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The moral analysis of Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray
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The moral analysis of Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray

                    By Sophia

The Picture of Dorian Graythe only novel written by Oscar Wilde, shows us the author’s worship of artistic beauty and is treated as the best novel in the field of aesthetic literature. There are three most important figures in The Picture of Dorian Gray, namely, the amazing young pretty guy Dorian Gray, Henry Wotton and Basil Hallward. In this novel, each of them is described as possessing different moral attitude by the author: Dorian Gray’s complicated attitude from purity to immorality, Henry’s immorality from the beginning to the end and Basil’s kindness and morality. Previous scholars tended to link the artistic beauty and morality and explore what Oscar Wilde had expressed in his novel.

 Firstly, let’s look at Dorian. Dorian is the leading role of this novel. It is clearly seen that Dorian degenerates from a naive and pure young man to a corrupted immoral devil. Nonetheless, from my point of view, Dorian can not be valued by the so-called standard of morality. Admittedly, it is reasonable to claim that he is immoral, but  if  we consider Dorian as an example of aestheticism Wilde wants to explore, he can be anything that is beautiful other than immoral, which serves as a superb example of Wilde’s theory— art for art’s sake. Because of his beautiful face, we seem to find the greatest scenery in the world. But everything changes when Basil paints for him and he also finds his beauty. Of course, the birth of Dorian’s portrait is just the last straw, what plays the key role is Henry’s spirit pressing on him. Henry always preaches his idea to Dorian. He wants Dorian to try his best to enjoy life without considering the morality and humanity. Actually, Henry wants to enjoy life just like he tells to Dorian, but he has no courage to do so. So he finds Dorian to be his substitute. Henry says to Dorian: enjoy your life timely. Make your life sparkle! Do not let anything out. Do not be afraid to explore new feeling. In fact, Dorian does what Henry tells to him. He starts to smoke, and wanders dirty places to find his happiness. At that time, he meets Sibyl, the girl who loves him too much and unfortunately she pays her life for her love. From his love for Sibyl, you may not call it love because we see how cruel he treats his lover.

Compared with his former attitude to Sibyl, there is no doubt that Dorian’s word made Sibyl desperate and led to her suicide. And then the picture became changed, the expression looked different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth, although it was a little. Dorian also found the change. He recalled his words “Yes, there is nothing in the world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” He continues his leaching life, of course without morality or conscience. Finally, when Basil comes to Dorian to borrow his portray, he finds Dorian’s secret of lasting youth. Brutal Dorian kills Basil and ruins his corpse. He goes on pursuing his happiness without moral limit. At the end of the story, Oscar Wilde gives Dorian a tradegy, which is stabled by himself. The story is ended, but our thought about the story still continues. Why Dorian wants to purse lasting beauty? Then why Oscar Wilde makes such a story which Dorian’s eternal beauty has been linked with morality? In my opinion, that is depended mostly on Oscar Wilde’s personal experience and the times he lived. Once he said himself in a letter to Ralph Payne: “Basel Hallward is what I think I am; Lord Henry what the world thinks me; Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps.” Dorian’s pursuing for eternal beauty is mostly like his seeking for aestheticism in the literature. And the morality he writes in the book is a necessity. We know that the Victorian time is full of stubborn prejudices and pays swinging attention to ethical codes. The society sticks so fast to the Victorian conventions that even trivial astray will be vehemently condemned and there is no exception for literature. Literature and art are no longer free to express their ideas. So the main intention of Wilde’s aesthetic ideal is to break these shackles and guard the realm of art. And his creation of the picture is a symbolism. During his time in England, people’s behaviors must be followed the moral rule and social rule. Oskar Wilde portrayed Dorian Gray to express his unsatisfied of upper class, and his hope for freedom.  

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