The Picture Of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aes Essay

This essay has a total of 1417 words and 7 pages.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is the story of moral
corruption by the means of aestheticism. In the novel, the well meaning artist
Basil Hallward presets young Dorian Gray with a portrait of himself. After
conversing with cynical Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian makes a wish which dreadfully
affects his life forever. "If it were I who was to be always young, and the
picture that was to grow old! For that I would give everything! Yes, there is
nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that"
(Wilde 109). As it turns out, the devil that Dorian sells his soul to is Lord
Henry Wotton, who exists not only as something external to Dorian, but also as
a voice within him (Bloom 107). Dorian continues to lead a life of sensuality
which he learns about in a book given to him by Lord Henry. Dorian's unethical
devotion to pleasure becomes his way of life.
The novel underscores its disapproval of aestheticism which negatively
impacts the main characters. Each of the three primary characters is an
aesthete and meets some form of terrible personal doom. Basil Hallward's
aestheticism is manifested in his dedication to his artistic creations. He
searches in the outside world for the perfect manifestation of his own soul,
when he finds this object, he can create masterpieces by painting it (Bloom
109). He refuses to display the portrait of Dorian Gray with the explanation
that, "I have put too much of myself into it" (Wilde 106). He further
demonstrates the extent to which he holds this philosophy by later stating that,
"only the artist is truly reveled" (109).
Lord Henry Wotton criticizes Basil Hallward that, "An artist should
create beautiful things but should put nothing of his own life into them"
(Wilde 25). Ironically, the purpose of Basil Hallward's existence is that he
is an aesthete striving to become one with his art (Eriksen 105). It is this
very work of art which Basil refuses to display that provides 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 killed
for his excessive love of physical beauty; the same art that he wished to merge
with is the cause of his mortal downfall (Juan 64).
Lord Henry Wotton, the most influential man in Dorian's life, is an
aesthete of the mind. Basil is an artist who uses a brush while Wotton is an
artist who uses 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 know all emotions, and
to think all thoughts, in order that the self's every capacity
may be imaginatively realized (West 5811).

Lord Henry believes that, "it is better to be beautiful than to be
good" (Wilde 215). Although he attests that aestheticism is a mode of thought,
he does not act on his beliefs. Basil Hallward accuses him saying, "You never
say a moral thing and you never do a wrong thing" (5). However, Lord Henry does
take the immoral action of influencing Dorian.
Although Lord Henry states that, "all influence is immoral" (Wilde 18),
he nonetheless drastically changes Dorian Gray. As Dorian acts on the beliefs
of Lord Henry, the portrait's beauty becomes corrupted. "Lord Henry presents
Dorian with the tenants of his New Hedonism, whose basis is self-development
leading to the perfect realization of one's nature" (Eriksen 97). If Lord
Henry's aesthetic ideas have validity ,Dorian Gray's portrait should not
become ugly, but rather more beautiful. Since the picture becomes loathsome,
it is evident that Lord Henry's beliefs are untrue (West 5811). Dorian becomes
so disgusted with the horrible portrait that he slashes the canvas, and the
knife pierces his own heart. Because Lord Henry is responsible for influencing
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
causes his own downfall. Lord Henry changes Dorian with the belief that morals
have no legitimate place in life. He gives Dorian a book about a man who seeks
beauty in evil sensations. Both Lord Henry's actions and thoughts prove
ruinous, as his wife leaves him and the remaining focus of his life, youthful
Continues for 4 more pages >>

  • Film Noir
    Film Noir Forty years after Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton defined the challenge, critical commentators on film noir continue to grapple with it. Ironically, American writers did not immediately take up consideration of this indigenous phenomenon and the question of its "essential traits." Only gradually in a frequently cross-referenced series of essays in the 1970s did they begin to express themselves. There are now a dozen full-length books in English concerning film noir and undoubtedly
  • Dominican music and film
    Dominican music and film The Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic is little known by most Americans, but America is ever present in the Dominican consciousness. Until Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire went head to head in the legendary homerun battle of 1998, few Americans were aware of any American-Dominican rivalry in western hemispheric culture. Nothing gave Dominicans more pride than to see Sosa hold Major League Baseballs homerun record, albeit for less than 24 hours before McGuire
  • Americanization
    Americanization "Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once compared liking next to the United States to sleeping with an elephant. He said, ‘You cannot help but be aware of its every movement.\'" The issue of American culture and its globalization has raised a lot of controversy. "The era of globalization" is becoming the preferred term to describe the current times. The term Americanization has been around for years. It wa
  • Americanization
    Americanization "If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose- because it contains all the others- the fact that they were the people who created the phrase to make money. No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity- to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created." Ayn Rand People have always been inte