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