The portrait of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde was the leader of aesthetic movement, a movement which proclaimed the superiority of the world of art. The slogan was ‘’art for art’s sake’’, the artist had no moral limits, the artist was free to live a life of pleasures, and Oscar Wilde considered life the best form of art. So Dorian Gray is the best example of aesthetic philosophy. He is an handsome young man, appreciated in the high society, and he is introduced In high society by Lord Henry, that represents the corruption on Dorian, and Dorian was convinced by lord Henry to live a life of pleasures regardless the harm he could cause. Dorian seems to sign a pact with the devil when he looks at the picture that Basil, his best friend, has painted. The picture is really marvelous and Dorian falls in love with his image. He expresses the desire to remain young forever and the desire is realized. As Dorian remains young, the picture instead becomes old and ugly, because picture reveals Dorian corruption. Basil, the painter, represents the good advisor, the good side. He tries to give Dorian good advises, but Dorian doesn’t listen to him, and continues in his life of pleasures. In the end Dorian kills his best friend. At the beginning of the novel we find a young girl, Sybil, an actress that falls in love with Dorian. But Dorian, because is influenced by lord Henry, considers her like an object, and the girl, destroyed by this experience, commits suicide. So Dorian is responsible of her death. Dorian continues in committing bad actions, and in the end, after having killed his best friend Basil, he decided to stabs the picture. Immediately the picture returns to his previous beauty, but Dorian dies. The extraordinary thing is that Dorian becomes old and ugly. When his friends find him, they find an unknown man.
We find a variety of themes in this novel. The first of all, the theme of the Hedonism: Dorian pursuits his pleasure in all forms. Then strictly connected to this theme we find narcissism; Dorian loves himself, his image, like Narcissus did, and for this reason he will die as Narcissus in the end. Some critics noted a sort of homosexual relationship between Dorian and Basil, and Dorian and Lord Henry, a sort of triangle. The theme of the double is even present, because Dorian appears as the good side and the picture the evil side of the same personality. The theme of immortality given by art is an ancient one, because Shakespeare talked about this theme; Keats did the same, and even Oscar Wilde in his novel wants to communicate that art can give immortality. In the end of the novel the picture returns to his previous beauty, so Dorian and the painter Basil will be remembered forever. Then we can say that there is another theme: art as a mirror. The picture becomes the mirror of Dorian’s soul; so the picture becomes ugly because Dorian’s soul is corrupted. This novel is considered a ‘’faustian’’ story because Dorian like Doctor Faustus signs a pact with the devil, in exchange of eternal youth. So, of course, in the end, he’s damned. Then There’s the eternal struggle between the good and the evil, and talking about the characters, we can see that lord Henry represents the corruption of Dorian, because he convinced Dorian to live a life of pleasure. Instead Basil, his best friend, tries to convince him to live a good life, but of course without results: in the end of the novel Dorian kills basil. Then we find Sybil and James Vane, two brothers. Sybil is Dorian’s first girl friend, who commits suicide because she’s refused by Dorian. We can see a sort of similarity with three Shakespearian characters, Hamlet, Ophelia and Laertes. Hamlet and Dorian refuses, or they are unable to love their girlfriends because Hamlet probably suffers from an Oedipus complex, so he loves his mother in a morbid way. Instead Dorian loves himself too much and loves a life of pleasures. Sybil and Ophelia are similar characters, because both of them are rejected by their boyfriends, both of them commits suicide. Then we find two brothers of the two girls, who try to vindicate their sisters, but only Laertes is able to do this, because James is killed during a haunting accident. Even in this story we can find a moral: ‘’ if you live a life of pleasures regardless the harm you can cause to other people, if you commits sins, in the end you have to pay, and Dorian in fact pays with his life.