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The Picture Of Dorian Gray Essay

2305 words - 10 pages

Aestheticism is a philosophy in which its followers practice complete self-indulgence. Aesthetic principles teach that the arts, beauty, and youth are absolute over anything else. People who follow this philosophy are very egotistical, and are extremely concerned with appearances. It is often associated with jewelry, painting, music, and perfumes. (insert quote to prove) All followers of Aestheticism put activities pertaining to beauty above anything else. Their priorities hold beauty above attributes such as kindness, morality, and intelligence. Hedonism is a practice that is very similar. Followers of the philosophy of Hedonism conclude that pleasure is the most important aspect of life. In the picture of Dorian Gray, Aestheticism and Hedonism are very active philosophies used by the novel’s characters. Lord Henry influences Dorian to follow these teachings, and as a result Dorian becomes intensely vain and selfish. The portrait is in direct correlation with the immoral influence and the intense vanity. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde effectively uses the portrait of Dorian Gray as a symbol to satirize the adverse effects that social pressures and excessive vanity have on a person’s morality.
This idea of Aestheticism transformed the people of 19th century Europe. The Picture of Dorian Gray was written in 1890, during the height of the Aesthetic movement. This practice and lifestyle demonstrates the values of English society at the time. They were very concerned with self-image, and self-gratification. This lifestyle corrupted many people’s attitudes towards themselves and others. The values of European Society during the late 19th century were very focused on vanity. PROVE THIS WITH QUOTE. This explains the vain and selfish actions of the characters, especially Lord Henry Wotton, who is a complete devotee to the Aesthetic and Hedonistic teachings. Those who practice aestheticism must put aside their morals to pursue pleasure. One critic explains the mindset of an aesthetic regarding morals, “To the aesthete, there is no distinction between moral and immoral acts, only between those that increase or decrease one’s happiness (Duggan 61). In essence, aesthetes are very much only concerned with their own happiness and pleasure. They put other people’s happiness aside to gain this self-indulgence. Dorian Gray is a prime example of this. He demonstrates his priorities by his cruel treatment of those around him. He very clearly put aside his morals to pursue a complete self-indulgence.
To understand why characters and society are portrayed so narcissistically in the novel, one must understand aestheticism. Aestheticism explains the major importance put on art by both Basil Hallward and Lord Henry. Both characters are very much invested in art: Basil, an artist, whose living revolves around art, and Lord Henry, who lives to critique art. When readers are first introduced to both characters, they are discussing art, more specifically the...

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