“A truth in art, Oscar Wilde remarked, is one whose contradiction is also true; and much the same could be said of Wilde’s own brilliant, blighted career. Like Samuel Johnson, we remember Wilde as much for what he was as for what he wrote; the English love a ‘character’ rather as they love a lord, and if Wilde was certantly the one, he also made afair stab at passing himself of as the other.”[1,p.xi]
Wilde is a writer and dramatist of controversy in the late 19thcentury for his thoughts in the eyes of philistines seem rebel, radical and even ridiculous. He spares no pain to extol his artistic ideal "art for art's sake" in his works and meanwhile practices it in the real life which gains him the name of "aesthete dandy", trying to build an Utopia of beauty high beyond the reality of which he thinks scorn.Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, with some parallels with his own life, is often regarded as a good material for the research on the author's personality and life. But what is more important is that it is the typical presentation of his whole aesthetics, and thus it was not quite acceptable to the late 19thcentury critics who habitually judged a literary work by the standard of "sincerity". When the first version of the novel was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890, it received a series of attacks from reviewers for its immorality. Now more and more researchers have realized the book's value as a brilliant example of Wilde's power as a storyteller and of his flamboyant wit and aestheticism.
It is undoubtedly true that there are a lot of different people in the world. So much as to a handful per emotion thinkable. Some of these people and emotions can be found in books. They influence, interact, and change the characters possessing them. One such example of this would be the characters in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. In Wilde’s book, the main character, Dorian Gray is influenced and corrupted by his friend Lord Henry Wotton. He wishes for his painting to take all the burdens of age, corruption, and decline and he unwillingly gets his wish. After realizing that it has come true and there is no turning back the wish, Dorian begins to fully take in the words of Lord Henry as he descends into a dark path of unknowingness evil. Thus, this paper will compare, contrast, and evaluate literary criticisms regarding the characters Dorian Gray and Lord Henry Wotton of Oscar Wilde’s novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.
Literary critics all hold different viewpoints when it comes to the character, Dorian Gray. Dorian was a shy schoolboy who was slowly corrupted into a more evil, disastrous person by his friend, Lord Henry Wotton. One critic, Aubrey noted how Dorian lives his life, but his goal of living a life by not living it vanishes as he plunges into the waters of corruption [2,p. DB]. The second critic, Hawthorne agrees with Aubrey on the matter to some extent, but adds a twist to his analysis of Dorian. “Dorian, himself though certainly a quite unsuccessful experiment in epiaurenism in life as a fine art is… a beautiful creation” [3,p.116]. However, another critic, Cohen does agree fully with Aubrey’s view on Dorian leading to a corrupt state. “Dorian forces upon Basil the role of God, who alone can see the soul he has created. And he blames the divine surrogate for his evil nature rather than accepting responsibility for it himself. After he murders Basil, conscience, with its potential for salvation through repentance, becomes overpowering guilt that blocks out deliverance.” [4,p.DB]. Cohen also notes how Oscar Wilde puts Dorian in a position between Heaven and Hell, letting Dorian call the shots and letting him decide his own fate as the plot progresses. These crucial bits of analysis ofDorian can prove why he is able to string the novel together in such an orderly manner while in complete chaos.
When talking about character development and influence in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, it is important to talk of Lord Henry Wotton. One critic, Gillespie, stated how Lord Henry’s sayings have many meanings and is very psychological. “The formal organization of Lord Henry’s statements places his views in a complex psychological and social context and highlights our awareness of the multiple meanings that can be found in his words” [5,p.76]. Another critic, Aubrey, does not really agree with Gillespie with his statement. Aubrey explained “This passage suggests Lord Henry’s ideal, which is to cultivate an intensity of experience whilst paradoxically remaining undisturbed and untroubled by it. This ideal is fully realized through the contemplation of art, which permits the observer the privilege of being at once involved and uninvolved in the experience” [2,p.DB]. He also explained that Lord Henry takes life by living it through someone else, such as Dorian. “He advocates a life of passionate personal experience, to be enjoyed most fully in youth, while the senses are at their sharpest” [2,p.DB].Whatever Lord Henry wants to do, he does it through the character of Dorian Gray.
It is clear that the point and the analysis that Aubrey is trying to get through is more accurate than those of Gillespie. Aubrey’s analysis is of how Lord Henry pulls the strings of Dorian and uses him to do whatever he wants at Lord Henry’s will. This is experiencing an event, but be untroubled and unbothered by it because another person is actually doing it for them. Many examples in the book prove that Lord Henry is the corrupter of Dorian. In the beginning of the novel, when the two were in the studio with Basil, Lord Henry starts talking about moral problems and realizations while Dorian struggles to understand and make sense of them. “’Stop!’ faltered Dorian Gray, ‘stop! You bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you but I cannot find it. Don’t speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to speak.” [6,p.21]. The quote shows the resistance to the words of Lord Henry, but as time passes by, that resistance grows weaker and weaker until finally he fully follows Lord Henry’s bad influence. His 2nd analytical quote states how Lord Henry lives life through someone else’s life. This is accomplished through a younger, more energetic body, Dorian. Lord Henry can manipulate Dorian and make him do stuff that he won’t do otherwise. This is Lord Henry’s way to live life without actually living it, a paradox that repeats itself throughout the storyline of the book. Lord Henry later quotes “what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose… his own soul?” [6,p.202]. The reason why he mentions this is because he saw what destruction Dorian caused among others and how the pleasure of living life through a younger self wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Going onto Gillespie’s analysis explains how Lord Henry influences Dorian. Gillespie deciphers the way Lord Henry talks and comes up with the fact that he talks very psychologically and most of his sayings have several meanings. This must be one of the reasons why they are so influential to Dorian. A quote from the book “For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of (Lord Henry’s) book. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never sought to free himself from it” [6,p.120] shows how easily Dorian can get influenced by Lord Henry’s words or possessions. When Lord Henry first told Dorian about the theories on life, Dorian was bewildered by all the paradoxes and the mixed truths that Lord Henry was talking about. It’s just one of the first incidences that actually brought forth the making of the corrupted Dorian. Lord Henry is a driving force of a character in the novel, and his influence on the characters around him is astounding as he leads Dorian down a path of destruction and corruption.
The views of researchs all bring about more understanding and show peculiarity of the characters Dorian Gray and Lord Henry. Dorian’s corruption by Lord Henry enhances his actions in the novel and how he reacts to certain incidences along with how he doesn’t. Lord Henry is, on the other hand fascinated by the fact that he has such a young soul to command and conquer upon meeting Dorian. The moral values behind “The Picture of Dorian Gray” reflect through the characters playing out the story and live on through their actions. Its characters tell a tale of sin and repentance set in the late 19th century. After all, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” [6,p.202].
The list literature:
1.”O.Wilde plays,prose wriyings and poems” published by D.Campbell,London-1991,everyman’s library.
2. Aubrey, Bryan. “Critical Essay on The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Novels for Students.Vol. 20. Thompson Gale, 2005. Reproduced in Literature Resource Center.
3. Hawthorne, Julian. “The Romance of the Impossible.” Bloom’s Classic Critical Views: Oscar Wilde. Ed. Paul Fox. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008.
4. Cohen, Philip k. “The Crucible.” The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde.Vol. 20. Fairleigh Dickison University Press 1978, 123-127. Reprinted in Novels for Students.Reproduced in Literature Resource Center.
5. Gillespie, Michael Patrick. The Picture of Dorian Gray: “What the World Thinks Me.” New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
6. O.Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. New York: Bantam Dell, 2005.