Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, he won a scholarship to Oxford, where he was interested to the Aesthetic Movement. The most important philosopher of the Aesthetic movement was Pater, with his book “Studies in the History of Renaissance”, that was Wilde’s favourite book. He quickly won a reputation as a dandy, and aesthete, he became the leader of the Aesthetic Movement. He married Costance Lloyd, they had two children, and he wrote fables, in two volumes: “The Happy Prince and other Tales” and “A House of Pomegranates”. His most famous novel is “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, and he wrote comedies as: “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, “A woman of No importance”, “An ideal husband”, “the importance of Being Earnest”. He was arrested because of his homosexual relationship with Douglas, in prison he wrote “The ballad of reading Gaol” and “De Profundiis”, important because it’s a reflexion on his change of fortunes.
THE REBEL AND DANDY
Wilde adopted the Aesthetic ideal as he affirmed in one of his famous conversation: “My life is like a work of art”. He lived in the double role of rebel and dandy. The dandy must be distinguished from the Bohemian: while the Bohemian allies himself to the rural or urban proletariat, the dandy is a bourgeois artist. The Wildean dandy is an aristocrat whose elegance is a symbol of the superiority of his spirit; he uses his wit to shock and is an individualist who demands absolute freedom. Since life whose meant for pleasure, and pleasure was an indulgence in the beautiful, Wilde’s interest in beauty, cloths, words, or boys had no moral stance.
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
This is Wilde’s only novel, and it sums up his aesthetic theory about a life of pleasure and the supreme form of art, in which man is above common morality, so he must pursue his aesthetic aim. The story is based on folk and fairy tales, very common among the Romantics, as the novelist Balzac, with his work La peau de chagrin. For Dorian the search of pleasure and beauty is the true purpose of life, and life is a work of art. Wilde said a book can’t be judged about its morality and immorality but only its form, language. In The Picture of Dorian Grey there’s the sense of mystery in the change of Dorian’s picture when he commits crimes. The end of the novel is in line with classic horror and crime story, as The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The novel has moral base, which suggests that there is a price to pay for a life of pleasure.
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY – SUMMARY
Basil, a famous artist, meets Dorian Gray (a young man of great beauty), fascinated by his beauty paints his portrait. Basil takes him to his friend, Lord Henry, who introduces him to the philosophy of a new Hedonism, a life of beauty and pleasure. Dorian is impressed by the perfection of his own beauty in the picture, and he wishes never to grow old. He falls in love with an actress, Sibyl, for her way to act, but she decides to don’t act anymore, and Dorian left her, so she commits suicide. He becomes worst and worst, his portrait reflected his horrible things, and changed face, while Dorian was the same. So he hides the portrait in a room, and shows it to Basil, who is scared, and tells Dorian to admit his guilty, but he kills him. Sibyl’s brother, James, asks for revenge, but Dorian kills him, finally he fells guilty, and tries to stab the portrait, but the portrait remains young, and he is found by his servants, old, and with a knife into his heart.
THE PREFACE TO DORIAN GRAY
The preface was initially published as an essay, it contains Wilde’s Aesthetic theory in which art celebrates beauty, pleasures, without moral aim. The artist has to create beautiful things, a vital work of art, he doesn’t have a moral rule, he doesn’t prove anything. People who don’t understand beautiful things are corrupt. For Wilde, a book can’t be judged about contents, but about the form, so it can’t be judged moral or immoral, but well written or badly written, so he refuses didactic aim of the novel. If critics have different opinions about a work of art, it is a vital work of art. All art is quite useless, without morality.