The Wilderness of Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray introduced cultural taboo, the means of art and beauty, and the internal pain of man into the literary world of the 19th century. Wilde himself went through these phases of life and wanted to push views of his reality onto his audience. He portrays several characters through the means of moral corruption over aestheticism while pushing his own controversial ideas and the limits of social normality, such as living indefinitely and homosexuality, over the audience of his era.
In Wilde’s era he created literature that corrupted the audiences ideas of purity. In the beginning of the novel, Basil Howland, the artist of a controversial painting, is particularly proud of his new muse but will not display it for fear “…I have shown with it the secret of my own soul" (Wilde 188). As Basil reveals his reasoning behind not displaying his masterpiece, we find that he is attached to the perfect manifestation of his soul. He is afraid that if the painting were to be shown in public, the audience would know too much information about him. Basil strives to become one with his creations in order to hold a fulfilling life. In the 19th century, the taboo was all about speaking of ridiculously imaginative things such as living indefinitely or homosexuality, “but his story is also a vivid, though carefully considered, exposure of the corruption of a soul, with a very plain moral, pushed home, to the effect that vice and crime make people coarse and ugly” (Pater). Wilde expresses his ideas through this passage particularly because Basil gushes over Dorian and his beauty in the scene before he reveals the painting to Lord Henry. Many researchers suggest Wilde pushes his ideals over an a...
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...ggle made evidently clear through Dorian’s actions towards the end of the novel: “In terms of the Art/Life dichotomy, he deserts the calm serenity of art in favor of the sordidness of life” (Aubrey). Instead of realizing how incredible life is, Wilde puts his characters through incredible amounts of immoral decisions that create tension throughout. The internal struggle is a fantastic tale of philosophy from the inside out.
Wilde’s novel brought a new essence of reality and his thoughts provoked the literary world into a new era of literature. The moral decisions made by the characters of the novel portrayed the internal struggles caused by corruption of morality, the means of art and beauty and pain of man in the 19th century. The philosophy behind writing the novel was created by a new sense of tension in cultural taboo caused by Wilde’s critics of the time.
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