Oscar Wilde’s Image of Dorian Gray received instant criticism when it was released in 1890, being referred to as infected, unclean, and sick. The criticism came from the difficulties that were made by Oscar Wilde regarding Victorian morality. The novel was composed in the aesthetic era, an age where authors tried to reverse the function of art, to have no function besides being lovely.
Critics of the book did not like this concept, fearing that it would corrupt readers, particularly their ethical values.
English theorist Alfred Whitehead offered this view on morality, “What is morality in any offered time or place? It is what the majority then and there take place to like and immorality is what they do not like.” Oscar Wilde added a beginning to the novel a year later on, in which he stated, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book, books are well composed or badly written. That is all.” Including onto Whitehead’s view, other morals exist outside of the majority, and people will develop their own morals based upon how they translate a circumstance. When Wilde reacts by saying that unethical and ethical books do not exist, I concur.
The perspective that I developed in tying the 2 quotes together is that yes, a book is not written as moral or immoral, but it is viewed ethical or immoral, depending on the reader’s own beliefs. I will argue that The Photo of Dorian Gray suggests that art can have unethical effects, however the artist ought to not bear total obligation. The prime purpose of art in the Victorian Period to many viewers was to provide concrete moral values. The principle of Hedonism in the Photo of Dorian Gray appears throughout, and was the root for it’s criticism.
Lord Henry is accountable for placing these pleasure-seeking concepts in Dorian’s mind, as Dorian ended up being consumed with Lord Henry. In Wilde’s period, as pointed out previously, the artists were challenging accepted social standards. It is evident that Lord Henry is also challenging accepted morals when he says, “Modern morality consists in accepting the requirement of one’s age. I think about that for any man of culture to accept the requirement of his age is a kind of the grossest immorality.” Challenging social norms is one characteristic that Wilde and Lord Henry share.
For that reason, because this is a big part of the novel, I argue that Wilde composed the novel as if he was Lord Henry. This is essential since some view Lord Henry as the primary reason for Dorian’s downfall. To counter this, I want to explain that Dorian is the one who let Lord Henry influence him. Even more, when Lord Henry gives Dorian the mysterious yellow book, it is Dorian’s option to base his life around this guide on how to live a pleasure-seeking life. The main argument I am making here is that Lord Henry can not be completely blamed for Dorian’s failure.
As it associated to Wilde, he does write immoral concepts for his time. For instance, hedonism and homosexuality. The point is yes Wilde discussed these subjects, however he should not be called to account and thought about immoral as an artist because his period rejected these views. A big part of the book that needs to be taken a look at if Wilde wrote the book through Lord Henry’s eyes is the fact that Dorian ended up dead at the end of the book and Lord Henry didn’t face effect. This is Wilde suggesting that Lord Henry’s phrases, books, and thrill looking for way of life are all irrelevant to Dorian’s morality.
Relating this to reality, Wilde is suggesting that a piece of art is not based upon the moral worth of the artist, however rather the way an audience lets the work impact him or her. The sluggish degrading of Dorian’s painting is a reflection of the sins he has actually committed. For instance, when he humiliates Sibyl and it leads to her suicide. Another example is Dorian’s killing of Basil. Lastly, when Dorian attempts to change his lifestyle and not screw over another lady, the painting intensifies. The painting mirrors a picture of sins that Dorian can not erase or escape guilt.
Dorian stabbing the painting reveals that he passed away from his own sin, not by any impact. The art is then returned to its initial beauty. This reveals that Wilde is recommending that art needs to be kept separate from morals in society. Even more, this is validated by art being seen in this new motion as strictly gorgeous; it bears no obligation for a moral purpose. An artist’s duty to morals is once again minimized. Another point I would like to bring up is that if The Image of Dorian Gray came out in a different period, it would not have actually been so greatly criticized.
This is since individuals would have had different morals and immorals, as shown in Whitehead’s previous quote. If you agree with this, you need to agree with the argument that an artist is not fully accountable for any ethical or immoral judgment of his or her art. The last perspective I want to point out is for those who interpreted Wilde as writing the story through the eyes of Basil. Eventuallies, I can concur with this, and it strengthens the argument that Wilde feared criticism by a good bulk of people at his time. This appears when Basil is afraid to show off his painting, in fear of what others will interpret it as.
This resembles Wilde’s work of Dorian Gray, because Wilde composed a story that challenged some ethical beliefs, and was reluctant regarding what people may think. When Basil lastly does reveal his painting it is deemed gorgeous, but gradually deteriorates. I argue that this is how Wilde felt about his work, that it was the perfect book, however it to was reduced by heavy criticism of another person. The point here is that Wilde did not intend everything in the story to be an ethical message, he used his characters actions as puzzles pieces for each reader to put together their own beliefs.
Therefore, his critics should not hold him ethically responsible. The belief of hedonism is demonstrated throughout the book, as pointed out previously; in the manner in which Dorian lives his life. This is an example of Wilde showing his brand-new motion’s concepts, to live for charm. In the article The Dispute In between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde’s The Photo of Dorian Gray, author Patrick Duggan makes the observation that hedonism is what Wilde was attempting to introduce through Dorian, however at the end of the unique Wilde puts restraint on this lifestyle.
When Dorian can not reverse his sins, Wilde is suggesting that people still need to think about the repercussions of their actions. Further, yes Wilde shows a thrill seeking way of life in the Image of Dorian Gray, but he likewise suggests that the creative movement he is associated with will only survive with SOME restriction. This view adheres to my argument that art can have an immoral result on people. Which is why an artist should have SOME factor to consider, but the artist will not bear total duty because each audience is going to take a look at art work differently.