynous young men – ‘bothstories allude to famous homosexual artists and lovers in history andthey both assume a significant connection between homosexual Eros andart.’ Same-sex desire is referenced heavily throughout Greek literature, for example, during the sixth century, the poet Sappho wrote numerous homoerotic verses concerning young women, with the term ‘lesbian’ derived from the name of her island home of Lesbos. Platoalso referred to same-sex desires and relations, even forming his own theory on the pre-determined nature of different sexualities. In words taken from ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H,’ the ideal of beauty is ‘a beauty that seemed to combine the charm of both sexes, and to have wedded, as the Sonnets tell us, the grace of Adonis and the loveliness ofHelen.’ Wilde uses this Greek ideal of beauty as a means of adding authority to his allusions to homoeroticism, to make the content of the two aforementioned works more acceptable to a Victorian audience. Itis important to note that there is a marked difference of public attitude towards homosexuality and homoeroticism between Greek and Victorian society. Donald Hall observes that during the Greek eraadult male sexuality, ‘had much more to do with power status and social positioning than it did with any expression of identity-determining desire for the same or other sex.’

Wilde’s ideal of beauty also overlaps with the Greek concept of the muse. The Portrait of Dorian Gray presents us with Dorian, the muse topainter Basil Hallward, and ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H’ provides us withan insight into the life of one of the most famous muses of all, the young man who Shakespeare addressed many of his sonnets to – ‘Who was he whose physical beauty was such that it became the very corner-stone of Shakespeare’s art; the very source of Shakespeare’s inspiration; the very incarnation of Shakespeare’s dreams.’ The muse, defined as asource of inspiration especially for a creative artist succeeds in objectifying the subject, transforming a human presence into aesthetic fodder to fuel the creative mind, as well as something far superior tothe person beholding the muse. With regard to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Summers suggests that, ‘the implied link between homosexual Erosand creativity is clear in Dorian’s effect on Basil’s art. Dorian’s beauty and the ideal that he represents cause Basil to see the world afresh and inspire him to his greatest work as an artist.’

This is where the idea of worshipping beauty comes into play. ‘TheHappy Prince,’ for example, is distinctly removed from everyday lifeand is admired from afar in a quite literal sense. However, Dorian isperhaps the best illustration of Wilde’s fascination with the worshipof beauty. The novel suggests that to other young men Dorian ‘seemedto be of the company of those whom Dante describes as having sought to“make themselves perfect by the worship of beauty.” Like Gautier, hewas one for whom ‘the visible world existed.’ At the same time,Dorian is presented to us as the worshipped, with regard to hisrelationship with Basil Hallward.

The experience of the muse in the manner of Basil and Shakespeare (asportrayed by Wilde) seems to present something of a double-edged sword,producing feelings of such passion that joy and despair becomeintertwined. The narrator of ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H’ suggests thatShakespeare’s muse was ‘a particular young man whose personality forsome reason seems to have filled the soul of Shakespeare with terriblejoy and no less terrible despair.’ In a similar vein, Basil hasominous feelings on meeting Dorian for the first time, ‘I knew that Ihad come face to face with someone whose mere personality was sofascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my wholenature, my whole soul, my very art itself.’ The effect of beauty canbe seen as both gift and curse – in the same way that Wilde perhapsregarded homosexuality in Victorian society.

The importance that Wilde places on the worship of beauty is closelyrelated to his strong beliefs in aestheticism. The distance that Wildeseeks to construct between the observer and the object of beauty can beread as a mechanism of aestheticism whereby he aims to eliminate anyattachment to moral and wider societal concerns. The following chapterwill analyse the relation of aesthetics to Wilde’s literary works, andhow far he is able to separate the appreciation of art from moralvalues.

Mary Blanchard, in Oscar Wilde’s America suggests that ‘the personaof the invert or male homosexual was an emerging concept during the1880s, and the connections between aesthetic style and a homosexualsubculture cannot be overlooked.’ And with other critics referring toWilde as the ‘high priest of aestheticism,’ it’s clear that Oscar is noexception to this rule. He lived a hedonistic lifestyle, flitting as asocial butterfly from one experience of art and beauty to the next. InVictorian times the male dandy soon became a symbol of this aestheticage, with no finer literary examples than Dorian and Lord Henry of ThePortrait of Dorian Gray, and Algernon and Jack of The Importance ofBeing Earnest. Lord Henry declares that ‘pleasure is the only thingworth having a theory about’ and it is this preoccupation withmaterial things and surface-level emotions that characterises thedandy, a choice of style over substance. As a result Dorian becomesfascinated with acquiring commodities such as perfumes, jewels andmusic. Wilde dedicates pages of description to this ‘search forsensations that would be at once new and possess that element ofstrangeness that is so essential to romance.’

The concept of dandyism is closely linked to that of Victoriandecadence. Goldfarb, in his essay on ‘Late Victorian Decadence’provides us with a useful definition of decadence, highlighting itsresemblance to aestheticism – ‘the value to be gained from experienceof all sorts and from indulgence in a life of sensation. Because ofthis emphasis, decadent literature is animated by the exploration ofimmoral and evil experiences; never does it preach morality, nor doesit strongly insist upon ethical responsibilities.’ This separationbetween decadence and morality is also a characteristic common toaestheticism.

Glick studies the concepts of dandyism at length in her essay on’The Dialectics of Dandyism,’ identifying an opposition betweencritical thought on dandyism and arguing that two different models’locate dandyism at the opposite poles of modernity, simultaneouslypositioning the queer subject as a privileged emblem of the modern andas a dissident in revolt against society.’ Therefore, on the one handthe reader can accept the dandy as person who embraces the aestheticsof culture and celebrates beauty – ‘as a preoccupation with surfacetrends to conceive of gay identity solely or primarily in terms ofartifice, aesthetics, commodity fetishism and style.’ Or, beneath thesurface, we can read a protest against the commodification of modernlife and a rejection of common values and aspirations. Goldfarb note asimilar contempt for modern society in the movement of decadence, ‘aself-conscious contempt for social conventions such as truth andmarriage, by an acceptance of Beauty as a basis for life.’ Bothaestheticism and decadence seek to remove beauty from the confines ofmodern society and use it to their own ends in a self-created sensualand fantastical lifestyle.

Wilde’s use of aestheticism can be read as an attempt to showhomosexuality as a sign of refined culture, as a means to his desiredend where such a topic becomes more acceptable. In the same way thatWilde alludes to the Greek ideal of beauty to disguise what couldotherwise be seen as a direct and possibly offensive portrayal ofhomosexual desire, by adhering to the rules of aestheticism Wilde isable to divert attention from any moral attack on his writing. Themovement of aestheticism shuns any notion that art can be connectedwith morality and passionately encourages individual freedom and socialtheatricality. Ironically, whilst it can largely be seen as arebellion against Victorian sensibilities, it is simultaneously amethod of retaining a covert nature to the expression of homoeroticdesire. In the case of Basil Hallward, he finds art an outlet for suchdesires, ‘there is nothing that Art cannot express.’ Through Dorian,Basil is able to discover a ‘new manner in art, an entirely new mode ofstyle’ not just when he is painting Dorian, but when he is merelypresent. It allows him a new way of looking at life, having realisedthe power of homoeroticism

In presenting homosexuality through the lens of aestheticism andconsequently presenting it as a refined culture with close links to theidealised and romantic image of the Greek age, Wilde also separates thelifestyle of the homosexual man from the classes of heterosexualsociety. As Elisa Glick suggests in her essay on the dialectics ofdandyism, ‘Wilde depicts Dorian’s seemingly endless appetite forexotic, luxury objects as the exterior manifestation of his innerintellectual and artistic superiority.’ This presents Dorian’sdesires and those of other aetheticism advocates as elitist andultimately superior to other classes. Through the use of aestheticism,it can be argued that Wilde attempts to give homoeroticism the power totranscend class. By describing such episodes in this romantic andfantastical manner, he places homosexuality in a highly refined classof its own, in a position out of reach from the realities of theworking class and bourgeoisie.

To take this concept one step further, Wilde can also be seen toreject the realities of common society entirely, as an aesthetepreferring to lose himself in sensual experiences and ultimatelydreaming of an escape from reality to a place where such experience canbe fully realised. Glick goes on to note that ‘Dorian’s acquisition ofluxuries and curios not only seems to affirm his “aristocratic”distinction, but also aims to build a self-created world byaestheticizing experience itself. Gray yearns not so much for theenjoyment provided by an individual object, but for the aestheticpleasure provided by its reincarnation of part of his collection.’Indeed, Dorian does become obsessed with creating his own desiredversion of reality, in which worshipping beauty and living by thesenses is the priority. Having embarked on this aesthetic journey-largely instigated by Lord Henry –Dorian’s passion to adhere to theseideals becomes clear, ‘It was the creation of such worlds as these thatseemed to Dorian Gray to be the true object, or amongst the trueobjects of life.’ Early in the novel Wilde even goes so far as toassociate reality directly with the lower classes and as therefore,something ranked below the aspirations and lifestyle of those likeDorian; in this extract no sooner is Dorian overcome by fascinationwith Lord Henry than he is brought down to earth by the entrance of aservant:

‘Dorian Gray never took his gaze off him, but sat like one under aspell, smiles chasing each other over his lips, and wonder growinggrave in his darkening eyes.
At last, liveried in the costume of the age, Reality entered the roomin the shape of a servant to tell the Duchess that her carriage waswaiting.’

By personifying ‘Reality’ Wilde presents it as something that can bedefeated, beaten by those who have enough desire and strength of mindto do so. In the same way Wilde often capitalises and personifies’Art’ to add character to the subject and emphasise his position onthat subject.

Although in one respect this separation of the dandy or aesthetefrom reality may seem to alienate him from others in society, thecontent of Wilde’s narration does not necessarily isolate him from amoral standpoint. It is interesting to note that we are given verylittle information on the uglier types of experience that Dorianseeks. As readers, we understand the influences and transition thatthe protagonist is going through as his soul darkens, but we are noteducated in the exact nature of the experiences. This allows lessopportunity for concentrating on the moral aspects of his lifestylechoices, and more opportunity for pondering on the nature ofaestheticism; we focus more on the influences on Dorian and theconsequences, rather than on judging his actions and decisions. Whenone delves deeper to find a moral standpoint on Wilde’s part, it isdifficult to do so, and consequently, easier to assume that the absenceof analysis in this area suggests ambiguity on his part.

Summer seeks to find an answer to this moral ambiguity in the worldof Oscar Wilde himself, and in relation to The Portrait of Dorian Grayfound that ‘Wilde summarised the moral as “all excess, as well as allrenunciation, brings its own punishment. The painter, Basil Hallward,worshipping physical beauty far too much, as most painters do, dies bythe hand of one in whose soul he has created a monstrous and absurdvanity. Dorian Gray, having led a life of mere sensation and pleasure,tries to kill conscience, and at that moment kills himself.’ Thiscomment of Wilde’s confirms the notion that becoming a slave to beautyis a condition of art, illustrated by the tone of the inevitable thataccompanies the phrase ‘as most painters do,’ an observation that wecan easily transfer to the experience of other artists as well. Wildegoes on to explain that ‘Lord Henry Wotton seeks to be merely thespectator of life. He finds that those who reject the battle are moredeeply wounded than those who take part in it. In this respect bothBasil and Henry are ultimately doomed, thus suggesting no clear moralpath that the reader need follow for salvation. Moral ambivalenceoccurs frequently as a result of the narrator’s attitude; the narratoris sympathetic towards whichever character he is describing, and inparticular, often seems just as seduced by the strong and influentialcharacter of Lord Henry as Dorian is. With this in mind, Summersconcludes that ‘notwithstanding the retributive ending of the book, theFaustian dream of an escape from human limitation and moral stricturesultimately triumphs over the condemnation of excess and therebysubverts the apparent moralism.’ To summarise, he argues that ‘theFaustian dream is rendered more appealingly than the superimposedlesson of dangers of narcissism.’ However, if we accept Summersreading, it still remains impossible to read the novel withoutquestioning the relationship between aestheticism and morality.Whether we believe Wilde to subvert or strengthen common moral values,their presence within the narration is undeniable and invites furtherthought from the reader.

To conclude this chapter on aestheticism, we can see that Wilde’sliterature aestheticism and homosexuality exist co dependently. Thisobviously has an effect on the public’s reading of his works, and howreadily and comfortably they associate these two aspects. As Summerssuggests it is interesting to note that The Picture of Dorian Gray was’among the first novels in the language to feature (though blurred andinexactly) a homosexual subculture’ Summers wrote that ‘homosexualreaders would certainly have responded to the book’s undercurrent ofgay feeling, and may have found the very name “Dorian” suggestive ofGreek homosexuality, since it was Dorian tribesmen who allegedlyintroduced homosexuality into Greece as part of their militaryregimen.’ In contrast, Mary Blanchard notes a negative consequenceconcerning heterosexual readers during the Victorian era – ‘Allyingaesthetic style with the masculine self provoked attacks from someVictorian men unsure of their own gender orientation.’ This raisesthe issue of how a heterosexual readership can be seen to react to theundertone of homosexuality, and how a reader’s interpretation canchange when fuelled by more knowledge of Oscar Wilde’s personal life.Before looking at the effect of the writer on what is ultimately afictional narrator, this essay will look at the importance of secrecyin the life of the homosexual man.

Today’s society is obviously more accepting of Wilde’s sexuality andits effect on his art, Summers illustrates this point by suggestingthat Wilde’s demise meant that he ultimately functioned as Saint Oscar,the homosexual martyr.’ But of course it was not until some timeafter the late nineteenth century that Wilde was fully appreciated by awider audience. Miller and Adams in Sexualities in Victorian Britainobserve that ‘the Victorians were notorious as the great enemies ofsexuality: indeed in Freud’s representative account, sexualitysometimes seems to be whatever it was that the middle-class Victorianmind attempted to hide, evade, repress, deny.’ In this respect thehomosexual man had a double secrecy to adhere to – that of sexuality,as well as homosexuality. In Victorian society there was very much aclear-cut idea of what was natural and unnatural, of what was normaland abnormal. Consequently, Wilde set himself up as a figure to beattacked by the press as unnatural and abnormal – ‘the Victorian presspublicized in wildly inflammatory ways Wilde’s eccentric dress,effeminate, and haughty demeanour, all held up as important signifiersof his unnatural sexuality and the threat he posed to “normal,”middle-class values.’ Being such an extravagant and extrovertedcharacter, Wilde’s sexuality was not particularly covert and eventuallyprovided Victorian society with a case by which to lay down the law asto what was acceptable in terms of sexuality. As Ed Cohen suggests inhis essay, ‘Writing Gone Wild: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet ofRepresentation,’ ‘the court proceedings against Wilde provided aperfect opportunity to define publicly the authorized and legal limitswithin which a man could “naturally” enjoy the pleasures of his bodywith another man.’

Despite the fact that it was Wilde’s indiscrete homosexual behaviourand demeanour that led to his downfall, aspects of secrecy featureheavily in his literary works and certain narrative techniques aid tothe covert nature in which homoeroticism is often presented. To recap,by relating same-sex friendships to aestheticism and ideals of beauty,Wilde is able to divert attention from aspects of homosexuality thatwould be otherwise be interpreted as immoral by Victorian society.Also, Wilde omits any direct reference or description of same-sexphysical relations and hardly even alludes to such activities. Thecontent of the narration and emphasis on aestheticism means that ahomoerotic reading of Dorian Gray is not immediately obvious – at leastnot to a heterosexual readership. Therefore, homosexual love becomesthe love that cannot be spoken of and is fundamentally secretive.

The secret language of homosexuality is particularly evident in TheImportance of Being Earnest, a play riddled with code words alluding tohomosexual behaviour. Karl Beckson ‘argues that the title of the playis not only a pun on the name of Earnest, but is also a representationof same-sex love since the term Urning (a variant of the more commonlyused Uranian) referred to same-sex desire in fin-de-siecle London.’Beckson also argues that Wilde’s use of the term ‘bunburying’ as ameans for Algernon to escape responsibility also has Uranianimplications. With the action of bunburying being such a focal pointof The Importance of Being Earnest, this reading of the play suggest aserious preoccupation with the secret world of the homosexual. It isalso interesting to note that ‘an unnamed critic in Time suggests that“Bunburying was shorthand for a visit to a fashionable London malewhorehouse” (2 February 1979, 73), an opinion reaffirmed by JoelFineman in 1980.’ Understandably, after the success of play thephrase ‘bunburying’ became a commonly used term as same-sex slang.John Franceschina notes other code words used in the play as ‘musical,effeminate, and aunty, all of them Victorian expressions for same-sexactivity.’ Yet, again Wilde diverts attention from a moral reading bywriting in a style that is based on farce and euphemism, a style thatrejects an immediate analytical reading.

In her essay ‘Dialectics of Dandyism,’ Elisa Glick observes theissue of secrecy within both modern and Victorian society and suggeststhat ‘modern gay identity is pervaded by the trope of the secret.’She pays particular interest to the dichotomy of appearance and whatlies beneath, in her words ‘the opposition between outward appearanceand inner essence.’ This split between appearance and essence of aperson’s character and desires is central to Wilde’s portrayal ofhomosexuality, as illustrated by the character of Dorian Gray. Dorianis a contradiction of appearance and essence, with the portrait beingan omnipresent reminder of this. And to return to The Importance ofBeing Earnest, the very act of bunburying on Algernon Moncrieff’s partsuggests a web of deceit where appearances are never compatible withreality.

One might think that such a heavy reliance on secrecy might lead tosome resentment by those forced to hide their sexuality from anintolerant society, but in the case of Wilde’s dandies, this does notseem to be the case. In fact, such characters appear to activelyembrace a world of secrecy. If we equate Dorian’s portrait withhomosexuality, then we can read his response to the secrecy that isforced upon him as something of a guilty pleasure – ‘pride ofindividualism that is half fascination of sin, and smiling with secretpleasure at the misshapen shadow that had to bear the burden thatshould have been his own.’ This seems to suggest that throughsecrecy, a homosexual man can avoid all the negative consequences thatwould be thrust upon him by an offended Victorian society. Glickobserves that it the portrait is not just related to the secret worldof Dorian, but that it also functions on a wider scale, ‘Wilde makes itclear that the portrait does not exhibit a single secret; rather it isthe site for a circulation of secrecy in which all these characters –Basil, Dorian, and Lord Henry – are implicated.’ The portraittherefore, becomes a symbol of the secrecy of the homosexual man, whichis simultaneously associated with issues of aestheticism. Glick goeson to suggest that Basil ‘expresses the sense of homosexuality as bothknown and unknowable – the double bind of gay identity – when hedeclares, “I have come to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thingthat can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. Thecommonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.

But just how realistically can homosexuality exist by these secretcodes of conduct? Just as Wilde suffers at the hands of an intolerantsociety, so does Dorian Gray struggle to live a life of doubleidentity. By the end of the novel it becomes clear that he issuspended between two worlds, with no lasting way of marrying the two.To return to the essay of Elisa Glick, ‘Dorian must die when he stabsthe portrait because he can only exist in the relation between thepublic and the private, a relation that Wilde literalizes in theportrait and its subject.’ Right from the outset of The Picture ofDorian Gray we are presented with the concept of that part of anartist’s inspiration that remains secret and personal to them.Therefore, the portrait of Dorian Gray does not merely conceal thesecrets of Dorian, but also the secrets of the painter of the subject -‘the portrait is a “mysterious form” because its outward appearanceconceals its inner essence.’ – it reveals the essence of both painterand painted. The secret desire hidden within the painting is broughtto our attention by Henry’s shallow comment that the painting looksnothing like Basil; the fact that his retort misses the point entirelymerely succeeds in enhancing our understanding that there is much moreof Basil’s desires and passion in the painting than is immediatelyobvious from its surface attributes. Interestingly, this revelationcontradicts the concept of appreciating art purely for its appearanceand with no relation to moral values. In many cases living by thesenses reveals much about the person, and experiences cannot be soeasily detached from emotion and personal feeling. For example, whenDorian falls in love with Sibyl Vane, Henry observes that ‘out of itssecret hiding place had crept his Soul, and Desire had come to meet iton the way.’ Within the stereotypical lifestyles of the aesthetes,inner feeling will inevitably show its face and with it, bring at leasta fleeting ponder on moral values.

Having analysed The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture ofDorian Gray with regard to elements of secrecy, both positive andnegative consequences of such an influence on homosexual lifestyle areapparent. But it is the story of ‘The Happy Prince’ that puts Wilde’sfinal and definitive seal of opinion on the issue of secrecy. Once theswallow has sacrificed his life for the statue of the Prince, the twoTown Councillors far from understand the relationship between theswallow and prince, becoming preoccupied with the trivial matter of whoshould be the subject of the next statue. However, there is ultimatelya happy ending with the swallow and Prince receiving recognition andacceptance from God, ‘for in my garden of Paradise this little birdshall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shallpraise me.’ The relationship between Prince and Swallow does havehomoerotic undertones, with the Swallow often read as the dandycharacter, in this case fascinated by the beauty of the statue. Thehomoerotic aspect of the tale culminates in a kiss between the two,’but you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you.’ If we are toaccept a homoerotic reading of ‘The Happy Prince’ then accordingly wecan read the ending as Wilde voicing his opinion of homosexuality asnatural and literally giving such a lifestyle the blessing of God. InThe Portrait of Dorian Gray, Wilde uses a similar technique whereby hepresents the character who can most easily be classified as homosexual,as the very character who is the most morally sensitive.

However, a homoerotic reading of ‘The Happy Prince,’ indeed of anyof Wilde’s literary works, relies on and is substantially influenced byour knowledge of Oscar Wilde’s personal life. This brings us to thefinal chapter of this dissertation, a chapter that will analyse therelationship between the writer and the narrator, and the effect ofthis relationship on aesthetic and homoerotic readings of Wilde’sfiction.

Chapter 5 -Wilde the storyteller

So far we have looked mainly at The Importance of Being Earnest andThe Picture of Dorian Gray and we have touched upon the fact that it isoften difficult to read such works without considering the personallife of Oscar Wilde. A Victorian audience would have held someknowledge of Wilde, considering that he was an extremely sociablecharacter with social critiques often published in Reviews of thetime. And of course, his two year’s imprisonment would have beenwidely publicised and consequently common knowledge. There is no doubtthat it was around this time that heterosexual readers would havestruggled to accept the links that Wilde makes between aestheticism andhomosexuality, fearing a similar fate merely for sharing thecharacteristics of aestheticism. Reading in the twenty-first centurywe now have the privilege of even further information on Wilde’sprivate life.

The nineteenth century novel largely focused on the third person,omnipresent narrator, and in doing so inevitably drew attention to thepersona of the narrator and subsequently to the author himself. Wildeis no exception to this rule and it is difficult not to see his owncharacter – or what we believe to be his own character – shinethrough. As suggested in the previous chapter, it is not just thecondition of the artist to worship beauty, but also to allow his owncharacter and desires to become a part of his art. In the case of ThePortrait of Dorian Gray, our knowledge of Wilde as a dandy and aesthetecolours our interpretation of characters such as Lord Henry andDorian. Knowing what we do about Wilde’s extravagant social life andturbulent relationship with the press, lines such as ‘You don’t wantpeople to talk of you as something vile and degraded’ spoken to Dorianby Basil, begin to take on more significant meaning. With this quotein mind, it is possible to read between the lines and observe a feelingin Wilde that he wishes somehow, outside of his literature not to belooked upon as ‘vile and degraded.’ This desire for acceptance isoffset by the more typical tongue in cheek wit of Wilde, the use ofwhich diverts attention from serious emotions. This type of humour canbe seen in Dorian’s retort to Basil on hearing gossip, ‘I love scandalsabout other people, but scandals about myself don’t interest me. Theyhave not got the charm of novelty.’ It seems that Wilde isdeliberately poking fun at himself and joining in with the popularridicule that was present in Victorian society about the life of theaesthetic gentleman. Many cartoons and caricatures were in circulationat the time that sought to make fun of the extravagances of theaesthetic lifestyle. Numerous satirical works were also released,worth particular mention is Robert Hitchens Green Carnation, asatirical novel on decadence influenced by the author’s beliefs inaestheticism as unconventional and exhibitionist. The Importance ofBeing Earnest also has a farcical tone throughout, which often servesto allow the reader to question Wilde’s authority, whilst also allyingthe comments of certain characters with Oscar himself. For example, aline of Gwendolen appears to point directly at Wilde’s personal life,’And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties hebecomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don’t like that. Itmakes men so very attractive.’

However, many critics would argue that the very definition of fictiondictates that the reader should accept that there need not necessarilybe a connection between narrator and author. In the same way that anactor does not need to have experienced a similar history and lifestyleto the character they play, so too should we allow the writer to assumedifferent characters. This very point crops up in the story of ‘ThePortrait of Mr W.H whereby the narrator argues that ‘To say that only awoman can portray the passions of a woman, and that therefore no boycan play Rosalind, is to rob the art of acting of all claim toobjectivity.’ Indeed, this type of reading does take some of thepressure away from Wilde and means that he can be judged as an authorless readily. Having said this, in reality this is an extremely thinveil of protection. And in the writing of ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H’even seems to invite a reading based on his own life. For example, heuses a first person narrator and a style that can easily be mistakenfor a factual piece of writing concerning validated research. Wildeclearly walks a fine line between fact and fiction, keeping the focuson fiction just enough to allow him to present his work as fiction, andrely on the cover of other narrative techniques such as the beliefs ofaestheticism. Wilde toys with his audience and seems to delight inkeeping them guessing as to where the line between fact and fiction isdrawn. This can be linked back to the issue of secrecy withinhomosexual culture and the pleasure that can be gained from suchsecrecy.

The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray and ‘ThePortrait of Mr W.H’ all feature aspects of the male dandy and overlapwith what we know to be Wilde’s lifestyle. But when it comes to othertales in The Happy Prince and other stories, they are much furtherremoved from Wilde’s reality and experience, located in fairy talesettings and seem to offer the content of a fable. Written in such adifferent style to the works already discussed, where can theseremaining tales be positioned in relation to Wilde’s stance onaestheticism and lifestyle as a homosexual man, and does the fact thatWilde has adopted a fairy tale style mean that there is more separationbetween narrator and author?

The Happy Prince and other stories do have elements of Wilde’s wideropinions and ideas on aestheticism, and in some instances, undertonesof homoeroticism. However, before considering the stories in relationto these issues, it is important to draw attention to Wilde’s intendedreadership/audience. Having married Constance Lloyd, Wilde was thefather of two and there is no doubt that consequently assuming thisrole influenced the content and style of these particular works.Although his two sons were still very young when he wrote The HappyPrince and other stories, he would ultimately have had them in mind ashis desired audience. As Owen Dudley Edwards comments: ‘This is not tosay that the stories were first told to his two sons, though simpleversions of them may have been…But they were written with the intentionof telling them to his sons. They are stories from an unselfconsciousfather who knows how to move the storyteller in and out of thenarrative with mild self-mockery, as opposed to some assertive malechauvinist brute thundering his own dignity and morality for theedification of his wretched offspring.’

‘The Happy Prince,’ ‘The Selfish Giant’ and other tales in thecollection all have characteristics of the fairy tale, as well as thebible story and epic tradition. Wilde’s target audience wouldobviously have influenced his apparent adherence to Victorian moralvalues and religious beliefs. With a folklorist for a mother and aneducation in the classics, Wilde’s storytelling influences can clearlybe traced back to his upbringing. Owen Dudley Edwards suggests thatWilde’s stories ‘in almost all cases travel back to a Celtic folk-worlddominated by ghosts and God. The presence of God in The Selfish Giant’for example, focuses on a religious message of humanity and the afterlife, and as a result it allows for a clear-cut moral, something thatWilde’s other works shy away from. There is less ambiguity concerningthe conclusions we come to at the end of these tales.

It can perhaps be argued that these stories are an outlet forWilde’s desire to be accepted by Victorian society. Influenced by hischildren – an aspect of his heterosexual life – they appear to be thetype of sugary tale that would be embraced by a society obsessed by thedistinction between right and wrong, normal and abnormal. Although,there are still moments of typical ‘tongue in cheek’ Wilde humour, themorals of the stories fundamentally serve those of the Victorian ideal.

Animosity toward Wilde during the late nineteenth century came aboutlargely as a reaction toward perceived immoral aspects of his work.However the very nature of aestheticism invites a reading entirelyunrelated to moral values. As Lord Henry Wotton suggests at the veryend The Picture of Dorian Gray ‘As for being poisoned by a book, thereis no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. Itannihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books thatthe world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.That is all.’

It seems that while Wilde would ideally like the rest of society toread his works as ‘art for art’s sake,’ the reality of it all is thatresponsibility cannot be transferred quite so easily. Art isinescapably linked with the character and inner feelings with theartist and will be read accordingly by the reader. Both Dorian andBasil realise this, and in this respect we can perhaps see evidencethat Wilde himself was dubious as to just how far he could separatehimself from his art – Dorian begins to experience a similarrelationship with Art, ‘Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. Itis part of myself. I feel that.’ Dorian soon comes to realise thatthe painting is a part of him, and does not merely objectify him, nordoes it exist independently from himself and Basil. No sooner has itbeen created than it is a part of their lives, of their experiences andfeelings. Toibin highlights this as problem concerning all of Wilde’sliterary works, particularly his plays – ‘is that they are forced tocompete with the drama of his own lost years.’ Numerous biographieshave been published on Wilde, even films documenting his life. Havingbecome a part of popular culture today, most people know something ofWilde’s history, particularly his tumultuous relationship with AlfredDouglas. It is impossible to approach Wilde’s fiction with fresh eyesand no prior conceptions of what we suppose will be references to hisown lifestyle.

Throughout the chapters of this dissertation, it has become clearthat art cannot exist purely for art’s sake; a host of other factorsand influences come into play during the observer’s appreciation of theart. Wilde’s art cannot be experienced as ‘art for art’s sake, it isart to make a point, as a vehicle for Wilde to express his own opinionsand feelings. Just as the picture of Dorian Gray proves what sin cando to a man, so the novel raises its own issues and aims to make itsown point, as ambiguous as this may be – ‘The sitter is merely theaccident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter, itis rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.’Recognising this, Wilde calls upon numerous narrative techniques todraw attention away from aspects of his own personal lifestyle. Thesetechniques include referencing the accepted ideal of beauty from theGreek era, injecting an element of farce in order to invite a questionin the authority of the narrator, and referencing beliefs inaestheticism. Well-known in the late nineteenth century for his socialcritique and outspoken character, Wilde would often use this to hisadvantage by making extreme remarks on society that would defy beingtaking seriously, for example, ‘I am too fond of reading books to careto write them, Mr Erskine. I should like to write a novel certainly; anovel that would be as lovely as a Persian carpet and as unreal. Butthere is no literary public in England for anything except newspapers,primers, and encyclopaedias. Of all people in the world the Englishhave the least sense of the beauty of literature.’ Instead of askingfor trouble, Wilde succeeds in creating a style that allows him morefreedom by taking on a role of questionable authority. Toibin suggeststhat Wilde is ”ready to mock and amuse, use old creaky plots and oldcreaky characters, and use them to play with a world of surfaces andsecrets. Mistaken identities, long-lost children, lost jewels,overheard conversations and many exits and entrances are placed besidecynicism and corruption, opportunism and a large number of aphorismswhich manage to seem both glib and indisputable.’ Thus, he drawsattention away from his own personal life and allows himself much moreliterary freedom of expression through misunderstanding and the worldof farce.

Wilde is only able to escape the restraints of aestheticism whenrelating true experience. His work, ‘De Profundis,’ written fromReading jail between January and March 1897 is described her by Toibin:’The tone of ‘De Profundis’ was calmly eloquent; there was a hurtbeauty in the sentences, and a sense of urgency, a sense of hard thingsbeing said for the first time. Wilde’s old skills at paradox, hisability to use words as a way of turning the world on its head, were nolonger used to seduce an audience but to kill his own pain and grief…Hehad suffered too much to care if his tone seemed too emotional, writtennot as art, but as matter.’ The reference to ‘seducing an audience’implies that Wilde sought an acceptance that could not have been gainedwere he more serious and were he truthful. His skills of ‘turning theworld on its head’ can therefore be read as defence mechanisms todisguise the man behind the face of the narrator.

Despite the pleasure of secrecy described in Chapter 4, Wilde wasperhaps more concerned about conforming within the confines ofVictorian society than would be apparent at first glance. An importantevent with regard to Wilde’s moral values is that of his arrest andsubsequent trial. To quote Summers: ‘the theme of martyrdom is athread that runs through much of his work, early and late, and probablyreflects the strong masochistic element in his personality, even as italso mirrors his sense of alienation. Moreover his disastrous decisionto prosecute the Marquess of Queensbury for alleging that he posed as asodomite was itself reactionary rather than defiant in nature,reflecting both his ambivalence toward homosexuality and his desire toappear to conform to the Victorian standards that he so oftenridiculed.’ This is to suggest that Wilde’s desire to conform mayhave had more of an influence over his actions than any early crusadefor gay rights or rebellion against Victorian morals and values.Toibin states that ”The personal became political because an Irishmanpushed his luck.’ The covert nature of homosexuality and thestrategies Wilde used within his literary works to concealhomoeroticism, may have given him a false sense of security and enoughbravado to believe that he could call upon Victorian standards toprotect him from slander.

In the words of Summers: ‘Although Wilde frequently (and sometimesself-servingly) asserted the impersonality of art, his own art isinseparably bound to his personality, or at least to the personal he soassiduously cultivated and promoted, and thus his works cannot beappreciated in isolation from his life.’ As a homosexual manattempting to exist successfully in Victorian society, whilst leading asomewhat secretive homosexual lifestyle, Wilde was ultimately unable tomarry the two markedly different worlds. Living in an intolerantsociety, Wilde’s only potential saviour was aestheticism, bringing withit the power to validate homoeroticism and invite acceptance from widerVictorian society. Yet, it was the elitist nature of aestheticism thatisolated others from joining the movement, and instead it became anexclusive club that provoked ridicule from many of the bourgeoisie andmiddle class. Just as Wilde’s fiction was inextricably linked with hispersonal life in Victorian society, so, over one hundred years afterhis death he remains an iconic writer, known equally for his lifestyleand his art.

  • Blanchard, Mary Warner, ‘Boundaries and the Victorian Body:Aesthetic Fashion in Gilded Age America,’ The American HistoricalReview, Vol.100, No. 1 (Feb, 1995)
  • Blanchard, Mary Warner, Oscar Wilde’s America, Counterculture in the Gilded Age (Yale University Press, 1998)
  • Brown, Richard Danson and Gupta, Suman, Aestheticism and modernism:debating twentieth century literature 1900-1960 (Oxford, Routledge,2005)
  • Cohen, Ed. “Writing Gone Wilde: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet of Representation,” PMLA, Vol. 102, No. 5 (Oct, 1987)
  • Felski, Rita, ‘The Counterdiscourse of the Feminine in Three Textsby Wildem Huysmans and Sacher-Masoch,’ PMLA, Vol.106, No.5 (Oct, 1991)
    Franceschina, John, Homosexualities in the English Theatre: From Lyly to Wilde (Greenwood Press, 1997)
  • Glick, Elisa “The Dialectics of Dandyism,” Cultural Critique, No. 48 (Spring 2001)
  • Hall, Donald E, Queer Theories (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
  • Goldfarb, Russell M. “Late Victorian Decadence,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Summer, 1962)
  • Lawler, Donald L, and Knott, Charles E, ‘The Context of Invention:Suggested Origins of Dorian Gray’ Modern Philology, Vol.73. No.4, Part1 (May, 1976)
  • Miller, Andrew H and Adams, James Eli, Sexualities in Victorian Britain (Indiana University Press, 1996)
  • Schulz, Davis, ‘Redressing Oscar: Performance and the trials of Oscar Wilde,’ TDR, Vol.40, No.2 (Summer, 1996)
  • Sinfield, Alan, Out on stage: lesbian and gay theatre in thetwentieth century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999)
  • Summers, Claude J, Gay Fictions, Wilde to Stonewall: Studies in a Male Homosexual Literary Tradition (Continuum, 1990)
  • Toibin, Colm, Love in a dark time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar (Pan Macmillan 2002)
  • Wilde, Oscar, Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (Harper Collins, 2003)
  • Wilde, Oscar, The Importance of Being Earnest (Penguin, 1994)
  • Wilde, Oscar, The Importance of Being Earnest, York Notes Advanced (York Press, 2004)
  • Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin, 1994)
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The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

April 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Setting (Jasmine) The Decadent Movement was an artistic and literary movement occurring in Western Europe that portrayed an aesthetic style of satire, critique, and artificiality. The novel was both written and set in London, England some time in the 1890’s. Dorian travels freely between two major parts in London; the wealthy West end, and the run-down East end.

These two sides of London represent the two sides of Dorian Gray. On the west side, Dorian is a gentleman, the local celebrity. On the East side, however, Dorian is villainous and suspicious. He becomes “”that guy”” that your parents told you to stay away from. As the plot progresses, we see Wilde’s intention of merging two locations with Dorian’s two distinct personalities. The Decadent Movement took place during the Victorian Era, where the line drawn between high and low class was a segregation; a war between incomes, making the plot of Wilde’s story that much more intriguing when published in 1980.

Synopsis (Belinda) In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the very handsome protagonist Dorian Gray was just a naive and innocent boy until a charismatic nobleman named Henry Wotton comes along and influences him. Basil Hallward, a painter who idolizes Dorian greatly, paints a perfect portrait of Dorian and gives it to him. Because of Henrys words about beauty, Dorian trades his soul for the eternal beauty of this portrait. From there, the beautiful Dorian becomes more sinful and hedonistic, and with every sin he commits, his portrait changes while he remains beautiful. At first, he was glad that he could do anything he wanted and still look beautiful but near the end, the painting drove him to the edge. He tried to change his ways but it was too late.


  • 1 Characters (Gaby)
  • 2 Quotation (Duc):
  • 3 Critique (Gaby)
  • 4 References:

Characters (Gaby)

So the main character in the novel is Dorian. Dorian Gray is a handsome and wealthy young man who serves as a muse to Basil Hallward. A dynamic character because he turns into a monster by the end of the book. He is the archetype of beauty, representing the main theme about soul corruption and beauty.

Next we have the devil, Lord Henry Wotton. He is the cynical one and always arguing very controversial ideas which is probably why the novel was censored during that time. Many professors believe he was the representation of the devil because he incited Dorian to commit sinful acts and then would go and have a cup of tea in the afternoon.

There is also, Basil Hallward with his puppy love. He is the artist and the one who paints Dorians portrait. Hes so in love with Dorian that is afraid of portraying his love in his painting. He tries and fails to save Dorian from the influence of Lord Henry and it will end up costing him greatly.

Other important character is Sybil Vane. She is an actress from a poor theatre and Dorian falls in love with her young beauty and skills. After a terrible performance, Dorian decides that she is not worth her love anymore and breaks her heart. Sybils suicide is the rolling ball to Dorians decadence and the rise of his evil self.

Theme (Jennie) One of the main themes of the book is beauty. Dorian Gray embodies the idea of pure beauty. He is beautiful and he attains eternal youth. Dorians physical representation becomes something that everyone in the book aspires to be. Although he is beautiful in the exterior, his internal self is foul which goes with the saying, dont judge a book by its cover.

good vs evil: From the beginning, both evil and good were equals to each other. Basil Hallward, Dorians painter thats obsessed with him, symbolizes the angel in Dorians shoulder. He tries to influence Dorian with good habits like staying away from corruption. On the other hand, Lord Henry Wotton is the complete opposite of Basil. He is a hedonistic and selfish aristocrat that views people as mere tools to get what he wants. Later on, Dorian becomes distant with Basil and ends up picking up the evil influences of Lord Henry. This way of thinking eventually leads Dorian to his downfall.

One of the main themes of the book is evil versus good. Basil Hallward, Dorians painter that’s obsessed with him, symbolizes the angel and durian shoulder. He tries to influence Torian with good habits like staying away from corruption. On the other hand Lord Henry Wotton is the complete opposite of Basil. He is a hedonistic and selfish aristocrat that views people as mere tools to get what he wants. Later on, Dorian becomes distant with Basil, and ends up picking up the evil influences of Lord Henry. This way of thinking eventually leads Dorian into his downfall. Another major theme of the book is beauty. Dorian Gray embodies the idea of pure beauty. He’s beautiful and he attains eternal youth. Dorian’s physical appearance becomes something that everyone in the book aspires to be. Although he is beautiful in the exterior, his internal self is raw, which goes with the saying don’t judge a book by its cover.

Quotation (Duc):

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame (Lord Henry, chapter 19, pg. 223). This quote was used as an excuse for Dorian to not stop reading the book due to his curious-self. An excuse for Lord Henry sins.

Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic (narrator, chapter 3, pg. 41). The quote basically means that behind everything beautiful, there is something dark and tragic. Lord Henry says this after learning about Dorian’s past and his parents’ death. Despite his dark and tragic past, Dorian is still innocent and beautiful. The quote is also meant to foreshadow Dorian’s future and how his beautiful portrait is used to conceal his evil and atrocious actions.

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one (Lord Henry, chapter 1, pg. 6). This quotes foreshadowing the chain of misfortunate friendships in the story because laughing to end a friendship is not only mean but evil

Okay, so let’s start with our first quote. Hey what’s wrong buddy? I don’t know man, why should I read your book anymore, it ruined my life! Dude,The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame (Lord Henry, chapter 19, pg. 223). So he is obviously referring to the book, it’s called no spoiler. No author writes a book hoping that no one can read it. As a writer himself, Lord Henry gave an excused for all the sinful things in his book, saying that it’s nothing other than the worlds secret. This ultimately shows what his philosophy of asceticism, where there’s no such thing as meaning. Everything spins around beauty and nothing else. So, same thing from earlier. He said, behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic (Narrator, chapter 3, pg. 41). Pretty straightforward. The quote basically means that behind every beautiful thing, there is something dark and tragic. The quote is also meant to foreshadow Dorians future and how his beautiful portrait is used to conceal his evil and atrocious actions. What a villainous saint. Okay, time for some deep quotes. Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one (Lord Henry, chapter 1, pg. 6). Vocabulary time. Aphorism, an observation that contains a general truth. So, this aphorism means that humor is a good way to start a friendship. Moreover, ending on good terms is always the best way to terminate ones. This quote foreshadows the chain of unfortunate friendships in the story. Say no more to avoid spoiler alerts. Look out, bye!

Critique (Gaby)

In our opinion, we would recommend The Picture of Dorian Gray because it is a very interesting novel. The plot of the novel is very uncommon and unlike anything else. Besides, the novel addresses very controversial topics and ideas that many of us have thought of and should be exposed to. The novel is a dense read but you can easily find very strong arguments about art, beauty, and how we should live our life. The drastic change in Dorian is just one more surprise that this book has and everyone should give this novel a try.


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Dorian Gray: A Parable

April 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

Oscar Wildes The Picture of Dorian Gray is a controversial novel about the vanity of youth and how it corrupts the very heart of the human soul. Wilde intended this novel to be a parable, warning its readers about the nature of humanity and how easily a human soul can be corrupted. From the very beginning, Dorian Gray is depicted as a handsome youth; however, as a young man, he is still na??ve about the ways of the world.

As such, he is still an innocent, and his soul is yet unstained by the evil, corrupting nature of society. However, it does not take long until the first seeds of corruption take hold. Dorian meets a man named Lord Henry a man who is immediately smitten by Dorians good looks. Insecure about his own looks and feeling a pang of jealousy, Lord Henry laments, youth is the one thing worth having and someday, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly you will feel it (Wilde 20).

A representation of society particularly the society of Grays time Lord Henry equates youth and beauty. Looking at Dorian, Lord Henry notices his graying hair and wrinkly face, and feels his own mortality. Suddenly, Lord Henrys clothes dont seem as nice. His wifes smile doesnt feel as genuine. Everything to him is old and gray except Dorian. Dorian notices this as well, and he notices how people love him for his youth and his beauty. They believe him to be good because he is young, because he is handsome. He begins to surround himself with beautiful things: people, jewelry, etc. But he doesnt value them only what they represent. He is unable to even see the humanity in people. He does not care about their problems about their feelings. He only cares about their looks.

As such, his soul is now corrupted and he has lost touch with his own humanity. He has become like the rest of society. So when Basil presents him with a beautiful portrait of himself, Dorian instead begins to see his own flaws. He begins to hate the beauty he sees because he knows, unlike him, it will stay forever young. Forever beautiful as society tells him. In this state of disillusionment, he makes a Faustian deal, wishing the painting should age and show the ravages of the world while Dorian himself could go on being youthful and handsome (and, in his disillusioned view of the world, good) forever. In essence, he gives away his soul, and everything that is good in him, to be what society wants. And when he learns and celebrates that the painting, not he himself, takes on all the scars of the world and that he can live a consequence free life, his corruption becomes complete.

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Dorian Gray: Fear or Corruption

April 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

In the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is believed by many people that Lord Henry has corrupted Dorian Gray, but this may not be true. Many believe, that Dorian Gray hates Lord Henry because he is alone in the world. Having someone just like himself scares him; Therefore, Dorian Gray lets Lord Henry believe that he has corrupted him, but why? It is possible that Dorian Gray wants to have someone in the world like him.

Dorian Gray believes that he is alone in the world because he is a narcissist. He feels that no one understands who he is. As soon as hes at this vulnerable moment, he meets Lord Henry. Dorian Gray feels alone in the world and wants a companion who is just like him. As soon as Dorian was thinking these thoughts, Lord Henry came. This was the perfect timing and Dorian realized that Lord Henry could be his companion. Dorian is alone in the world, and that makes him become cruel to Lord Henry, when he realizes that Lord Henry is just like him. Cruelty equals loneliness, Oscar Wilde says.

As you know, the beginning of the book starts off with Basil painting a portrait of Dorian Gray and Lord Henry wanting to meet him, and eventually ends up corrupting him. This may not be the case. We can see that Dorian Gray is scared of Lord Henry from the beginning. He says, Have you really a very bad influence, Lord Henry? As bad as Basil says? (19). It seems as though Dorian Gray is intrigued in knowing if Lord Henrys influence is cruel, its as if Dorian Gray wants it to be bad, so he has a reason to be scared and to hate him. Lord Henry responds to Dorian Gray by saying, There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral immoral from the scientific point of view. (20). Lord Henry is saying that there is no such thing as bad influence, the only reason people believe this is because no matter what influence you are given, it will take you away from who you really are. With these quotes, Dorian is testing Lord Henry to see if he is just like Dorian and in the end, Dorian is happy that he has finally, found someone just like him.

Then, Lord Henry goes on to talk about temptation and continues to corrupt Dorian Gray. With this, Dorian responds with, Stop! You bewilder me. I dont know what to say ( ) Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to think. (21). In class, we spoke about how at this point, everything Lord Henry has said, was too much for Dorian, and he does not understand anything that Lord Henry is saying. But instead, Dorian was testing Lord Henry to see if his mind thought just like Dorians. Dorian acts like he did not understand what Lord Henry says because it is all part of his plan to make Lord Henry believe that he is corrupting him. Another point in the book is when Lord Henry and Dorian Gray are discussing Sibyl Vane, Dorians part-time lover. Lord Henry says, People like you ( ) what are your actual relations with Sibyl Vane? ( ) it is only the sacred things that are worth touching. (51). To which Dorian replies, Harry! Sibyl Vane is sacred! (51). Dorian is acting like what Lord Henry just said is insane; having sex with a virgin. Lord Henry goes on to say, It is only the sacred things that are worth touching, Dorian. (51). Again, we see here that Lord Henry tries to corrupt Dorian, and Dorian allows him to do so, with the fact in mind that Dorian knew all of this already, and he continued to let Lord Henry believe that he has corrupted him.

Next, we wonder why Dorian Gray would allow Lord Henry to believe that he has corrupted him. Perhaps because he felt as if he was alone in the world. That no one understood who he was a narcissist. When Sibyl Vane dies, Dorian Gray runs to Lord Henry to confide in him. He says, “”why is it that I cannot feel this tragedy as much as I want to? I don’t think I am heartless. Do you? ( ) I don’t like that explanation, Harry, but I am glad you don’t think I am heartless. I am nothing of the kind. I know I am not. And yet I must admit that this thing that has happened does not affect me as it should. It seems to me to be simply like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play. It has all the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy in which I took a great part, but by which I have not been wounded.”” (96).

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Misogyny in The Picture of Dorian Gray

April 28, 2020 by Essay Writer

In Oscar Wildes novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian Gray is influenced by his friends Basil and Lord Henry. Basil is portrayed as the good influence because he always tried to keep him from following any evil patterns. On the other hand, Lord Henry was considered a terrible influence towards Dorian, for he taught this character that pleasure was the most important quality in life.

Being more intrigued by the path of pleasure, Dorian strikes a corrupt sense of mentality, which only becomes worse when he continues to sin. To further emphasize the misogynic view within this novel, Wilde writes Dorian, Basil, and Lord Henry as the main characters, whereas the women in the novel, such as Sibyl Vane and her mother, were perceived minor and unimportant. Oscar Wilde demonstrates the use of misogyny by outcasting the women roles in the book, almost the same way men treated women during the Victorian Era.

Throughout this Era and novel, men demonstrated sexist comments and actions along with having a hatred towards women.. Women were considered property of their husbands. The only job that was deemed acceptable was a teacher; worst of all, during this Era, women were introduced to a double sexual standard which were restrictive rules for womens sexuality with passionate freedom for men. This began to raise the level of prostitution and even venereal disease. Society in the Victorian Era prevented and discouraged women from having any kind of power. The neglection women received became a norm in both males and females eyes. In his novel, Wilde disregarded the female roles to represent the life women had during this time period. Due to the lack of importance and the type of treatment women received in the novel, later results to the evil actions Dorian Gray progressively makes and escalates the greediness among the male characters. Lord Henrys morals often criticize women based on their intelligence, as well as, believing that women are a decorative sex and they arent worth talking to because they never have anything to say (Wilde 51). The importance of his statement helps provides evidence that men never found any interest in women and theyre only there for a distraction or company.

Dorian Gray strikes his first significant encounter with evil with Sibyl Vane, an actress, when he encounters her true feelings about him. Dorian argues that Sibyl is not worth anything when he states, You are shallow and stupid… how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again…never think of you…never mention your name I wish I had never laid eyes upon you! You have spoiled the romance of my life Without your art, you are nothing (Wilde 91). Misogyny is being shown through this dialogue because Dorian is demonstrating the lack of care and love for Sibyl and shows that he only really loved her for her art, not her true self. Dorian disrespecting and antagonizing Sibyl only corrupted his soul more and will be throughout the rest of the novel.

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