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Published: 30-11-2019

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The theme of morality and attractiveness as depicted in The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Image of Dorian Gray demonstrates a divide amongst aestheticism and morality that Oscars Wilde depicts by giving each character a really certain persona that either challenges or indulges in the immoral vices of life. This is all while Dorian remains paralyzed amongst two extremely diverse ideologies. The Freudian concept that inside us all is a split between the ID, The Super Ego and the Ego an inner battle amongst three distinct mindsets, becomes increasingly obvious as the novel progresses and highlights this war inside the mind. Dorian is unable to find an equilibrium among these three subconsciouses he feels as although he requirements to conform and become a hedonistic aesthete like Lord Henry, or lead a life that coincides with the moral idealism Basil represents. If given the opportunity to analyze The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Sigmund Freud would most probably interpret it as an illustration of how his mechanism of understanding human behavior plays out in literature. Charles Darwin would most likely say that Dorian fails to preserve this vital yin yang balance amongst aestheticism and morality and inevitably provides into his primitive animalistic instincts. These biologically programmed urges that Dorian acts upon in result can best be described in the viewpoint of Darwin, English naturalist and geologist, greatest recognized for his ground breaking function in evolutionary theory (Desmond). It is conceivable to assume that art critic, Walter Pater, had a profound influence on Wilde throughout their collegiate years that could have quite possibly influenced his quote in De Profundis, exactly where he declares that Pater’s operate was “that book which has had such a strange influence more than my life.” (Michael, 1) (Schroeder, 1) By analyzing the ideologies of these brilliant intellectuals to not only highlight, but to demonstrate the commonalities amongst Darwin’s evolutionary theory, Freud’s point of view on subconscious human behavior, and Pater’s idiosyncrasy of viewing art subjectively — all which play a vital function in understanding Oscar Wilde’s Picture Of Dorian Gray.

Charle’s Darwin set off on an endeavor which lead to a discovery that changed the way we understood the origin of humanity. For when in history there was a logical explanation for our existence on earth and it is unparalleled diversity that ahead of could only be explained by implies of religion or the environment. This notion and theory that the origin of species could be explained by science was regarded as immoral and non-contemporary. If Darwin hadn’t begun intricate investigations in 1838 which lead to the publication of The Origin of Species, we wouldn’t be capable to fully comprehend the inner workings of Dorian Gray’s mind Darwin’s theories demonstrate how from a preprogrammed biological instinctual level, the hedonistic malevolent tendencies he displays are innate and unavoidable. (Darwin Manuscripts, 1) The character Dorian Gray is an example how these tendencies can consume an person rendering them helpless and unable to fight primal urges.

Prior to the inception of Charle’s Darwin’s Origin Of Species, even the world’s brightest scientists attributed variations in species to strictly environmental factors such as how readily available their food supply was, or the climate in which the species in question was raised. Darwin rejects this notion dismantling this narrow minded philosophy supposedly backed by science and demonstrates that there’s significantly much more to this concept of evolution, namely these instincts that are preprogrammed within us all to seek out a mate with the most favorable traits in order to have ideal likelihood at getting offspring that does well in life. In a procedure Darwin coins conscious choice, a breeder selects the animal with the most desirable traits like eccentric physical beauty and qualities that would assist in the general perpetual survival of that species. All species, even human beings, are subject to this subconscious procedure known as unconscious choice. In other words, we will instinctually act hedonistically, want materialistic pleasantries, and embody vanity as our central focus when it comes down who we select to procreate with in Dorian’s defense, it is in our nature to act on this principle of aestheticism and location decadence at the utmost value. (Darwin, 1-13) Darwin demonstrates that even without the influence of breeders, it is shown that animals will instinctually fight to locate the mate with the most appealing outward appearance and traits essential to the survival of it is species. (Darwin, 4-13)

Right after taking Darwin’s philosophy into consideration, a various perspective of the inner workings behind the thoughts of Dorian Grey is consequently formed. The reality that he chooses to live immorally and place beauty in such higher esteem could be deemed a direct outcome of these inner biological urges he’s unable to manage. As a society in the 21st century, we see examples of this hedonistic shallow behavior everywhere we appear as it is grow to be inner woven inside humanities’ social, and biological fabric. For instance take the modeling business into consideration society tends to value outward appearance as one of the most important elements of life. Girl’s grow up seeing tabloids with scantly dressed quintessential centerfold models with bodies and faces that are typically out of attain and unobtainable to the vast majority of the population. This final results in this want to be beautiful due to the fact becoming physically eye-catching tends to get folks what they want in life and biologically speaking, gives them the greatest opportunity of getting the most desirable mate. From Dorian’s point of view, his appearance is the 1 issue he can’t picture living without having this inevitably leads to his demise in a way. The factor is, animals usually act in this manner, they mindlessly act on these impulses because it is in their nature humans on the other hand have the intellectual capability that enables them to think about aspects aside from just look and qualities that would result in the most promising offspring. We take many other characteristics into consideration due to the fact we’re human, not animals. Dorian’s inability to act in this manner is primarily due to Lord Henry’s influences and his own mindlessness this paints him as a person who is acting solely on his animalistic primal instincts. Darwin may contemplate people that act like Lord Henry and Dorian Gray to be far more primitive and significantly less evolved than the majority of the human race that has the ability to believe subjectively about one more human being as a whole, not just their physical appearance. By thoroughly examining The Origin Of Species by Darwin, we’re enlightened by scientific details that can clarify why Dorian acts in the manner he does from a biological evolutionary standpoint. To extent, his behavior is a outcome of these innate biological tendencies we share with each and every other species on earth. (Wilde)

Sigmund Freud, a world renowned neurologist, devised a technique that enables us to illustrate human tendencies by separating what we conceive to be the human consciousness into 3 separate drives. Primarily the outcome of this was 3 character sorts namely the id, the ego and the superego.”The id is the agency of bodily desires, the ego the mediating function, and the super-ego has the care of moral prohibitions.” (Rieff, 173) The ego is usually considered the executive branch of our personalities because as opposed to the ID and the Super Ego, it utilizes reasoning to weigh it’s options and come to an appropriate conclusion of what to do in the certain scenario by envisioning the moral implications of ‘it’s’ actions, but also what feels very good and is best for them. The ID prefers to reside hedonistically, it’s based solely on the pleasure principle and prefers to act on impulse with out cause regardless of whom they hurt in the process if they come about to do the morally acceptable issue it was most likely by accident. The superego is one more intense and basically the antithesis of the ID due to the reality it’s usually derived by common conservative religion based on beliefs we obtain for the duration of our upbringing as young children. For instance, it weighs the religious implications, what’s morally correct, as well as what’s socially acceptable. (McLeod, 1)

With Freud’s ideology in mind we begin notice correlations between the characters in A Picture of Dorian Gray and these three diverse discernible character types. Essentially the novel illustrates specifically what Freud has been saying all along in an straightforward to understand manner simply because each character represents a distinct segment of the subconscious. By understanding this correlation we come to terms with a greater all round understanding of the novel in it’s entirety and particularly Dorian himself. Lord Henry is undoubtably Wilde’s try to generate a literal representation of this ID character sort which he demonstrates via this quote “If one particular man were to live out his life fully and fully, have been to give kind to each and every feeling, expression to every believed, reality to every single dream – I think that the globe would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would neglect all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal” (Wilde, 19) Lord Henry is constantly functioning to corrupt Dorian and coax him into living a life of hedonistic decadence that he prefers to lead. He believes that in life it is constantly best to do what’s self-beneficial, not usually what’s right. Lord Henry alterations and shapes Dorian’s ideology to the point where he no longer believes morality even plays a role in life until it is too late. By advertising this concept of usually living in a selfish hedonistic manner that disregards morality, he’s basically overcome by the ID portion of his character and exemplifies Freud’s theory. Moreover you have Basil and his infatuation with Dorian Gray, he represents the super ego due to the fact he genuinely wants Dorian to stay this clean pure uncorrupted entity. To basil, Dorian is essentially a function of art literally and metaphorically, he believes that it’s his duty to maintain Dorian’s innocence that Lord Henry is continually trying to rid him of. (McLeod, 1)

How Dorian comes into play is by primarily becoming Freud’s idea of what the ego represents. Dorian is perpetually faced with moral dilemmas and he’s forced to weigh the rewards and implications of living 1 way or one more. A lot like how Freud depicts the Ego as this force that lies among the Super Ego and the ID, Dorian is continually being pulled in two opposite paths. A single direction becoming Lord Henry and his hedonistic ideology that relies mostly on this ‘ID-like’ principle. One more is Basil attempting to assist him live a morally conscious way of life that coincides with the Super Ego. A lot like a devil on his shoulder, ultimately Lord Henry’s influence on Dorian comes to a head when he finds Sibyl completely undesirable after her efficiency on stage wasn’t up to his requirements. He became infatuated with the art she developed and did actually adore her for her when he finds out she committed suicide, he moves on like enterprise is usual is a cold callous manner providing into carnal pleasantries and living hedonistically. By understanding this standard Freudian theory, we see the novel in an entirely various light because it tends to highlight all these themes that just before had been apparent but weren’t as comprehensible with out a concrete understanding on how these subconscious forces come into play to influence human behavior. We can now see that primarily Dorian Gray is a literal representation of freud’s Ego concept.

So far we’ve come considerably closer to gaining a properly-rounded perspective of the inner workings of Dorian Gray’s psyche by evaluating his primitive instincts with the aid of Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection in The Origin of Species. We can conclude that far more typically than not Dorian acted upon his animalistic carnal desires and placed an really higher value on outward appearance. Furthermore, Freud’s theories of these 3 ideas: ID, Super Ego, and Ego tended to run parallel with how Lord Henry, Basil, and Dorian himself really are on a subconscious level. Subsequent we’ll delve into Walter Pater’s ideology and the run ins he had with Oscar Wilde himself. By understanding how Pater fundamentally understood art and it is beauty, we come closer to understanding The Image of Dorian Gray as a complete.

The year 1877 could have very nicely been a turning in point in Oscar Wilde’s improvement as a writer although attending Magdalen College, he met Walter Pater. Pater’s work was rumored to be sought soon after by Oscar Wilde himself, they’d meet for tea, exchange ideas, and give every other individuals pointers every single other individuals function. Whilst there’s no primarily no objective truth in how we define beauty, critics of the era would attempt to comprehend the abstractness of beauty and explain it in the most generic terms possible with no the addition of personal preference or feelings. Beauty and how we interpret it tends to be subjective in other words, how your interpret art and the feeling it invokes is dependent on who you are and where your values lie. Walter Pater for instance placed aestheticism at high esteem nonetheless he had this knack and potential that enabled him to not discriminate among what is regarded as beauty and what isn’t. (The Renaissance: Research in Art and Poetry, 1)

The purpose why understanding Pater’s philosophy is so vital to understanding The Picture of Dorian Gray is that truth that Wilde didn’t truly intend for it to be viewed as a novel that concentrated solely on decadence or what occurs when this concept is abused. In the preface of the novel Wilde even says, “There’s no such issue as a moral or immoral book. Books are nicely written or badly written. That is all.” This idea Wilde demonstrates runs parallel with the ideology of Pater. As a entire it suggests that it’s merely the reader himself that has the ability to feel subjectively that considers the novel to either be entirely immoral or not — it is open to interpretation, and that’s actually what Wilde intended all along. (The Image of Dorian Gray: Art, Ethics and the Artist, 1)

By examining Pater’s philosophy and comparing it to what we know about Oscar Wilde you begin to see this connection that inevitably leads to this notion that Pater was an important element in Wilde’s life that influenced the development of The Picture of Dorian Gray during the Aesthetic movement. Although it’s stated they wouldn’t especially contemplate every single other buddies, this exchange of dialogue in an interview additional backs up this claim that Pater had an influence on Oscar Wilde:



“Pater disliked Wilde personally while admiring his cleverness’ in turn Wilde mentioned, “Dear Pater was often frightened of my propaganda” (Ellmann, 81).



This statement that indicates Pater disliked Oscar Wilde as a individual, but admired his cleverness in the form of art, this enables us to draw another connection among Pater’s philosophy and Dorian Gray in the novel. Namely where Dorian becomes infatuated by Sybil’s art kind on stage but at the finish on the day, his reaction to her death proves that he by no means genuinely cared for her as a person, just her potential to create beauty by means of this visual aesthetic art type. Since it appears that Pater’s ideology not only influenced the way Oscar Wilde perceived this distinction in between art and morality but also produced it is way into the mind of Dorian Grey, we begin to obtain a significantly far more clear and concise understanding of The Picture of Dorian Grey in it is entirety. (The Image of Dorian Gray: Art, Ethics and the Artist, 1)

Additionally, it’s reasonable to make the assumption that Pater’s ideology produced its way into the Lord Henry’s outlook on the world. Pater says that:

”It doesn’t matter what is mentioned as lengthy as it is mentioned beautifully”

One particular again you can see this correlation among stereotypical Pater-like ideals and Lord Henry as a character. Because Lord Henry as a character tends to embody this belief program valuing the beauty of almost everything about him — especially even so, it’s the most important aspect of his life. Considerably like how Pater demonstrates that he it is not essential what’s on the inside, maybe it’s just our outward look. A paradox emerges right here, even though Pater’s ideology typically sees beauty as becoming subjective based on interpretation, he nonetheless appears rather vain and considers beauty to be the most essential aspect of any kind of art without contemplating other aspects this is inherently why I think that understanding Pater’s ideology assists in the all round understanding of The Image of Dorian Gray. His influence all through the novel is irrefutable as seen by means of not only the way Wilde wrote, but how Dorian and Lord Henry developed as characters. (Levey, 1)

By examining the ideologies of scientifically minded naturalist Charles Darwin, the planet renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, as nicely as the aesthete Walter Pater, we acquire an entirely new viewpoint and understanding of The Image Of Dorian Gray. Abruptly the correct intentions of the characters and the persona that they represent becomes rather clear and concise whether or not it is the way Charles Darwin’s discovery lead to this idea of organic selection that states that we instinctually value beauty which the novel embodies, Freud’s capacity to divide the consciousness into three distinct parts that have a tendency to coincide with the three distinct personas in the novel, or Pater’s impact on Wilde which arguably lead to the creation of not only Wilde’s ideology, but also the characters in his novel — all of which lead to a far better understanding of the Picture Of Dorian Gray and the message Oscar Wilde intended to share with the planet.


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