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Compare and contrast the ways in which the writers of 'Frankenstein' and 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' encourage the reader to apportion blame for the crimes committed in the novels.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which the writers of Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray encourage the reader to apportion blame for the crimes committed in the novels. Throughout Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde influence the way in which blame is apportioned to certain characters for the crimes committed in order to communicate the underlying themes and morals of the novels. The apportioning of blame is necessary in both authors' examination of the causes of criminal behaviour, particularly the common 'nature vs. nurture' debate. Throughout the novels the authors question and criticise the motivations of their protagonists, contrasting the concept of an intrinsically evil being with one who is born innocent and later corrupted. Both authors strive to expose the essential duplicity of existence: the concept of the shades of light and dark contained within humanity, but also of how the expectations and pressures of society can force a person to lead a double life. It is particularly interesting to compare the characters of Frankenstein's monster and Dorian Gray in light of this, as despite their obvious differences both are depicted as committing horrific crimes. Both authors link physical appearance to an assessment of character. The initial physical description contributes to how a reader would immediately respond to a character, and therefore how they would later apportion blame. Dorian is described as 'certainly handsome' with 'frank blue eyes', 'crisp gold hair' and 'something in his face that made one trust him at once'1. The use of such positive language is important in shaping a reader's perceptions of Dorian, particularly with a lexical choice that implies honesty, openness and integrity. Wilde's contemporary audience would have appreciated the concept of physiognomy that is explored in The Picture of Dorian Gray: the concept that 'sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face'2. Just as Wilde portrays Basil to be incapable of believing that Dorian has any 'secret vices' due to his 'bright, innocent face ...read more.

Middle

Wilde shows Lord Henry to have had great influence over Dorian, and he specifically refers to him as 'his own creation'23, while acknowledging that 'there is no such thing as a good influence...all influence is immoral'24: in this Wilde demonstrates that Dorian cannot be entirely to blame, but that his relationship with his creator and the influence that has been exerted over him carry the fault. However, it could still be argued that there is more blame placed on the character of Dorian than there is on that of Frankenstein's monster. The setting of the seduction of Dorian by Lord Henry directly mimics the Garden of Eden, with 'great cool lilac blossoms'25 and 'green-and-white butterflies'26, underlining the beauty of the Paradise that Dorian is leaving behind in succumbing to Lord Henry's hedonistic beliefs and gratifying his senses. In this Dorian differs from the monster: he chooses to leave his paradise and commit crimes, while the monster is shown as having little choice, creating a level of sympathy for him on the part of the reader. Wilde's character acts out of curiosity, while the motivation of Shelley's is anger and desperation at the rejection he has encountered from both his 'father' and his adopted family, the de Laceys. In a way, the character of Dorian is not dissimilar to that of Victor Frankenstein, as both turn away from their paradises in order to satisfy a personal urge, and both can therefore be more squarely blamed than a character like the monster. The most significant crimes committed by the monster are the murders of William, Clerval and Elizabeth: in each of these Shelley shows the monster to demonstrate little remorse: in fact, in the case of William his 'heart swelled with exultation and hellish triumph'27. The use of 'hellish' is reminiscent of Milton's lexical choices describing the devil in Paradise Lost, suggestive of the parallels between Frankenstein and Satan. ...read more.

Conclusion

1 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 19 2 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 143 3 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 143 4 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 59 5 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 59 6 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 59 7 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 60 8 Jane Bathard-Smith, What to call the monster?, emagazine, Feb 2004 9 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 59 10 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 60 11 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 105 12 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 55 13 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 54 14 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 78 15 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 77 16 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 137 17 Robert Mighall, Introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg xix 18 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 35 19 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 62 20 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 148 21 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 103 22 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 21 23 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 57 24 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 20 25 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 23 26 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 26 27 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 144 28 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 173 29 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 181 30 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 181 31 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 202 32 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 96 33 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 210 34 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 94 35 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 78 36 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 210 37 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 211 38 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 150 39 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg 203 40 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 22 41 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 53 42 Mary Shelley, Author's Introduction to Frankenstein, pg 9 43 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 102 44 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, pg 172 ...read more.

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