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The Mayor Of Casterbridge Essay

2206 words - 9 pages

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short novel by Oscar Wilde originally published in 1890. The story begins at the home of Basil Hallward and opens with a conversation between him and Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry is fervently admiring Basil’s latest portrait of a young, beautiful man, Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is the main protagonist in the story. He is described as having a “simple and beautiful nature”, and he remains this way until he is corrupted by the antagonist of the story, Lord Henry, who reveals himself to be the epitome of selfishness and egocentricity. He convinces Dorian that he must hold on to his youth as it will fade fast and he will grow old, which causes Dorian to wish that the painting Basil has crafted will grow old instead of him. His wish comes true, and with no immediate or obvious repercussions to himself, he allows himself to be corrupted by Lord Henry’s poisonous and immoral outlook on life. The granting of his wish prompts a complete downward spiral in which Dorian the man becomes a heartless wretch. His sins gradually distort his painting, which represents his soul. Towards the end of the novel he attempts to atone for his misdeeds, but is met with just smirks of hypocrisy that become evident on his painting. He ultimately pulls a knife and attempts to destroy the painting, but as he stabs the painting he himself is killed and while his body is transformed to a disgusting, old state his painting reverts to its original rendition of a beautiful, young man.
Throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray many themes, symbols, and other literary elements become evident. The most important theme in this book is the superficial nature of society. Since the beginning of time society has prized beauty over all else, and this idea is apparent in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry and Dorian Gray surround themselves with companions who live a shallow existence in which they believe that it does not matter whether a man or woman is good at heart so long as he or she is handsome. Wilde develops this theme to demonstrate that such superficial thoughts and actions will lead to a sense of moral ineptitude and a person’s ultimate downfall.
Symbolism is also an important piece of Wilde’s work. The main symbol at work is the portrait of Dorian Gray. It is an allegory to his life and his soul. The portrait represents his inner-self which becomes more tainted with every crime he commits, and as Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt his evil deeds manifest themselves as ugliness and distortion on the canvas. Another very important symbol that is often overlooked is Basil, who represents moral guidance. Basil tries to help Dorian and place him on the path to atonement, but, as with the theme of living in a superficial society, corruptions consumes him and he is unable to break his erroneous ways. However, the most influential symbol is the yellow book that Lord Henry gives to Dorian. We are never told the name of the book, but it is described...

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