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Narcissistic Theme in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

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  • Essay length: 777 words
  • Submitted: 24/07/2008
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International Baccalaureate Languages

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Zack Lindahl

Beauty at Any Cost: The Narcissistic Theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are multiple themes within Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. One of these is very central in the novel, and that is the trait of self-love, narcissism. The whole novel is built around Dorian Gray's physical beauty, and his indulgence of it. There are numerous references and hints of narcissism, often comparing Dorian to Narcissus himself, or Dorian's selfish behavior which at times are classical for the psychological condition of extreme narcissism. The Picture of Dorian Gray tells a story, that at times bears a resemblance to ancient tales of narcissistic behavior, and Oscar Wilde consciously portrays it different aspects throughout the novel.

There are several instances in the first part of the novel that illuminates the theme of narcissism. In the very first chapter, Dorian Gray utters his fervent wish for eternal youth. He does this as he sees the picture of himself that Basil Hallward has painted, and "[t]he sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation" (28). This is very similar to when Narcissus himself looked down on his own reflection

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