The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde warns against immorality, vanity and selfishness using his protagonist’s downfall to show the dangers of overindulgence and depravity. The preface is contradictory and reveals that Wilde’s beliefs on art and its ties to morality were inconsistent. He appears to be trying to show that we shouldn’t subscribe to just one clear ideal without questioning it or considering other opinions. However, it’s clear throughout the book that there is a strong moral ideology behind the story. Wilde claims that ‘an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style,’1 but then breaks his own rules by showing Dorian Gray’s downfall to be inextricably linked to his exposure to and infatuation with hedonism and immorality. In this essay, I will demonstrate how the gradual moral decline of Dorian Gray and his eventual demise are used to send a very clear message about morality, corruption and overindulgence.
When the book begins, Dorian is a blank slate – naïve, youthful, and ‘unspotted from the world.’2 The beginning of his corruption is clearly marked by his introduction to Lord Henry, and ultimately, his introduction to indulgence and immorality. Lord Henry tells Dorian ‘…you are unconscious of what you really are…’ and comments on ‘…how tragic it would be…’ if Dorian was wasted.3 He also brings up the idea of indulgence and the taboo surrounding it, claiming that if a man resists temptation, his soul ‘grows sick with longing for the

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