Books

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (2)

Earlier, I picked few highlights from the novel, that we’ll be discussing. You can check my previous post for that or click here.

We are only left with two, and I’ll be giving a brief description of that too.

Main Ideas (Themes)

The Supremacy of Youth and Beauty— The philosophy of art by which Oscar Wilde lived, is that “art serves no other purpose than to offer beauty.” Throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray, beauty reigns. It is a means to revitalize the wearied senses, as indicated by the effect that Basil’s painting has on the cynical Lord Henry. It is also a means of escaping the brutalities of the world: Dorian distances himself, not to mention his consciousness, from the horrors of his actions by devoting himself to the study of beautiful things, such as; music, jewels, rare tapestries and so on. In a society that prizes beauty so highly, youth and physical attractiveness become valuable commodities. Lord Henry reminds Dorian of as much upon their first meeting, when he laments that Dorian will soon enough lose his most precious attributes, and Dorian just waves him off.

In Chapter Seventeen, the Duchess of Monmouth suggests to Lord Henry that he places too much value on these things; indeed, Dorian’s eventual demise confirms her suspicions. Although beauty and youth remain of utmost importance at the end of the novel—the portrait is, after all, returned to its original form. The novel clearly suggests that the price one must pay for them is exceedingly high. Indeed, Dorian gives nothing less than his soul. (really tragic!)💔

The Superficial Nature of Society— It is no surprise that a society that prizes beauty above all else is a society founded on a love of surfaces. What matters most to Dorian, Lord Henry, and the polite company they keep is not whether a man is good at heart but rather whether he is handsome. As Dorian evolves into the realization of a type, the perfect blend of scholar and socialite, he experiences the freedom to abandon his morals without censure. Indeed, even though, as Basil warns, society’s elite question his name and reputation, Dorian is never ostracized. On the contrary, despite his “mode of life,” he remains at the heart of the London social scene because of the “innocence” and “purity of his face.” As Lady Narborough notes to Dorian, there is little (if any) distinction between ethics and appearance: “you are made to be good—you look so good.”

The Purpose of Art— The purpose of art, according to this series of epigrams, is to have no purpose. In order to understand this claim fully, one needs to consider the moral climate of Wilde’s time and the Victorian sensibility regarding art and morality. The Victorians believed that art could be used as a tool for social education and moral enlightenment, as illustrated in works by writers such as Charles Dickens and George Gissing. The aestheticism movement, of which Wilde was a major proponent, sought to free art from this responsibility.

The aestheticists were motivated as much by a contempt for bourgeois morality—a sensibility embodied in Dorian Gray by Lord Henry, whose every word seems designed to shock the ethical certainties of the burgeoning middle class—as they were by the belief that art need not possess any other purpose than being beautiful. Wilde may have succeeded in freeing his art from the confines of Victorian morality, but he has replaced it with a doctrine that is, in its own way, just as restrictive.

So, that’s all I can give out so far. But right now, we’re moving to another interesting aspect of the novel. Yipee! It’s very easy guys, all you have to do is leave your answer in the comment box below.

The person with the highest point wins and gets a prize from me! So tighten your seatbelts and follow me to the land of aestheticism!

Review Quiz (Further study)

1. What is Basil Hallward’s occupation?

a. Writer

b. Chef

c. Painter

d. Sculptor

2. How does Basil first meet Dorian?

a. In an opium den

b. When Lord Henry introduced them

c. Through a newspaper advertisement

d. At a party hosted by Lady Brandon

3. Why does Basil not wish to exhibit his portrait of Dorian?

a. Dorian Gray has asked him not to

b. He thinks it is a poor work of art

c. He feels he has put too much of himself into it

d. He plans to put it over his own mantelpiece

4. What is the name of Sibyl’s brother?

a. Alan

b. Thomas

c. James

d. Christopher

5. What best describes the philosophy that Lord Henry espouses?

a. Devoutly religious

b. Altruistic

c. Hedonistic

d. Existential

6. To whom does Basil give the painting?

a. Lord Henry

b. Dorian

c. The British Museum

d. Lady Gaga

7. As the years pass, what happens to Dorian’s body?

a. It becomes horribly ugly

b. It slowly disintegrates

c. It grows perpetually younger and stronger

d. It remains youthful and beautiful

There you go! Seven friendly questions for you. Like I stated earlier, to give your answers, leave your comments below or send me an email 📧:josiahemamokeh@gmail.com

Feel free to participate and win a prize! But also ensure that you’re the first to comment! Thanks and don’t forget to follow this blog for similar posts like this.

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