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Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is a narrative which demonstrates the risks of manipulation using the main characters. Superficially, Dorian Gray (one of the main characters) is a bad character when evaluated by any ethical policy. Gray is obliged to observe as the repulsiveness of his life exposed through a picture of himself. The book exposes a maximized self-indulgent philosophy where Gray sits back and watches as his good nature vanishes and his evil personality takes over. He decided to pursue this self-gratifying path. With the beauty essence, the image of elegance, appeal, youthfulness and virtuousness, Gray falls prey to his individual vanity. The penalties of his self-indulgent quests attest to be fatal to both, himself and the people around him. His self-centered attitude comes at the cost of his integrity and with destruction of his character. The book features three fascinating characters (Lord Henry, Basil Hallward and Dorian), all of whom symbolize in diverse approaches the association involving art and life, deliberation and accomplishment, attractiveness and morals. The adoration of art and attractiveness may have its position, but it happens to be an insufficient lead through the disturbed web of actual human knowledge (Dellamora 29).
This paper explores one of the common themes in the Oscar’s narrative: Homosexuality. Homoerotic affection is a fundamental idea of the book, even though it is not declared straightforwardly. Both Lord Henry and Basil Hallward are intensely fascinated and drawn to Dorian Gray owing to his immense physical beauty. Basil is adamant that his affection for Dorian is dignified and logical and there is no basis of not believing him. Furthermore, he talks (in relation to Dorian) in stipulations that a man would usually talk regarding a lover and on falling in love. Basil told Dorian that he adored him, and that he got envious whenever Dorian talked to other people (Richard 24). He openly told Dorian how he felt about him. He also told Dorian that he wanted to have him for himself; and that being with him was the only thing that made him cheerful. Basil decided to sublimate every erotic aspect of his feelings towards Dorian by emptying them into his painting.
Lord Henry favored the companionship of Dorian to that of his spouse, and he constantly conveyed misogynist opinions. He adored young male splendor as personified in Dorian, and he persuades Dorian to offer complete restriction to all his undisclosed desires. Lord Henry tells Gray that he may have had infatuations that have caused him fear, opinions that have terrified him, fantasies and dreams whose simple reminiscence might tarnish his audacity with shame (Richard 31). By saying this to Gray, Lord Henry implied that Gray might unknowingly have developed a sexual attraction towards men in the past. Lord Henry uses a language like the word “shame” to suggest that the seldom disclosed sins of Gray may be of an erotic character. The reader must bear in mind that during the Victorian era, views towards homosexuality were totally diverse from what they are these days(Gomel 52).
Regardless of the book's heterosexual content, numerous reviewers concur that it has a variety of homosexual rudiments in its characters, in the conversations, and even in the picture itself. Some reviewers have mentioned this aspect of the novel and remarked that basically the text’s framework was heterosexual. Wotton is wedded and chases performers. Basil himself is an alumnus of Oxford University, a well-instituted artist and highly regarded to a responsibility (Richard 28). Nevertheless, some reviewers also comment the strength of male companionships, and with regards to Basil, they further say that afterward, he constantly instructs Dorian to traditional values. Basil tells Dorian that grown-up men subsist in a system of male alliances that result unexpectedly throughout the narrative. As readers, we can deduce from what critics say; it is apparent that all the homosexual proceedings are occurring in a heterosexual setting. Instances of these incidents could be Gray's affection for Sybil, and Lord Henry's matrimony, which make them appear somewhat heterosexual men(Gomel 54).
Basil, subsequent to his disastrous court manifestations, writes a note to his youthful lover. Here, homosexuality is the premise that Wilde was referring to when he described that note as the letter of doom similar to a purple string running throughout the frosty fabric of Dorian Gray. He alludes to the subject of homosexuality a “letter of doom” since, generally, sodomy and homosexuality were strictly disciplinable crimes in Victorian England, and it was in such allegations that Wilde was taken to court. In the book, there are steadfast homosexual connotations in the interactions involving the three essential characters, and involving Dorian and some of the youthful males whose lives, he is claimed to have “messed up,” most particularly, Alan Campbell. This subject has encouraged numerous critics to interpret the book as the narrative of a man's resistance with his communally intolerable proclivities. Certainly, some believe that Wilde was calculating his individual diverging sentiments on the issue through the book.
Lord Henry’s fascination with Gray changes Gray’s life to that resplendent with depraved behavior like drugs, insignificant sex and the massacre of celebrated artist and acquaintance, Basil Hallward. Dorian surveys these feelings as he seeks to experience something genuine, but his whole life currently entails his facade and his status of self-denial (Richard 40). All through the narrative, Lord Henry controls Gray’s choices to be a pleasure hunter, to get engaged only the influential, and to operate in a superior way.In chapter six of the novel, Lord Henry gave Dorian a yellow book which was a mental research of a particular youthful Parisian, who used up his life attempting to understand the excitements and means of consideration that were owned by each century excluding his own. Dorian was preoccupied by this book; it turned into his bible that he founded his life upon. This book was a set of guidelines of pleasure-seeking. It was an added technique for Lord Henry to control Dorian into a life satisfied with enjoyment.
Basil was overwhelmed and manipulated by Dorian’s beauty from the first day he met him. Lord Henry was as well electrified on viewing a previous picture and was excited to see him. Basil introduced Lord Henry to Dorian on the same day, on Basil’s clause that he should not be a dire control on him, and they ultimately became confidants on top of an extremely terrible influence. It was at that reunion when he was stirred by Lord Henry at the reality that youthfulness was to be relished completely, by acquiring satisfactions rather than the usual culture constraints because youthfulness fades after an extremely short period. At the moment, Basil had completed an additional picture, and Dorian came into the room after the lengthy conversation with Lord Henry. While presenting a previous picture of Dorian Gray, Basil said it was his most excellent exertion, and he would by no means put it for exhibition, since he was scared that someone would notice the portrait, in which he had engraved “himself,” and they possibly would recognize his profound secret, which would be embarrassing and not tolerable in the general public. His deep secret had to be reserved within his soul and only with the individuals close to him. He does not desire for anyone to discover his attraction towards Gray (Gold 102).
Thus, the theme of homosexuality is highly developed the three major characters; yet in the Victorian age, that by itself was an adequate basis for mutual recognition. Dorian starts by imitating Lord Henry but shortly outshines his adviser, who can merely observe resentfully as his previous follower escapes humiliation and ultimately massacre. Lord Henry’s proposal for the portrait is restricted to a competition of sexual relationship, which is incorporated in the artistic object devoid of fright of the police force. However, Lord Henry, the picture’s only viewer, can never fully sympathize with the portrait of the man who originally magnetizes him, specifically because of their variation, the distinction involving an elderly pessimistic wit and a beautiful and inexperienced young male. He individually comes out of the association with the portrait psychologically discernible but physically untouched, as the reader might come out from an experience with a fascinating book that eventually does not succeed in impacting the actual life (Gold 105).
The Picture of Dorian Gray can as well be described as a book that exposes threats of individuality. While some critics explain it as one of the major books that has laid down the stipulations for a contemporary homosexual character, others dispute that it actually interrupts the intensifying link connecting homosexuality and self-characterization. The exact disgrace of the story lies in the disagreement; Wilde so prophetically launches between desire for individuality, attained through recognition with an exterior form, and physical desire, of whatsoever category, that breaks this egotistical self-existence by acknowledging the other. Every desire in the narrative, whether heterosexual (like Sybil’s situation) or homosexual, is positioned in conflict to the unfruitful quest of the ultimate identity that contradicts the individual unity of the flesh. Wilde’s situation is extremely more thorough than resistance of “the unidentified affection,” since it is a justification of the body that needs no identity to tell its love. To flee into art as Gray does is dissolute; not because it sets free prohibited desires, but because it eradicates desire in general and sets his ideal identity in a desolate and lonely perfection (Gold 110).
Generally, this book tells a story of a youthful good-looking and prosperous man who is tarnished and manipulated by Lord Henry to indulge into the new perception of self-indulgence. He murders his own acquaintance, Basil Hallward, who draws his portrait. His portrait transforms next to his transgressions. His portrait gradually becomes repulsive. Eventually, he dies through an accident. Strangely, his portrait transforms in reverse into its new condition, which is a portrait of a good-looking youthful male. Critics prefer to approach this narrative by Freudian analysis with the ideology composition of individuality and focusing on its identification, self-image and psyche (Dellamora 30).
This challenging technique of literature frequently distorts the lines of practical and simulated literature, compelling readers to defy their values and outshine their customs. Nonetheless, the feature of gothic narrative that was mainly striking to the Victorian spectators was the technique human uncertainties and community pressures were imitated in the intentionally imaginative fictitious texts. Themes like homosexuality, the human self-indulgence for eternity and undying beauty that lie beneath major gothic books like Oscar Wilde’s only narrative The Picture of Dorian Gray has provoked current adjustments and the misuse of these books into the contemporary society. This book exhibits educational and fictional restraints deep-rooted in shallow perceptions that have since become universal in modern superficial society (Dellamora 31).
One may therefore conclude that all humans live with desires, some of which may not be accomplished due to social norms and expectations of the community. The community has set ethical restrictions, which make it impossible to do what we want. Social norms act as the law which puts constraints on human behavior and defines what to do and what not to do. This regulation frequently fights our desire. Hence, when humans decide to pursue their own desires rather than the social norms, the community will view them as awful beings. This is because the society thinks that life has to be surrounded by rules, and the community cannot do what they want without taking into account their community standards.