Oscar Wilde

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Dipali Patel                                                                                     21/12/09

Influence of the style and structure in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The picture of Dorian Gray

How does the style and structure of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The picture of Dorian Gray’ affect your understanding of the novel?

Style includes the details of writing, such as choice of diction, use of figures of speech, rhythm, tone and so on. Structure however, includes large matters such as the overall construction of a story, like the plot, events and climax. In Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture Of Dorian Gray’, the style of writing is very unique, the choice of language is interesting, there is a lot of use of figures of speech and there is a creation of distinct sound and sound patterns. The structure of the book is also compelling, there are matters of suspense and creation of drama which consequently lead to a climax. In ‘Dorian Gray’ these two areas seem to contradict eachother, the style could be shown to lead to amoral aestheticism, and the structure could be shown to lead to immoral values. The following essay is an attempt to probe and analyse these two areas and see how they affect ones understanding of the novel and if possible, to find a synthesis between the two.

Aestheticism mainly came about during the Victorian era, where Aesthetes believed life had to be lived intensely, and people gave far more importance to the beauty of things. Oscar Wilde, began to pose as an Aesthete after he went to Oxford, and became somewhat of a celebrity after he was recognised for his talent in poetry. In the late 18th century, a philosopher named Immanuel Kant began to talk about the anatomy of art. ‘Art serves no purpose’, he says that art exists for its own sake, being beautiful. He says the artist should not be interested with the social view, simply just to create beauty. Benjamin Constant and Victor Cousin, both great writers of the Aesthetic movement, use the slogan ‘L'art pour l'art’, art for arts sake. Many people began to take this idea seriously, and not long after, the English Aesthetic movement started and became somewhat fashionable. ‘Burn with a gem like flame’, said Walter Pater, an English Oxford essayist. Trying to imply that every moment of your life must be beautiful.

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If we take a look at the dialogue, it is swarming with wit and irony. The plot of the book shows us the irony of a man giving up his soul just for the beauty of youth, and this being the most fundamental one. Wilde’s mastery of wit displayed in the novel is shown through Lord Henry Wotton, ‘Well, the way of paradoxes is the way of truth’, and ‘Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect- simply a confession of failures. Faithfulness! I must analyse it some day. The passion ...

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