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Dorian Gray : Moral Responsibility Essay

1343 words - 5 pages

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, it tells of a man's gradual downfall from innocence to corruption. Even the name of the main character in Oscar Wilde's tale, Dorian Gray, is very symbolic because ‘gray' is the combination of black and white, of good and evil. In many ways, Dorian Gray is the epitome of mankind. Dorian Gray, an innocent and naïve man, becomes corrupted after having one conversation with Lord Henry Wotton. He shows how easily people can become swayed and changed merely by the words of others. Society plays such an enormous role in the lives of people. As said by Thomas Babington, "The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out." How much of how we act is influenced by others?
Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is set during the late nineteenth century in England, a period marked with the exceeding importance of social stature and personal image. The protagonist, Dorian Gray, rises as the archetype of male splendor and youth. His aristocracy and stunning beauty enthrall all his surroundings. He often poses for friend, Basil Hallward, an artist of great talent whose art is inspired by Dorian's undeniable charisma. While Basil's most extraordinary painting is in the midst of being completed, Dorian is introduced to Lord Henry Wotton, a cynical philosopher and skillful orator. His manipulative tongue and theories easily seduce Dorian. Wotton tells Dorian, "When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly.... Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. . . . A new Hedonism-- that is what our century wants." Through him, Dorian faces the harsh realization that his physical attributes are ever fading. Upon this sudden insight, he dreads the physical burden of aging. He envies the perpetual beauty of Basil's masterpiece. As Dorian says, "If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that - for that - I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!" The materialization of this wish and the metamorphosis it will ensue are to bring his demise. Dorian's figure remains...

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