Aestheticism In Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray

1780 Words8 Pages
Living a life without guilt or shame can be astonishingly enticing. Many people, especially in Victorian England, agreed with this notion. Many distinguished authors, poets, and other influential members of society affirmed this belief. Among them was notorious author and playwright, Oscar Wilde. Wilde was a known supporter of Aestheticism, a movement in which there are no morals to be found in art and where life is meant to be lived in pursuit of passion with no room or regard for moral uprightness. Wilde lived a very flamboyant life, and most critics would agree that his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, highlights this lifestyle which focuses on surrendering to one’s temptations. A closer look at the work, however, instead brings the reader to a different conclusion. The harrowing tale of Dorian Gray’s rise and fall clearly criticizes the Aesthetic Movement, which gives way to the idea of surrendering to one’s whims as thoughtlessly as one would like, and instead draws attention to the direct relationship between art and morality.
Dorian Gray’s tragedy is so astonishingly heartbreaking because at the beginning of his story, the protagonist is pure and unadulterated. When he meets his new mentor, Lord Henry, he is undoubtedly corrupted. This sinister introduction to a life where beauty prevails over all ultimately leads to Dorian taking his own life. Lord Henry, the poster boy for the aesthetic movement, shows the impressionable and vulnerable young man a new point of view in life, one where a man must abandon an ethical stance in order to truly live his life to the fullest. Interestingly enough, as critic Michael Gillespie points out, “ a great irony... informs Lord Henry's character, for no matter how extravagant his language, he seems to do relatively little” (Gillespie). Henry himself does nothing but sprinkle bits and pieces of wayward advice, by telling his new student things such as “the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it,” (Wilde 21) among many other decidedly misguided fragments of information, which Dorian takes to heart. Soon after, he begins practicing under these aesthetic protocols. It is reasonably inferred that Lord Henry is the one responsible for the downfall of the
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