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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Anna Goldstein

on 21 February 2013

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Transcript of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray Characters Synopsis Curriculum Referring to Synopsis AP Prompt Read carefully the following passage from Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," written in the late 1800's. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how Wilde uses such literary techniques as selection of detail, syntax, and imagery to characterize the relationship between Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray Basil Hallward Lord Henry Sibyl Vane He turned to Hallward and said, "My dear fellow, I have just remembered." "Remembered what, Harry?" "Where I heard the name of Dorian Gray." "Where was it?" asked Hallward, with a slight frown. "Don't look so angry, Basil. It was at my aunt, Lady Agatha's. She told me she had discovered a wonderful young man who was going to help her in the East End, and that his name was Dorian Gray. I am bound to state that she never told me he was good-looking. Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not. She said that he was very earnest and had a beautiful nature. I at once pictured to myself a creature with spectacles and lank hair, horribly freckled, and tramping about on huge feet. I wish I had known it was your friend." "I am very glad you didn't, Harry." "Why?" "I don't want you to meet him." "You don't want me to meet him?" "No." "Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio, sir," said the butler, coming into the garden. "You must introduce me now," cried Lord Henry, laughing. The painter turned to his servant, who stood blinking in the sunlight. "Ask Mr. Gray to wait, Parker: I shall be in in a few moments." The man bowed and went up the walk. Then he looked at Lord Henry. "Dorian Gray is my dearest friend," he said. "He has a simple and a beautiful nature. Your aunt was quite right in what she said of him. Don't spoil him. Don't try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don't take away from me the one person who gives to my art whatever charm it possesses: my life as an artist depends on him. Mind, Harry, I trust you." He spoke very slowly, and the words seemed wrung out of him almost against his will. "What nonsense you talk!" said Lord Henry, smiling, and taking Hallward by the arm, he almost led him into the house. Basil Hallward "is...flat and underdeveloped...his major function is to serve as a foil for Lord Henry" (Ericksen 105). Basil "a moralist" (Liebman 9) and "tells Dorian to ignore Henry's cynicism" (Wilde 110). Basil wants Dorian "to lead such a life as to make the world respect [him]" (Wilde 185). Basil is heart-broken and "shocked by Dorian's indifference" (Liebman 9) and he "may be good, but [he is] not wise...the moral order that Basil believes in does not exist" (Liebman 9). Basil's "worship of Dorian is...self-consuming" (Liebman 10), and "his function as an activator of the plot is of less importance than his idolatry of Dorian which undermines his artistic beliefs" (Eriksen 105). Sybil Vane occupies a moral ground "in terms of her aesthetic and moral idealism" (Liebman 9), but is "totally lacking in psychological reality" (Eriksen 108). Sibyl "serves mainly to represent an idea" (Eriksen 108), she is regarded to Dorian "merely as a person in a play" (Wilde 53). Sybil "exists only as an artist who takes what is 'coarse and brutal'...and spiritualizes it in the form of art" (Eriksen 108). Sybil's "trust" makes Dorian "faithful" "and her 'belief' makes him 'good'" (Wilde 104-105). Wilde "emphasizes her lower-class status but stresses the ideal nature of her beauty (Erikesen 108-109), "Sibyl Vane moved like a creature from a finer world" (Wilde 72). Sibyl is a "degraded victim of Dorian's influence" (Liebman 9), her eyes are "lit with an exquisite fire, and, although she is transfigured with joy," she is "dominated" by her "ecstasy", and her "passion burns [her] like fire" (Wilde 113-115). Dorian Gray is a vain character whose portrait is painted by Basil. Dorian remains beautiful throughout the novel while his portrait reflects the sins he continues to commit. His character is reflected by the weight of his portrait- his "...initial innocence is paralleled by the lightness of his picture. As he begins to deteriorate, the picture acquires more weight" (Nassaar 1). Dorian is easily influenced by Lord Henry's idea of "...pursuing his own self interest...[and] seeking pleasure and avoiding pain" (Liebman 5). As Dorian continues to live for Henry's "New Hedonism" (Wilde 46), his instinctive sinful actions lead him to become guilt stricken and eventually kill Basil. This is understood when Dorian states that, "'I am afraid [the portrait] is rather heavy'" (Wilde 94). When Dorian stabs his portrait and a crash is heard, it is "...logical to argue that the crash was not only the fall of Dorian's body but also the transference of all his sins onto him from the portrait" (Nassaar 3). Lord Henry is a static character who believes that "...there is no moral order...and that morality is arbitrary and relative" (Liebman 3). His beliefs lead him to be a pompous intellect, as seen when he tells Basil and Dorian that "I have known everything" (Wilde 107). Henry is manipulative and "...is quite willing- and even eager- to manipulate Dorian callously and deliberately..." (Liebman 5). Henry plays a large role in Dorian's development and fall as a character. He believes that "the aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly- that is what each of us is here for" (Wilde 41). Lord Henry who has essentially created Dorian "denies any flaws in his creation in spite of the world's possible judgments" (Eriksen 107). His philosophies are grim and extremely focused on one's own achievements and experiences rather than being aware of right and wrong. The curriculum placement would be under the category of Characterization. The dynamic and round qualities of Dorian Gray as the protagonist along with the static characters of Lord Henry the flat character of Basil provide an array of different character types to be analyzed. What each character represents and believes is "complex as well as internally logical and consistent; ...the story in which these characters act on their values is a test of their viability and applicability to real life..." (Liebman 2). The way these characters behave and how vastly different each of them are allows The Picture of Dorian Gray to fit perfectly into the curriculum of Characterization. The novel "culminates in a suicide rather than a marriage. The narrator is an observer, not a moralist" (Liebman 16). Dorian- dynamic character and protagonist of the novel, true self is represented by a portrait, "driven to self-inflicted death by his misinterpreting,,,the doctrines...preached by Lord Henry, Wilde's Ego...and Basil" (Eriksen 104), embodies "all the elements of humanity...represents humanity's last, best hope" (Liebman 15), "best understood...as the central character, whose situation is clarified by the opposition between Basil and Henry, his guides and confidants" (Liebman 14).

Basil- flat character, represents the moral norm, stands for conventional morality,
has "no private existence beyond his studio...[his] moral sensibilities stand in sharp contrast to Lord Henry's" (Eriksen 105), Basil is "wrong in his assumptions about human nature" (Liebman 10), Basil is an idealist who wishes "to inspire people with an art that portrays the union of feeling and form" (Liebman 8)

Lord Henry- static character, "sophisticated dandy...he is the real protagonist of the action...he never acts and he never changes" (Eriksen 106), Lord Henry is a philosophical character who is "dilettante, intellectual lightweight, and effete hedonist" (Liebman 3). "although he is not the creator of objects of art, he has succeeded in creating the new artistic personality in Dorian Gray" (Eriksen 106). Works Cited Eriksen, Donald H. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Oscar Wilde.
Boston: Twayne, 1977. 96-117. Print.
Fox, Paul. "Innocence and Experience in The Picture of Dorian
Gray." Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. Infobase Learning, 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2013.
Liebman, Sheldon W. “Character Design In The Picture Of
Dorian Gray.” Studies In The Novel 31.3 (1999): 296. Literary Reference Center. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.
McClinton-Temple, Jennifer. Encyclopedia of Themes in djjjjjjjjjjjjjjn jhj Literature. New York: Facts On File, 2011. Print.
Mustafa, Jamil M. "Literary Contexts In Novels: Oscar
Wilde's "The Picture Of Dorian Gray." Literary Contexts In Novels: Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture Of Dorian Gray' (2006): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 1 Feb. 2013.
Nassaar, Christopher S. “Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
Explicator 57.4 (1999): 216. Literary Reference Center. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.
Stableford, Brian. "The Picture Of Dorian Gray." Cyclopedia Of
Literary Places (2003): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Barnes
and Noble, 2003. Print. Themes Corruption takes the harshest toll on the naive and innocent. Guilt bears upon people
and drives rash actions. Vanity and obsession with
superficial appearance
destroys inner beauty -Lord Henry exerts control over Dorian because he is innocent and is therefore more easily corrupted
-Lord Henry makes Dorian focus instead on self-fulfillment and selfish acts - Dorian succumbs because of his innocence and naivety; he wants desperately to fit in to the glamorous society that he believes Lord Henry to be a part of -As Dorian becomes more corrupt and sins more frequently, the guilt becomes too much for him and eventually drives him to attempt to destroy the painting, really only destroying himself -The painting is an ongoing symbol of this theme because as Dorian becomes self-obsessed and sinful, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque to reflect it
-The painting is means by which Wilde reveals this criticism of the way people think and view themselves “"The Picture of Dorian Gray’s” Setting is essentially contemporaneous with its date of publication, it functions in part as a commentary [on…] relations between upper and lower classes” (Mustafa). The novel focuses on relations within the upper class, which is seen through the interactions of Basil, Henry and Dorian. Dorian does however also come into contact with the lower class during his brief romance with Sibyl. The significance of that relationship demonstrates how the, “upper and lower ends of the socioeconomic hierarchy [lack…] conventional morality, [and] find common ground in their pursuit of illicit pleasures” (Mustafa). The classes’ lack of morality is what allows Dorian and Sibyl to enter into their relationship, however, Dorian’s admiration of Sibyl also demonstrates his view of her as an object rather than a person showing the power the upper class commands. Dorian in fact simply dismisses Sibyl after her acting abilities vanish telling her that, “now you don’t even stir my curiosity […] you are shallow and stupid […] you are nothing to me now, I will never see you again. I will never think of you. I will never mention your name […] what are you now? A third-rate actress” (Wilde 91). This exemplifies the views and morality of the upper class during the late nineteenth century in London, especially towards the lower class. The time period of the novel is also used to portray, “society’s condemnation of homosexuality, [which] “The picture of Dorian Gray” depicts [through] the double lives led by gay men in Late Victorian London” (Mustafa). Wilde demonstrates this throughout the novel by Basil’s reluctance to admit his admiration toward Dorian, as well as Henry’s marriage, though Henry clearly prefers the company of Dorian and Basil, suggesting his homosexual tendencies. The fear of expressing their true nature to society is seen strongly through Basil’s fear of exhibiting his portrait of Dorian claiming that, “it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas reveals himself […] I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my soul” (Wilde 7). The men in the novel are fully aware that in order to be able to integrate themselves into society they need to hide their true identities. The setting is used to portray the lack of tolerance during the late nineteenth century in London, which was also experienced by Wilde himself, “as the novel appeared in 1891, the same year in which Wilde began the relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas” (Mustafa). Wilde therefore used the novel to subtly express his frustrations at society’s lack of tolerance towards his desired lifestyle. School Room Euston Road Setting "Symbolizing Dorian’s lost innocence, the schoolroom is furnished with a satinwood bookcase, a Flemish tapestry featuring two monarchs playing chess while falconers hover nearby, and a cassone, a large Italian trunk with a hinged lid, which features painted panels and gilt moldings. Dorian used to use this cassone as a hiding place when he was a child. The remainder of the house undergoes a remarkable transformation as Dorian buries the conventional furnishings handed down by his grandfather in a decorative riot of silks, satins, velvets, and other ultrasoft materials. The obsessively conservative Victorians condemned any tendency to luxury as a sign of moral decadence, prompting radical aesthetes like Oscar Wilde to go to an opposite extreme" (Stableford). "It is not surprising that the working-class Vanes are struggling to pay the rent on their apartment in Euston Road, even though Sibyl is appearing at the Royal Theatre in Holborn. The address signifies that the family is desperately ambitious to move up in the world, which is a significant factor in the frustration that leads Sibyl to suicide" (Stableford). Revelation Tone Selection Consistency Ordering Distance Narrative Structure Due to the third person omniscient narration and its ability to convey the thoughts and feeling of the characters, the reader feels generally close and attached to both the characters and the story. Contrary to this closeness is the distance between the characters themselves. The characters are very secretive and distant from one another because they all possess slightly immoral motivations. Dorian is exemplary of this fact in that no one knows of his aging picture or the atrocious crimes he commits except the audience and the few characters who are involved in the crimes. The ordering of the tone of the novel majorly effects the reader's perceptions of the story. The beginning of the novel has a playful tone and is centered around philosophical questions but as the novel progresses and Dorian first notices his picture again, the tone grows more grim and somber. The details that the narrator gives the reader at the beginning are more shallow and spread among the characters but as the novel continues we become closer to Dorian and receive a comprehensive look into his psyche, consequently allowing us to better judge his actions. Though having minor changes, most of the characters like Sybil, Basil, and Lord Henry are classified as static characters. Quite clearly however, Dorian can be classified as a dynamic character. In the beginning of the novel, Dorian is depicted as a sweet young man, one who even often helps Lord Henry's aunt. The large change occurs just as Dorian sells his soul. After this deal, Henry becomes extremely self-centered. Unfortunately, his digression as a character doesn't end at his ego; this digression eventually leads to Dorian murdering Basil. Through the majority of the novel, the tone of both the narrator and author align. This fact helps us make the informed decision that the narrator is mostly unbiased. However, Wilde sometimes skips years between his chapters, making the reader infer what has happened in the time that has passed. Generally, "Wilde does not explicitly describe many of these experiences; like the society rumors that begin to swirl around Dorian and his behavior, Wilde most often only suggests what his protagonist is experiencing" (Fox. The Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature). By leaving out these gaps of time, Wilde does not allow the author or the narrator's tone to dictate our opinions of Dorian, rather he allows us to form our own. The revelation of this novel happens in the last few pages of the book. After Dorian ruthlessly murders Basil, he tries to reform his evil and perverse ways in a sick attempt to save his already doomed soul. When Dorian discovers the painting reflecting his hypocrisy, he finally realizes that he has already sold his soul and he has no chance of redemption. In blind anger, Dorian then takes the knife he used to kill Basil and tries to destroy the painting. Later, he is found stabbed on the floor and the painting unharmed, revealing Wilde's overall theme. Wilde includes sections with a plethora of detail and sections where there is a very obvious lack of detail; both choices affect the novel and the reader's perception of the characters in different ways. Wilde sometimes chooses to include large amounts of detail about a specific character's thoughts. This detail allows the audience to judge the characters on their motivations rather than their actions. As we previously discussed, Wilde also skips larger chunks of time between characters. This lack of detail also helps illustrate that he wants the audience to form their own opinions about the characters. In the second chapter, we get a description of Dorian as being a "candor of youth . . . all youth's passionate purity . . . unspotted from the world" (Wilde 197), but Lord Henry treats him like a canvas and destroys that innocence with corruption, making him like himself and saying that it was "terribly enthralling [to] exercise influence" (Wilde 34) over Dorian simply because he could. "Dorian [is] the perfect receptor to all the influence as well as profoundly vulnerable [because] his personality is not strong enough to counter the influence Henry will bring to bear on him" (Bloom 149). In essence, Dorian is too innocent to fight back against Lord Henry's corruption, so it is even easier for him to fall prey to his deception. "Through his journey, the physical form Dorian projects onto the world is the one Basil had been overwhelmed by - a facade of purity, youth, and innocence - while the actual state of his soul and its incessant degeneration is reflected on the painting itself" (Bloom 151). Dorian gets his wish to remain youthful in appearance, while his painting reflects his cruel and monstrous personality. As he becomes more sinful and self-obsessed, his painting grows more and more hideous to reflect his changing personality. "Dorian Gray, having led a life of mere sensation and pleasure, tries to kill [his] conscience, and at that moment kills himself" (Sanyal 99). He now pays the price for his sins because the burden of guilt becomes too much for him to bear. The painting serves as a reflection of his true self throughout the novel despite his appearance in the real world. In the end, he sees the reflection of a hypocrite in the painting and tries to destroy the image while in the meantime destroying himself. As discussed earlier, he began innocent, but became a monster, contorted by influence. In the end, however, realization hits when Dorian examines the portrait after lying to Lord Henry about reforming his life. The image was of cunning and hypocrisy; that drove Dorian to pick up the knife and stab the portrait. The coachmen and one of the footmen later find the portrait "in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in an evening dress, with a knife in his heart . . . withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. (Wilde 165). With a murder added to his growing list of sins, Dorian wants nothing more than to be able to shrug off his guilt: he perceives Basil’s corpse as a “thing” sitting in a chair and tries to lose himself in poems. In this chapter, we see evidence of Dorian’s guilt as he sits waiting for the arrival of Alan Campbell to clean up the smell of the body; Dorian draws and soon remarks that “every face that he drew seemed to have a fantastic likeness to Basil Hallward.” (Wilde 119). This shows that despite his facade, he truly is stricken with guilt of his sins because he cannot shake the image of Basil from his mind. This scene parallels the scene in Chapter Nine in which Dorian asks the artist to draw a picture of Sibyl Vane (who he rejects based solely on the fact that she loses the ability to dance) so that he may better remember her: in both instances, the hedonistic Dorian betrays his conscience, further adding fuel to the fire that causes his demise at the end of the novel. Joe, It'd be WILDE if you went to turnabout with me! In Conclusion...
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