The Picture of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism
The Picture of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism The Photo of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is the story of ethical corruption by the methods of aestheticism. In the novel, the well meaning artist Basil Hallward presets young Dorian Gray with a portrait of himself. After conversing with negative Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian makes a desire which terribly affects his life permanently. “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to age! For that I would give whatever! Yes, there is absolutely nothing in the entire world I would not provide! I would give my soul for that” (Wilde 109).
As it turns out, the devil that Dorian offers his soul to is Lord Henry Wotton, who exists not just as something external to Dorian, but likewise as a voice within him (Flower 107). Dorian continues to lead a life of sensuality which he finds out about in a book provided to him by Lord Henry. Dorian’s dishonest commitment to enjoyment becomes his lifestyle. The unique underscores its disapproval of aestheticism which adversely affects the primary characters. Each of the three primary characters is an aesthete and meets some type of terrible personal doom. Basil Hallward’s aestheticism is manifested in his devotion to his creative productions.
He browses in the outside world for the perfect manifestation of his own soul, when he discovers this item, he can develop masterpieces by painting it (Bloom 109). He declines to display the portrait of Dorian Gray with the explanation that, “I have put excessive of myself into it” (Wilde 106). He further demonstrates the degree to which he holds this philosophy by later specifying that, “only the artist is really reveled” (109 ). Lord Henry Wotton criticizes Basil Hallward that, “An artist should create beautiful things but should put absolutely nothing of his own life into them” (Wilde 25).
Ironically, the function of Basil Hallward’s presence is that he is an aesthete aiming to become one with his art (Eriksen 105). It is this really masterpiece which Basil refuses to show that offers Dorian Gray with the idea that there are no consequences to his actions. Dorian has this belief in mind when he murders Basil. Here we see that the artist is eliminated for his extreme love of physical appeal; the exact same art that he wished to merge with is the cause of his mortal downfall (Juan 64). Lord Henry Wotton, the most prominent male in Dorian’s life, is an aesthete of the mind.
Basil is an artist who uses a brush while Wotton is an artist who utilizes words: There is no good, no evil, no morality and immorality; there are modes of being. To live is to experiment aesthetically in living to experiment all sensations, to understand all feelings, and to think all thoughts, in order that the self’s every capacity may be imaginatively understood (West 5811). Lord Henry believes that, “it is much better to be stunning than to be great” (Wilde 215). Although he testifies that aestheticism is a mode of thought, he does not act upon his beliefs.
Basil Hallward implicates him stating, “You never ever state a moral thing and you never do a wrong thing” (5 ). Nevertheless, Lord Henry does take the immoral action of affecting Dorian. Although Lord Henry mentions that, “all impact is immoral” (Wilde 18), he however considerably changes Dorian Gray. As Dorian acts on the beliefs of Lord Henry, the portrait’s appeal becomes damaged. “Lord Henry provides Dorian with the renters of his New Hedonism, whose basis is self-development causing the best awareness of one’s nature” (Eriksen 97).
If Lord Henry’s visual ideas have credibility, Dorian Gray’s picture need to not end up being awful, but rather more gorgeous. Given that the picture becomes pesky, it is evident that Lord Henry’s beliefs are false (West 5811). Dorian becomes so disgusted with the dreadful portrait that he slashes the canvas, and the knife pierces his own heart. Because Lord Henry is responsible for affecting Dorian Gray, he is partly the cause of the death of Dorian (5810 ). While Lord Henry is indirectly the cause of Dorian’s death, he too triggers his own failure.
Lord Henry changes Dorian with the belief that morals have no legitimate location in life. He provides Dorian a book about a guy who seeks beauty in wicked sensations. Both Lord Henry’s actions and thoughts prove crippling, as his better half leaves him and the staying focus of his life, vibrant Dorian Gray, eliminates himself in an effort to further the way of life recommended to him by Lord Henry. Ultimately, he is left destitute, without Dorian, the art he so values, because he tried to mold it, as determined by aestheticism. Of all the protagonists, Dorian’s failure is the most clearly recognized.
A boy who was pure at the start of the unique ends up being depraved by the influence of Lord Henry. “He grew more and more enamored of his own charm, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul” (Blossom 121). He starts to lead a life of immorality, including the murder of his dear pal Basil Hallward. “There were minutes when he searched evil merely as a mode through which he could understand his conception of beautiful” (Wilde 196). However, there is still a spark of excellent left in Dorian. He lashes out at his twisted mentor, Lord Henry, declaring, “I can’t bear this Henry!
You mock at everything, and then recommend the most severe tragedies” (173 ). This trace of goodness is not enough to conserve Dorian, for he has crossed too far towards the perverted side of aestheticism and can not leave it. “Dorian try outs himself and with males and females, and sees the experiment taped year by year in the fouling and aging corruption of his picture’s appeal” (West 5811). Dorian ends up being so disgusted with this picture of his soul and his conscience, that he slashes the canvas, eliminating himself. For Dorian, this is the supreme wicked act, the desire to rid himself of all moral sense.
Having actually stopped working the effort to escape through great actions, he chooses to escape by devoting the most terrible of criminal activities. Aestheticism has declared its final victim. “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks about me: Dorian Gray what I would like to be– in other ages, perhaps” (Hart- Davis 352). Since of the endings he produces for these characters, Oscar Wilde shows that he does not envisions himself in the immoral characters of this story nor is he trying to promote their way of lives. Of all the characters whom he produces, he sees himself as Basil, the excellent artist who sacrifices himself to combat immorality. It was his charm that had actually destroyed him, his beauty and the youth that he had actually prayed for” (Wilde 242). Contrary to Wilde’s claim in the beginning that, “there is no such thing as a moral or unethical book” (vii), this book has a deep and meaningful purpose. “The ethical is that an absence of spirituality, of faith, of regard for human life, separates individuals like Wilde’s Dorian Gray from humankind and makes beasts of them” (West 5831). W. H. Auden feels that the story is particularly structured to offer a moral. He compares the story to that of a fairy tale, total with a princess, a wicked witch, and a fairy godmother.
This leaves “room for a moral with which great every fairy tale ends.” Not only is the novel seen as existing on the pure level of fairy tales, but it is declared to include “ethical beauty” (Auden 146). The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel including an ethical discussion between conscience and temptation that is powerfully conveyed. Though it is made to appear an advocate for aestheticism on the surface area, the story eventually undermines that whole philosophy. Wilde brings the question of “to what degree are we formed by our actions” (26 ). He likewise shows that “art can not be an alternative to life” (Eriksen 104).
It is a great tale of hedonism with a moral to be found out and kept in mind. Works Cited Auden, W. H. “In Defense of the Tall Story.” The New Yorker. 29 November 1969. pp. 205-206, 208-210. Bloom, Harold. Oscar Wilde. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. Ellman, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New york: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1987. Eriksen, Donald. Oscar Wilde. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977. Hart-Davis, Rupert. The Letters of Oscar Wilde. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1962. Juan, Efifanio. The Art of Oscar Wilde. New Jersey: Princetown University Press, 1967. Wilde, Oscar. The Image of Dorian Gray. New York: Random House, Inc., 1992.