Like Sibyl, Alan commits suicide after his entanglement with Dorian.

Dorian Gray AP Literature Essay

Even Basil, whose love for Dorian inspired great works of art, ceases to have worth for Dorian when he becomes uninteresting. Dorian does not hesitate to kill him.

According to Dorian, Basil is

Dorian thinks he has acted nobly by severing relations before he can corrupt her, but he fails to admit that he lacks an interest in her inner life. Again and again, human beings become trophies for Dorian, sparkling statuettes that he can cast aside when his mind wanders.

By adding Sibyl to this array of tragic characters, Wilde emphasizes the human potential to treat friends as experiments or sources of momentary interest. With his series of brief, unforgettable tragedies, Wilde urges us to think more carefully about the emotional and spiritual lives of our friends. Themes Motifs Symbols Key Facts. Yet, while he enjoys these indulgences, his behavior ultimately kills him and others, and he dies unhappier than ever. Rather than an advocate for pure aestheticism, then, Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale in which Wilde illustrates the dangers of the aesthetic philosophy when not practiced with prudence.


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Aestheticism, argues Wilde, too often aligns itself with immorality, resulting in a precarious philosophy that must be practiced deliberately. Dorian Gray is often read as an explicit proclamation of the worthiness of living life in accordance with aesthetic values.

Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray" and the hedonistic effect on the characters. - WriteWork

Oscar Wilde, however, proposed that the principles of the Aesthetic Movement extend beyond the production of mere commodities. Speaking of aestheticism, Wilde is quoted:. I mean a man who works with his hands; and not with his hands merely, but with his head and his heart. The evil that machinery is doing is not merely in the consequence of its work but in the fact that it makes men themselves machines also.

Essay: The Picture of Dorian Gray: Corruption Through Aestheticism

Whereas, we wish them to be artists, that is to say men. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. Lord Henry warns that without an enthusiastic embrace of aestheticism, one will perpetually anguish with the desire of precisely what he must deny himself, all for the sake of propriety.

This, however, is too shallow of an interpretation. It is at these times that the virtues of the wholly aesthetic life become questionable. The ruination of Dorian Gray, the embodiment of unbridled aestheticism, illustrates the immorality of such a lifestyle and gravely demonstrates its consequences.

Wilde himself admits, in a letter to the St. Aestheticism does well to condemn the renunciation of desires, but it is an excessive obedience to these desires that is subversively dangerous. The character of Dorian Gray and the story of his profound degeneration provide a case study examining the viability of purely aesthetic lives. Dorian lives according to what Lord Henry professes without hesitation, and what Lord Henry inspires Dorian, through persuasive rhetoric, is an attitude indifferent to consequence and altogether amoral. Dorian pursues Sibyl from first sights, intent on acquiring her before he ever attempts to truly know her.

For Dorian, whose uncontrolled aestheticism rejects the concept of morality, the immorality of his actions goes unrecognized.

Works Cited

In his pursuit of his own pleasures, a distinctly narcissistic attitude emerges, and the incompatibility of morality and unconditional aestheticism becomes all the more apparent. This self-absorption, then, appears to be an inevitable consequence of aestheticism.


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  • Only a more deliberate practice of aestheticism may harness this egotism and avoid the immorality Dorian embodies. According to mythology, Narcissus, upon catching a glimpse of his reflection in a pool, becomes so enraptured by it that he stood and admired it endlessly, unmoving for the rest of his life.

    Eventually, as in the myth of Narcissus, such egotism has its consequences. In the end, as a testament to the purely aesthetic life, the only legacy Dorian leaves behind—everything that identifies him as who he was—is his superficial jewelry. There is an argument, then, made by Wilde for a new aestheticism, approached with more constraint than Dorian employs. This argument is based not only in the moral obligation of the individual, but with the betterment of all of society in mind.

    Arnold focuses on its detrimental effects on society and the possibility for societal improvement when aesthetic tendencies are properly controlled.

    Dorian Gray Essay Assignment

    As Arnold views his contemporary society, it is arranged hierarchically, dividing the aristocrats, the middle-class, and the working-class, all of which, Arnold laments, are inclined to live hedonistically, pursuing pleasure and only what is comfortable and easy. Arnold is optimistic that some may pursue beyond the immediately pleasurable and act to perfect themselves both morally and intellectually. This pursuit of perfection, however, is likely an arduous and uncomfortable task, and is therefore incompatible with pure aestheticism.

    Some concessions must be made for the absolute aesthete, then, for such transcendence occur. Dorian exemplifies a regression in social intellect from his beginnings rather than the kind of transcendence hoped for by Arnold.


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    • Dorian displays no such pursuit of intellectual perfection as he is slowly corrupted and in turn corrupts others, luring them with him into the slums and opium dens of London. The mere existence of these aliens, however, provides hope that the utter hedonists of society may learn to harness their damaging tendencies, and in doing so, better the intellectual and moral state of humankind.

      Indeed, Dorian appears to realize the consequences of his unbridled aestheticism; however, he is much too far gone to salvage. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned or made perfect.