Oscar Wilde’s creation of, “The picture of Dorian Gray” is an astounding piece of history. One that will be shared through generations and generations. With every turning page, the book reveals the dark secrets of human nature and the corruption that comes with the philosophies of others.
A thorough examination of Oscar Wilde’s creation of his main character Dorian Gray illustrates the Conflict between morality and Aestheticism, and the dangers it can have on the soul. For starters, The cover itself can be considered a portrait. The title has two meanings. The one basil paints of course, and the portrait that the world can not see. The one the world can’t see is the real Dorian Gray, representing his soul and inner demons, the portrait serves as a canvas in which ” Gray” represents, that life is really just black and white.
In the novel, Lord Henry serves as the devil in Dorians heaven. Lord Henry enacts Dorian Gray’s mind with his philosophy of Aestheticism. Oscar Wilde use of diction during the encounter with Lord Henry Allows the audience to study what type of human lord Henry is and how he uses his ideas to infest Dorian’s mind. Oscars Wilde preface and Lord Henry Philosophy, ” Art has no other purpose but to be beautiful.”(preface), Is what Lord Henry meant to say when he told Dorian Gray that, ” Beauty is the purpose of art”, (wide 17). From the beginning to the end of the encounter with Dorian Gray, Lord Henry has influenced and infected Dorian Gray’s mind with fear that he will one-day loss his beauty and youth, while his painting will stay forever young. It is from that meeting on that Dorian Gray swaps his soul for the price of beauty, “I would give everything, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give. Would give my soul for that!.
“(Wilde 29). His willingness and eagerness will indeed transform his fate. Oscar Wilde use of “soul” connects with the title of the book because Dorian Gray abandons his morals for the purpose to be just beautiful. Dorian Gray’s Relationship with Sibyl Vane Highlights the beginning of his new life. The first and most important Marked in his changing personality from beautiful to ugly.
His first moral Transgression is Dating The actress. Dorian’s “Love” for simply is base on her physical beauty. As described by himself, ” I loved you because you were marvelous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape… to the shadows of art.”( Wild102). Dorian is attracted to her “Art”, not who she is.
Her performance that, “digested” him and made her “ugly”, was not a physical thing but an art thing. He found her art ugly, which proved Oscar Wilde philosophy, that art has no other purpose but to be beautiful. By creating this flat character it brought a lot of complexity to the novel in general, it brought the drama and in some ways, Oscar Wilde used it to create Dorian Gray emotional attachment to ” beauty”. Anyways, once sibyl leaves the stage she also exists Dorian’s life because in his eyes she no longer can feed his aesthetic life. ” Without art, you are nothing” ( Wilde 101). These heartbreaking words lead Sybil to commit suicide.
Some would be remorseful that someone killed themselves because of something they said. However, Dorian takes pleasure in it because it is like,” a wonderful ending to a wonderful play” ( wide 114). His reaction to the death of his “lover” just proves to show that he has abandoned his morality for the purpose of aestheticism. In his pursuit of pleasure, a narcissistic personality awakens a dark soul. The emergence of his new personality and his new way of living correspond with the dangerous it can have with the soul. While Dorian Gray continues to sin, his picture continues to decay. His soul is rotting.
Dorian Gray and the Greek legend Narcissus both mirror each other. Legends have it that Narcissus falls in love with himself and doesn’t care about anything in the world but his beauty. Dorian Gray also loves to be young and beautiful, thanks to Lord Henry’s philosophy on aesthetic, Dorian Gray drowns in his beauty. He is able to maintain his good looks while his portrait transforms into his soul. But with every action humans do on this earth, there are consequences. Oscar Wilde, use of symbolism through the use of jewels, is symbolic because of the fact that it symbolizes beautiful objects. It symbolizes what Dorian really is. Beautiful but useless.
Anyways, There’s a point to the jewels. After he kills basil and commits other sinful things, he tells Lord Henry and Lord Henry gives him a yellow book. The yellow book is his life.
The final stage of his deterioration shaped by the chapter in that yellow book. The yellow book talks about a young Frenchman who sins. Sins that Dorian Gray finds to be beautiful. Oscar Wilde use of this yellow book can be seen as someone telling you the faults that you have done.
This is because Dorian Gray is able to connect with this character. ” Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of beautiful.” The book is the final paint to his life.
Dorian digested by his own portrait destroys it. But destroying his portrait also destroys his soul. This is because of Oscar Wilde, created the portrait to symbolize his dark soul.
This also parallels to his lover and her death. Both were art. The actress was playing in art and the portrait was art. He found both of them ugly and decided he didn’t want them in his life.
He ends up dying. What is debatable is his ending, the fact that there weren’t any consequences leaves a bad taste. All the ins he has created should have at east ended with him in jail to pay for what he has done right. But no it doesn’t. Which makes, no sense.
However, when you start to think about it his consequences were built. When Dorian Gray finally realize that the Aesthetic life he has been living has actually destroyed his relationship with everyone he begins to feel guilty. The fact that he can’t go back to fix his errors is his consequences. Looks as if Oscar wanted to show the audition that the human mind and soul can only go so far before it is struck down by the reality of life. Anyways, coming back to his death, in the books ending it states, ” It was not till they had examined the rings that they… had recognized who it was.” (Wilde 220). The jewelry that was mention above symbolizes his entire life.
The only piece of a legacy that Dorian leaves is jewelry. In which, he still leaves something that is beautiful but useless. In addition, a memorable mention is the fact that even though Lord Henry was trying to impact morality lessons to Dorian, he himself did not follow his own philosophies. Lord Harry was always encouraging and almost daring Dorian to explore his darker nature. But, Harry didn’t actually live that lifestyle himself.
He lived through Dorian using him to live out his own fantasies with no consequence to his own reputation or conscience. It really echoes the theme of morality, no good and evil, just the middle areas. Oscar Wilde, the father of Aesthetics ends his novel with a failed Aesthetics life. Oscar Wilde, a true master of his craft, leaves the audience with an open mind. Can humans live a life in where morality doesn’t exist, maybe not? Dorians Grays life was nothing more than a failure to Aestheticism.
Just like in the story of Jekyll and Hyde, a double life can only take you so far. Philosophical or not, humans must project emotion into what they see and experience, it is what makes us real, vulnerable, and moral. In a world full of temptation one must realize that the price we pay has setbacks.
Even in the face of beauty, morals are inescapable.