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Influence Of Setting On Theme In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

1089 words - 5 pages

In 1890, Oscar Wilde published his only novel that would have a hostile reaction in the British press due to its controversial themes. With tinges of "immoral topics" such as homoeroticism, hedonism, and aestheticism, the novel turned heads and shocked readers. This novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, revealed Wilde's philosophy on these topics through the use of writer's style, narrative strategy, development of character, and setting. Oscar Wilde used the controversial topics that he was surrounded by during his life, such as homoeroticism and hedonism, as many of the the main themes in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
One of the main controversial ideas in The Picture of Dorian Gray is its homoerotic nature, which shocked readers. Although Wilde never comes out and says it, the relationship between Dorian and Basil, or Dorian and Lord Henry, is clearly something of more than just friendship. They seem to have an obsession with his beauty, and the language used to describe their admiration of Dorian is undoubtedly romantic and intimate. "I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me," says Basil when speaking of Dorian. Basil expresses his love for Dorian in his painting, and says he can't display his portrait of Dorian in fear that people will see his "idolatry." The novel is set in the time and place in which Wilde lived, in the 1890's in London, in which this topic was coming to the forefront. In 1885, 5 years before the novel was published, the Labouchere amendment was passed. This prohibited not only sodomy, which was punishable by death, but other "gross indecencies," which carried a 2 year prison term, and which Oscar Wilde was found guilty of. The homoerotic nature of the novel is one of the main controversial themes of the novel.
Other themes portrayed in The Picture of Dorian Gray are misogynism, aestheticism, and the purpose of art, which were also all controversial topics in the time period in which the novel was set. This period of the 1890's, known as the "fin de siecle," or end of the century, sought to free humanity from naturalism and realism, which were aimed at reproducing the world as it as and ascribed a moral purpose to art. During this time, the Victorians believed that art could be used for education and moral enlightenment. However, Wilde was part of the aestheticism movement, which sought in art "for art's sake" without any moral or educating responsibilities. In the story, the picture of Dorian has a more Victorian purpose, since the picture of Dorian is used to show him the sins he has committed and the thoughts of his conscience. However, since this eventually leads to Basil's death and Dorian's demise and eventual death, The Picture of Dorian Gray can be seen as a cautionary tale; these are the prices that must be paid for believing that art has more of a meaning than just being art. Another principle of the aesthetic movement in which Wilde followed was that art's...

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