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The Picture of Dorian Gray
Transcript of The Picture of Dorian Gray
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
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...