The theme of morality and attractiveness as depicted in The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Photo of Dorian Gray demonstrates a divide in between aestheticism and morality that Oscars Wilde portrays by giving each character a very specific persona that either obstacles or enjoys the unethical vices of life. This is all while Dorian stays paralyzed in between 2 really various ideologies. The Freudian principle that within all of us is a split in between the ID, The Super Ego and the Ego; an inner fight in between 3 unique mindsets, becomes significantly obvious as the novel advances and highlights this war within the mind. Dorian is not able to discover a balance in between these 3 subconsciouses; he feels as though he requires to conform and become a hedonistic aesthete like Lord Henry, or lead a life that accompanies the ethical idealism Basil represents. If provided the chance to analyze The Image Of Dorian Gray, Sigmund Freud would probably translate it as an illustration of how his system of understanding human behavior plays out in literature. Charles Darwin would more than likely state that Dorian fails to keep this important yin yang balance in between aestheticism and morality and undoubtedly gives into his primitive animalistic impulses. These biologically configured prompts that Dorian acts upon in result can best be explained in the point of view of Darwin, English biologist and geologist, best known for his ground breaking operate in evolutionary theory (Desmond). It’s conceivable to assume that art critic, Walter Pater, had a profound impact on Wilde during their academic years that might have rather possibly influenced his quote in De Profundis, where he declares that Pater’s work was “that book which has actually had such an odd influence over my life.” (Michael, 1) (Schroeder, 1) By evaluating the ideologies of these dazzling intellectuals to not just emphasize, however to demonstrate the commonalities in between Darwin’s evolutionary theory, Freud’s point of view on subconscious human behavior, and Pater’s idiosyncrasy of seeing art subjectively– all which play an important role in comprehending Oscar Wilde’s Photo of Dorian Gray.

Charle’s Darwin set off on an undertaking which lead to a discovery that altered the method we understood the origin of humankind. For when in history there was a sensible description for our existence on earth and it’s unrivaled diversity that in the past could only be described by ways of religion or the environment. This notion and theory that the origin of types might be discussed by science was considered immoral and non-contemporary. If Darwin had not started detailed examinations in 1838 which lead to the publication of The Origin of Species, we wouldn’t have the ability to totally comprehend the inner operations of Dorian Gray’s mind; Darwin’s theories demonstrate how from a preprogrammed biological instinctual level, the hedonistic sinister tendencies he displays are innate and inevitable. (Darwin Manuscripts, 1) The character Dorian Gray is an example how these propensities can consume a private rendering them defenseless and unable to fight primal urges.

Prior to the creation of Charle’s Darwin’s Origin Of Species, even the world’s brightest researchers associated variations in types to strictly ecological elements; such as how easily offered their food supply was, or the climate in which the types in question was raised. Darwin rejects this idea dismantling this narrow minded viewpoint allegedly backed by science and demonstrates that there’s far more to this concept of advancement, namely these instincts that are preprogrammed within us all to look for a mate with the most beneficial traits in order to have finest chance at having offspring that does well in life. In a procedure Darwin coins mindful selection, a breeder picks the animal with the most preferable characteristics like eccentric physical beauty and qualities that would help in the overall perpetual survival of that species. All types, even humans, go through this subconscious process called unconscious selection. To put it simply, we will instinctually act hedonistically, desire materialistic pleasantries, and embody vanity as our main focus when it boils down who we choose to procreate with; in Dorian’s defense, it remains in our nature to act on this principle of aestheticism and place decadence at the utmost worth. (Darwin, 1-13) Darwin demonstrates that even without the impact of breeders, it’s shown that animals will instinctually combat to find the mate with the most enticing outward appearance and qualities important to the survival of it’s types. (Darwin, 4-13)

After taking Darwin’s viewpoint into consideration, a various perspective of the inner operations behind the mind of Dorian Grey is consequently formed. The reality that he picks to live immorally and place charm in such reverence might be considered a direct result of these inner biological advises he’s not able to control. As a society in the 21st century, we see examples of this hedonistic shallow habits all over we look as it’s ended up being inner woven within humanities’ social, and biological material. For instance take the modeling market into factor to consider; society tends to value external appearance as one of the most important aspects of life. Woman’s grow up seeing tabloids with scantly dressed ultimate centerfold models with bodies and faces that are normally out of reach and unobtainable to the vast bulk of the population. This leads to this desire to be gorgeous since being physically attractive tends to get people what they desire in life and biologically speaking, provides the best opportunity of getting the most desirable mate. From Dorian’s viewpoint, his look is the something he can’t think of living without; this undoubtedly results in his demise in a manner. The thing is, animals always act in this manner, they mindlessly act on these impulses because it remains in their nature; humans on the other hand have the intellectual capability that enables them to consider aspects aside from simply look and qualities that would lead to the most promising offspring. We take many other characteristics into consideration since we’re human, not animals. Dorian’s failure to act in this manner is primarily due to Lord Henry’s impacts and his own mindlessness; this paints him as someone who is acting entirely on his animalistic primal impulses. Darwin might think about people that imitate Lord Henry and Dorian Gray to be more primitive and less progressed than the majority of the human race that has the capability to think subjectively about another human being as an entire, not just their physical appearance. By thoroughly analyzing The Origin Of Types by Darwin, we’re informed by clinical realities that can explain why Dorian acts in the way he does from a biological evolutionary perspective. To degree, his behavior is a result of these innate biological tendencies we share with every other types in the world. (Wilde)

Sigmund Freud, a world renowned neurologist, created a system that enables us to illustrate human tendencies by separating what we develop to be the human consciousness into 3 different drives. Essentially the outcome of this was three character types; particularly the id, the ego and the superego.”The id is the firm of bodily desires, the ego the moderating function, and the super-ego has the care of moral restrictions.” (Rieff, 173) The ego is often considered the executive branch of our characters due to the fact that unlike the ID and the Super Ego, it utilizes thinking to weigh it’s choices and concern an appropriate conclusion of what to do in the particular scenario by picturing the moral ramifications of ‘it’s’ actions, but also what feels great and is best for them. The ID chooses to live hedonistically, it’s based exclusively on the enjoyment principle and prefers to act upon impulse without reason regardless of whom they hurt in the process; if they occur to do the morally appropriate thing it was more than likely by mishap. The superego is another severe and basically the reverse of the ID due to the truth it’s generally derived by typical conservative religious beliefs based upon beliefs we get throughout our training as kids. For example, it weighs the religious implications, what’s ethically right, in addition to what’s socially acceptable. (McLeod, 1)

With Freud’s ideology in mind we begin notice connections between the characters in A Picture of Dorian Gray and these 3 varied discernible character types. Basically the unique illustrates precisely what Freud has been saying the whole time in an easy to understand way because each character represents a specific segment of the subconscious. By understanding this connection we come to terms with a better general understanding of the novel in it’s totality and specifically Dorian himself. Lord Henry is undoubtably Wilde’s effort to develop a literal representation of this ID character type which he demonstrates through this quote “If one man were to live out his life totally and totally, were to give type to every feeling, expression to every thought, truth to every dream– I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of happiness that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and go back to the Hellenic perfect” (Wilde, 19) Lord Henry is continuously working to corrupt Dorian and coax him into living a life of hedonistic decadence that he prefers to lead. He believes that in life it’s always best to do what’s self-beneficial, not always what’s right. Lord Henry modifications and shapes Dorian’s ideology to the point where he no longer believes morality even contributes in life until it’s too late. By promoting this idea of constantly residing in a selfish hedonistic manner that ignores morality, he’s basically overcome by the ID part of his character and exemplifies Freud’s theory. Additionally you have Basil and his infatuation with Dorian Gray, he represents the extremely ego due to the fact that he truly wants Dorian to stay this clean pure uncorrupted entity. To basil, Dorian is essentially a masterpiece actually and metaphorically, he believes that it’s his responsibility to keep Dorian’s innocence that Lord Henry is continuously trying to rid him of. (McLeod, 1)

How Dorian enters into play is by essentially being Freud’s principle of what the ego represents. Dorian is perpetually confronted with ethical problems and he’s required to weigh the advantages and ramifications of living one way or another. Just like how Freud portrays the Ego as this force that lies in between the Super Ego and the ID, Dorian is constantly being pulled in two opposite courses. One instructions being Lord Henry and his hedonistic ideology that relies primarily on this ‘ID-like’ concept. Another is Basil trying to assist him live a morally conscious way of life that accompanies the Super Ego. Much like a devil on his shoulder, ultimately Lord Henry’s influence on Dorian comes to a head when he finds Sibyl totally unwanted after her performance on phase wasn’t as much as his standards. He became enamored with the art she produced and did genuinely love her for her; when he finds out she dedicated suicide, he carries on like organisation is typical is a cold callous way offering into carnal pleasantries and living hedonistically. By understanding this fundamental Freudian theory, we see the unique in a completely different light considering that it tends to highlight all these styles that in the past appeared but weren’t as comprehensible without a concrete understanding on how these subconscious forces enter into play to influence human habits. We can now see that basically Dorian Gray is a literal representation of freud’s Ego idea.

Up until now we have actually come much better to gaining a well-rounded viewpoint of the inner functions of Dorian Gray’s psyche by assessing his primitive impulses with the aid of Charles Darwin’s theories of natural choice in The Origin of Types. We can conclude that most of the time Dorian acted upon his animalistic carnal desires and put a very high worth on outside appearance. In addition, Freud’s theories of these 3 ideas: ID, Super Ego, and Ego tended to run parallel with how Lord Henry, Basil, and Dorian himself truly are on a subconscious level. Next we’ll delve into Walter Pater’s ideology and the run ins he had with Oscar Wilde himself. By comprehending how Pater fundamentally understood art and it’s charm, we come closer to understanding The Image of Dorian Gray as a whole.

The year 1877 might have very well been a kipping down point in Oscar Wilde’s advancement as a writer; while attending Magdalen College, he satisfied Walter Pater. Pater’s work was reported to be demanded by Oscar Wilde himself, they ‘d fulfill for tea, exchange ideas, and provide each others tips each others work. While there’s no basically no objective fact in how we specify appeal, critics of the era would try to comprehend the abstractness of beauty and discuss it in the most generic terms possible without the addition of personal preference or feelings. Appeal and how we analyze it tends to be subjective; to put it simply, how your translate art and the feeling it conjures up is dependent on who you are and where your worths lie. Walter Pater for instance placed aestheticism at reverence however he had this flair and capability that allowed him to not discriminate between what is thought about charm and what isn’t. (The Renaissance: Research Studies in Art and Poetry, 1)

The reason that understanding Pater’s approach is so crucial to understanding The Image of Dorian Gray is that reality that Wilde didn’t in fact intend for it to be viewed as a book that focused entirely on decadence or what happens when this idea is abused. In the preface of the unique Wilde even says, “There’s no such thing as an ethical or immoral book. Books are well written or severely composed. That is all.” This concept Wilde shows runs parallel with the ideology of Pater. As an entire it recommends that it’s merely the reader himself that has the capability to believe subjectively that thinks about the unique to either be entirely unethical or not– it’s open to analysis, which’s genuinely what Wilde intended the whole time. (The Image of Dorian Gray: Art, Ethics and the Artist, 1)

By taking a look at Pater’s viewpoint and comparing it to what we understand about Oscar Wilde; you begin to see this connection that undoubtedly leads to this concept that Pater was an important element in Wilde’s life that influenced the development of The Photo of Dorian Gray during the Aesthetic motion. While it’s stated they would not particularly consider each other pals, this exchange of dialogue in an interview further supports this claim that Pater had an impact on Oscar Wilde:

“Pater disliked Wilde personally while admiring his cleverness’; in turn Wilde said, “Dear Pater was constantly frightened of my propaganda” (Ellmann, 81).

This statement that suggests Pater disliked Oscar Wilde as a person, however admired his cleverness in the type of art, this enables us to draw another connection in between Pater’s philosophy and Dorian Gray in the novel. Particularly where Dorian ends up being obsessed by Sybil’s art type on phase but at the end on the day, his response to her death shows that he never ever truly cared for her as an individual, just her capability to create beauty through this visual aesthetic art form. Considering that it seems that Pater’s ideology not only affected the method Oscar Wilde viewed this distinction between art and morality however also made it’s way into the mind of Dorian Grey, we start to get a lot more clear and concise understanding of The Image of Dorian Grey in it’s entirety. (The Image of Dorian Gray: Art, Ethics and the Artist, 1)

Moreover, it’s sensible to make the assumption that Pater’s ideology made its method into the Lord Henry’s outlook on the world. Pater states that:

“It doesn’t matter what is stated as long as it is stated beautifully”

One once again you can see this connection between stereotypical Pater-like suitables and Lord Henry as a character. Since Lord Henry as a character tends to embody this belief system valuing the charm of whatever around him– specifically nevertheless, it’s the most essential aspect of his life. Much like how Pater demonstrates that he it isn’t crucial what’s on the inside, maybe it’s simply our external look. A paradox emerges here, although Pater’s ideology typically sees beauty as being subjective based upon interpretation, he still seems rather vain and thinks about charm to be the most important element of any type of art without thinking about other aspects; this is inherently why I think that understanding Pater’s ideology helps in the overall understanding of The Picture of Dorian Gray. His influence throughout the novel is irrefutable as seen through not just the way Wilde composed, however how Dorian and Lord Henry developed as characters. (Levey, 1)

By taking a look at the ideologies of scientifically minded biologist Charles Darwin, the world prominent psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, along with the aesthete Walter Pater, we get a completely new viewpoint and understanding of The Image Of Dorian Gray. Suddenly the real intentions of the characters and the persona that they represent ends up being rather clear and succinct; whether it’s the method Charles Darwin’s discovery lead to this idea of natural choice that mentions that we instinctually worth beauty which the novel embodies, Freud’s capability to divide the consciousness into 3 unique parts that tend to accompany the three distinct personalities in the unique, or Pater’s effect on Wilde which perhaps cause the creation of not just Wilde’s ideology, however also the characters in his novel– all of which lead to a much better understanding of the Image Of Dorian Gray and the message Oscar Wilde intended to share with the world.

You Might Also Like