• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde use paradox to explore its aesthetic standpoint

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde use paradox to explore its aesthetic standpoint? By Oliver Walsh In the 'Picture of Dorian Gray' Wilde uses paradox throughout the novel to express, explore, question and test the philosophy of aesthetics. The characters in the book are seen through the eyes of Wilde's moral standpoint, and the fates of individuals are all steeped in opposite dualistic meanings. Wilde is writing about aestheticism in a Victorian era where it flourished partly as a reaction against the materialism of the burgeoning middle class, assumed to be composed of philistines (individuals ignorant of art) who responded to art in a generally unrefined manner. In this climate, the artist could assert himself as a remarkable and rarefied being, one leading the search for beauty in an age marked by shameful class inequality, social hypocrisy, and bourgeois complacency. Wilde weights his argument heavily on the benefits of aestheticism and plays down its negative aspect, like the lack of morality, until the end of the novel when Dorian is confronted by the painting which dramatically illustrates and exposes his corrupt soul and the darker side of pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle. ...read more.

Middle

The picture inexplicitly changes as a response to Dorian's actions, the image reflects his conscience and his true self, and serves as the mirror of his soul. The prevalent view at that time was the soul is metaphysical, but the painting shows it physically and symbolises the inversion of art/nature, body/soul - binary oppositions. Wilde uses the picture to explore much of the paradox in the novel through the symbolic device of the picture and the role of the painting is to merge seemingly opposite ideas. After Dorian wished for eternal youth he is made up of both art and nature. His self is divided between his perfect unchanging physical form and the horrors of his degraded soul in the portrait. Only through this splitting of his self does he truly become a 'visible symbol' for the aesthetic movement. Dorian's visit to an opium den says a great deal about the paradox of morality/immorality in Dorian. Dorian, as an aesthete should live life for experiences, sensation, and of course beauty. Wilde paradoxically reintroduces conventional morality through the concept of guilt that finds Dorian escaping the effects of an aesthetic lifestyle through losing consciousness in opium induced stupor. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Wilde's method of inversion resembles Derida's strategy of deconstruction....By exposing every metaphysical truth as an ideological construction (by revealing its hidden presumption) deconstruction destroys the foundation of any transcendental truth. In Damian Finnegan's 'Investigation of Wilde's aestheticism in relation to postmodernism' he comments: "Wilde in his work used the paradoxical epigram as the strategy par excellence to avoid any settled custom of thought or stereotyped mode of looking at things". "The paradox puts prevailing truisms into perspective by turning them upside down." The novel itself is a paradox as it argues for aestheticism and then heavily criticises and denounces it. In conclusion Wilde appears to sit on the fence with this novel in some respects as although he strongly puts forward a positive argument for the Aesthetic movement he counter balances this with the price to be paid for living a life of aestheticism. Perhaps the cautionary tale told in this novel display his cynicism towards aestheticism directly from his own hedonistic life style as an aesthete. Wilde uses paradox as a method of deconstruction and exposure of the hypocrisy of Victorian values by turning them upside down. Although he may have succeeded in freeing his art from the confines of Victorian morality, he has replaced it with a doctrine that is, in its own way, just as restrictive. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Oscar Wilde section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Oscar Wilde essays

  1. Explore Oscar Wildes presentation of his character Jack from his play The Importance of ...

    be because his real parents didn't want him and so he gives himself the attention. On stage the conversation would probably be quite awkward because Lady Bracknell is questioning him and he is obviously embarrassed about his part and doesn't want it to come out.

  2. Oscar Wilde

    quite incredible', he also comments on love, 'The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer'. The style of this novel seems to reflect amoral values. The dialogue is clever, comic and witty.

  1. To love or not to love; that is not the question?

    63)" It seems that she is such a gentle lady, thinking that a marriage should be natural; however, early in the play when she has a "questionnaire" with Jack, she consistently asks about his "income", "investments", "land" (p. 26)

  2. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Whilst talking to Lord Henry Dorian Gray wishes that his painting could grow old forever and that he could have eternal beauty and life. "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.

  1. Oscar wilde

    He also applied to win the Chancellor's English Essay Prize with this poem but failed. In November 1878 Oscar graduated from Magdalen with a double first in classical moderations and Literae Humaniores also known as 'greats'. Oscar Wilde's father was Sir William Robert Wills Wilde he was born on the 19th of April 1815 in Kilkeevin near Castlerea.

  2. "...an attempt to mirror life in a form remote from reality" (Wilde).

    In the "Happy Prince" Wilde shows greed and selfishness as he shows that the rich people always want more. The town- councillors calls "The Happy Prince": "Little better than a beggar." The Queens maid of honour calls the seamstress lazy "I have ordered passion-flowers to be embroider on it; but the seamstress is so lazy."

  1. oscar wilde

    with the situation, just like in Wilde's "The Selfish Giant" it's not revealed that the small boy is angel but later on unveiled to audience with a quote where boy says "You let me play once in your garden.....but...with my garden, which is paradise".

  2. The 'wicked aristocrat' and the 'virtuous maiden' are common characters in Victorian plays. Explore ...

    Lord Illingworth puts 'his hand on Gerald's shoulder' showing fatherly actions and possession. Lord Illingworth also seems to have power over Mrs Arbuthnot showing that men have more power than women in Victorian society.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work