In his book of 1891, ‘The Image of Dorian Gray‘, Wilde utilizes setting and area to explore not only the character and ethical conscience of his lead character however likewise the divides intrinsic within Victorian society as he contrasts the wealthy homes of Mayfair with the congested hardship of London’s East End. The dissimilarities between places so geographically close reflect the duality of Dorian Gray’s own identity while concurrently raising concerns as to the hypocrisy of noble life towards the close of the 19th century.
London, the setting for most of the unique, is throughout personified as something monstrous. Though the majority of explicit in descriptions of the East End, where “this grey, monstrous London of ours” stretches out “like the black web of some sprawling spider”, it exists too even in scenes apparently without danger, its “dim roar” heard even from Basil Hallward’s studio, a location which seems to symbolise all innocence. Possibly this was planned to show how inevitable the nature of the city is. Victorian society was much concerned with the ever-growing London and the looming risk which a broadening working class presented to the refined way of living enjoyed by the elite upper class and a London which seemed conscious and universal might be a discussion of this worry.
The idea of a sentient area is not unfamiliar to the Gothic tradition where old homes or castles frequently appear to display a personality or a mindfulness to cause damage. However, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ breaks from convention by taking place not in a remote place but in the heart of a huge metropolitan area. This might be Wilde’s action to the altering fears of his audience, a world no longer scared of seclusion however of other individuals. Indeed, more rural and secluded areas– such as Dorian’s own Selby Royal and the surrounding countryside– exist as methods of escape, even of redemption. It exists that James Vane is killed, therefore releasing Dorian from the threat of his revenge. It remains in a small orchard where Dorian decides that he is “going to modify” and subsequently begins his “reformation”. Thus the novel reverses the standard Gothic concepts of danger and security, bringing the fear more detailed to the reality of the readers.
Area is likewise utilized throughout the unique to mirror Dorian’s fall from grace. He is first come across, “unblemished”, in the prelapsarian enclosure of Basil Hallward’s studio and garden. Nevertheless, as his sin boosts, the novel follows him to Whitechapel and the docks, “the sordid embarassment” of the city. This descent into sin echoes the fall of Lucifer, or maybe Belial. Following this analysis, Basil’s garden is a representation of paradise. This is evidenced by the abundance of appeal present. The description is sensory, sticking around especially on the sense of smell with talk of “fragile perfume”, “rich smell” and “heavy scent”. This creates a near-overwhelming sweet taste which is later on mirrored in the “heavy odour of opium” which fills the air of a Whitechapel den. While the fragrance of opium is known to be both sweet and floral, it does not have the connotations of purity associated with actual blooms and instead suggests corruption. This might recommend that Dorian is trying unsuccessfully to replicate the paradisaical nature of his youth which his given that escaped him. The 2 places are, nevertheless, contrasted in their colours. Basil’s garden is depicted in light, intense colors, from “pink-flowering” plants and “honey-coloured” blossoms to the “blue thread” of a dragonfly. Whitechapel, on the other hand, is filled with “grey-flannel mist” broken by “orange, fan-like tongues of flame”. These produce a more hellish aspect, among fire and darkness rather than growth and light. It might be thought about that this is a location of death, where Basil’s garden is a place of life.
Individuals themselves also show the heaven/hell divide of the locations. The essential figure in the opening Eden is, in truth, Dorian himself, the very image of classical appeal with his “passionate pureness”. Contrastingly, the people of the East End are frequently dehumanized in their discussion, referred to as “monstrous marionettes”. This nightmarish vision provides unreality to the East End and its people, their “fantastic shadows” making it seem more an underworld in the mythological sense than in terms of class and law. This advancement from the pure and best setting of the opening of the novel to the dark and hellish end demonstrates for the reader the modification in Dorian’s circumstance, his metaphorical shift from angelic to demonic.
In addition, the settings within the book could be seen to be an expedition of the duality of Victorian society. The divide in between East and West London allows Dorian to live his double life, moving identities as he passes from one to the other. This might be seen to demonstrate the hypocrisy of high society as they criticize the tacky and criminal nature of those who dwell in poorer neighborhoods but make the most of the freedoms those offer to they themselves. Maybe more noticeably, it highlights the divide between the classes, with individuals of the lower classes being seen as steeped in sin and rarely human whilst the upper class exist in a more refined atmosphere. The distance of these two worlds, apart geographically just by a couple of miles, stresses this contrast and suggests a rejection on behalf of the gentry of the world outside their window. Their distance in the text works along similar lines. For instance, Chapter XVI sees Dorian checking out an opium den by the docks while the chapters both prior to and after portray Mayfair homes and drawing rooms. This could be seen to illustrate the duality of society, offering a direct comparison and revealing with what ease Dorian moves from one to the other. Their extremely closeness stresses the fear felt by many Victorian aristocrats that the working class was a risk hanging over them, a growing risk to their lifestyle.
Furthermore, it is just in the East End that individuals see Dorian for what he is: a guy corrupt. Though there are “whispered scandals” and “odd rumours” about him in the West End clubs, these words suggest that they are unsubstantiated, mere speculation. Undoubtedly, few ever appeared able to totally think these stories as there was “something in the pureness of his face that rebuked them”. This purity does not appear to impact individuals of the East End, who openly insult him, stating him “the Devil’s bargain”. Possibly then it could be stated that the people from the lower, darker parts of London see the fact more plainly; they are closer to truth. This is seen again in the way they are generally portrayed outdoors, individuals of the streets rather than of indoor spaces. They are experiencing the world rather than shutting it out. In the West End, nevertheless, the unique generally focuses on the inside your home, on drawing spaces, parlors and ballrooms. A layer of rules and gentility hangs over whatever. It might then be said that individuals of the upper classes are removed from reality whereas the lower classes or not. Similarly, Dorian’s beauty and charm concealing his corruption parallels the charm and beauty of the homes of the aristocracy, perhaps a subtle commentary on the darker secrets hidden by the outer appearances of Victorian Society.
In conclusion, the locations of the novel– most especially, London– can be seen as an illustration of the worries of much of Victorian society at the time. The city appears a living thing, consciously permitting sin and danger to intrude upon the lives of those who might otherwise be kept apart from it, chiefly the upper classes. The East End and all that goes with it by way of corruption and unpleasantness becomes increasingly present to the point of seeming almost inevitable towards the conclusion of the novel. In this method, Wilde uses the worries of his readership at the time in order to bring the Gothic out of the distant past and into the modern-day world.