The Picture of Dorian Gray Chapters 8 – 12

Notes and Analysis for the chapters 8-12

Chapter 8

  • Chapter begins with the idea of dandyism, Dorian waking “long past noon” showing his lax attitude, not having anything to do.
  • Calling the valet by his first name “Victor” shows the familiarity Dorian has with him.
  • Consistent detail throughout the novel, especially in regards to the possessions of the upper classes as Wilde had familiarity with these things, “olive satin curtains, with their shimmering blue lining”
  • Significance of putting Lord Henry’s letter “aside”, if he had read it he would have known of Sibyl’s suicide
  • “Unnecessary things are our only necessities”, shows the extravagance of the upper classes
  • “silk embroidered cashmere wool” showing the richness and pomposity of Dorian,
  • “Surely a painted canvas could not alter?” – Dorian’s doubt is a doubting of religion and the supernatural, wanting to trust the new ideas of science
  • “He was afraid of certainty” – a very philosophical viewpoint
  • “As he often remembered afterwards,” – this gives the passage a feeling of reflection, looking back on Dorian’s life, gives the narrator an almost omniscient presence, knowing the past and future.
  • Dorian looks at the altered portrait with “scientific interest”, links to the scientific ideas in ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’
  • “She could still be his wife” – Dorian still thinks that the change is due to his dismissal yet the portrait (like the narrator) is omniscient, it knows that Sibyl is dead.
  • Dorian believes that this portrait would guide him “through life”, the fear of a change in the portrait would be like the “fear of God to us all” – he’s almost idolising the portrait, showing deep blasphemy. He thinks seeing a physical change will be more powerful than the fear of hell that is viewed in the Bible
  • He lurches from one emotion to the other – “wrote a passionate letter to the girl he had loved”
  • When Lord Henry thinks that Dorian would be upset he is only worried that he would tear that “nice curly hair” he possesses – very superficial.
  • “I can’t bear the idea of my soul being hideous” – he now has the physical manifestation of his ugly soul, the portrait
  • The fact that Lord Henry sent the letter by his “own man” shows the urgency of the situation
  • “I was afraid there might be something in it I wouldn’t like” – irony as he wouldn’t like the idea of Sibyl’s death.
  •   Lord Henry is very parental when breaking the news to Dorian, “took both of his hands in his own”
  • “Things like that make a man fashionable in Paris” – shows the loose morals of society
  • Sibyl was obviously desperate as she’d swallowed something in her “dressing-room”
  • Lord Henry quickly changes the subject and suggests that they go to “the Opera” as it’s a “Patti night”, a very shallow way to react to a death
  • “If you had married this girl you would have been wretched” – Lord Henry has a very pessimistic and cynical view on marraige
  • “I must sow poppies in my garden” – Dorian is mourning and this shows that he has some level of conscience at this point, is moral
  • Lord Henry still has very dismissive views on women – “They have wonderfully primitive instincts”
  • Lord Henry could see that Sibyl Vane had no personality of her own, “don’t waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are.” Lord Henry suggests that Dorian remembers her as her parts, and celebrate her through the theatre
  • Dorian is concerned that he may become “haggard, and old, and wrinkled” showing his growing vanity
  • Dorian views Sibyl’s death almost as a romantic thing, “She had often mimicked death on the stage.”
  • “This portrait would be  to him the most magical of mirrors”, believes that his soul will be revealed
  • At the end of the chapter he doesn’t care what happens to the “coloured image on the canvas” as he would be safe from public judgement, however immoral he was.

Chapter 9

  • Basil was worried that Dorian might kill himself too, almost like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – “half afraid that one tragedy might have been followed by another”
  • “Did you go down and see the girl’s mother?” – Basil is very feminine and matriarchal towards Dorian, very moral and almost priestly
  • “as Harry says” Lord Henry’ opinions are slowly coming into Dorian’s mind
  • Dorian quickly changes the subject from Sibyl, “tell me about yourself and what you are painting”, shows that he is cold and hard-headed
  • “Something has changed you completely” – this ironic as it is Basil’s painting that has done exactly that, yet he thinks that it’s “Harry’s influence”
  • “You only taught me to be vain” – this isn’t entirely true, Lord Henry taught him to be vain and the portrait that Basil painted helped reinforce this
  • Dorian is adamant that Sibyl’s suicide (however shocked Basil may be “How fearful”) is one of the “great romantic tragedies”, and then talks about art and the significance of beauty (sounding very like Lord Henry) “I love beautiful things” sounds very shallow and cold
  • Basil wishes to exhibit the portrait and Dorian is very certain that this should never happen, we can see how manipulative he has become (similar to Lord Henry) especially in this quote “if you touch this screen, everything is over between us”
  • Basil explains how his thoughts have been dominated by Dorian and Dorian then wonders whether he would ever be”dominated by the personality of a friend” which seems ironic as his thoughts and ideas have been heavily dominated by Lord Henry’s points of view
  • Basil is referred to as “the painter” again at the end of this chapter, showing his insignificance in Dorian’s eyes
  • Dorian says he would sooner go to Basil if he were in trouble, most likely as he know he can manipulate him
  • Dorian realises that the “portrait must be hidden away” – almost trying to hide his own sins.

Chapter 10

  • Dorian is paranoid about his servant at the beginning of this chapter as he feels that his servant knows what’s going on, “It seemed to him that as the man left the room his eyes wandered in the direction of the screen. Or was that merely his own fancy?”
  • The fabric he uses to cover the painting is a “purple satin coverlet”, purple is the colour of easter in the Catholic Church and thus this could repesent a rebirth, Dorian feels safer with the painting hidden away. It was maybe used as a “pall for the dead” and now it was to be used to wrap the sins of Dorian’s soul.
  • Dorian instructs Lord Henry that “they were to meet at eight-fifteen that evening.” – this shows the control that Dorian now has over Lord Henry
  • The painting is to be sealed in the room where Dorian grew up, and the room is full of childish memories of Dorian’s past and old toys – it’s odd that his immorality and corruption was stored in a place of purity and innocence.
  • Dorian’s interior monologue about the changes that would happen to the portrait are reminiscent of Lord Henry’s grotesque speeches about aging – “The cheeks would become hollow or flaccid”
  • When Dorian finds the article about Sibyl’s death he once again becomes paranoid about his servant and is worried that “he had read it and had begun to suspect something”. Dorian then has to reassure himself, oddly by referring to himself in the third person “Dorian Gray had not killed her.”
  • The little yellow book was “À Rebours” – a novel concentrating on the pursuit of pleasure. Dorian’s thoughts on the book echo the type of writing, he says that the writing was “jewelled” and then talks about the book in an embellished way, such as the metaphors as being like “orchids” and that the “heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages”

Chapter 11

  • Dorian spends many years becoming more and more corrupt, he buys “nine large-paper copies of the first edition” of the yellow book and he had them bound in different colours to suit his “various moods”. This shows his extravagance and obsession with this book.
  • Idea of gothic and supernatural influences in the similarities between the protagonist of the book and Dorian himself  “the whole book seemed to him to contain the story of his own life, written before he had lived it”
  • “Men who talked grossly became silent when Dorian Gray entered the room. There was something in the purity of his face” – this shows how people are deceived by looks and how they put a lot of stake on beauty. Also shows how Dorian’s immorality has gona unnoticed.
  • Dorian obviously enjoyed examining the changes and viewing his evil state – “He would examine with minute care, and sometimes with a monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the wrinkled forehead”. Aging frightened him, yet he enjoyed watching it happen to his alter-ego in the portrait.
  • The double standards of the time are displayed in Dorian’s trip to the “sordid” rooms near the “Docks” where he led a double life “under an assumed name”. Many people did this to pretend to be poor and see how people reacted.
  • The descriptions of Dorian’s doings shows that he seems to be at the heart of Victorian society, he could have been a great influence for good – yet he chose evil.
  • Dorian has parallels with Wilde – that he was rumoured to join the “Roman Catholic Communion” – yet Dorian only liked religion for its flamboyant ritualistic ideas.
  • The passages that follow show Dorian’s total self indulgence in researching, studying and doing anything he pleases.
  • Dorian doesn’t want to be too far from the picture, and gives up the villa that he owns with Lord Henry (he seems to be getting too close to him now and needs space – they spent the winter together in the villa “more than once”).
  • There are lots of scandalous rumours going around about Dorian, he was “nearly blackballed at a West End Club” and “curious stories” abounded. This shows how despite his outward innocent facade people didn’t trust him.
  • The end of the chapter admits the truth: “Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book” – showing the simple facts of his corruption.

Chapter 12

  • The setting is very conventional of gothic literature – “cold and foggy”
  • When Basil reveals that the most “dreadful things are being said” about Dorian, yet Dorian isn’t interested about scandals about himself as they don’t have the “charm of novelty”.
  • Basil’s views seem to be the opposite of Lord Henry’s – “position and wealth are not everything”, and his comment “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face” is very ironic as it would be all over Dorian’s face if it were not for the portrait.
  • Basil later says “to see your soul. But only God can do that.” This is ironic as he caused Dorian to see his own soul, Basil himself is about to see the painting again that caused Dorian’s downfall.
  • Dorian goads Basil and plays God, telling him that he can show him his soul, “You shall see the thing that you fancy only God can see.” – Basil, being very moral, is very shocked at this “blasphemy” as it’s “horrible”
  • Dorian enjoys teasing Basil and tells him to “come upstairs” to see his “diary” – obviously his painting. He has a “curl of contempt in his lips” – almost the opposite of Basil’s trait of biting his lip

Thanks for reading

Jack

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Songs to Conjure Images 4

Once I get to five of these I think I’m officially allowed to call it a series!! If you haven’t read one of these I relate songs very easily to literature, I’ll be reading something and think, “Ooh that’s reflected in this song really well!” and so here are some more videos of songs for you to watch and enjoy.

Racism and Defying the Norm

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This seems far fetched, but in my personal opinion ‘Defying Gravity’ is the anthem for being yourself. In ‘The Help’ Skeeter is a strong independent white woman who chooses to go against her friends and do what she knows is right. To me this rings true with Elphaba, the protagonist in ‘Wicked’. She is a character who was born green and was thus bullied and thought of as wicked, when all she wanted to do was stand up for animal rights and stand against the Wizard, a character who is easily manipulated by the evil Madame Morrible into ruling the nation of Oz. In ‘Defying Gravity’ Glinda and Elphaba say goodbye, as Glinda chooses to stay with the Wizard to protect the people and Elphaba flies off in rebellion. As we can see in the video Glinda is dragged away by guards and if Skeeter had been caught trying to integrate she would most likely be imprisoned too!

Enjoy the song, it’s one of my favourites!! (People in the UK by the way, Wicked is on tour at the moment and it is brilliant, well worth the money – I recommend it whole heartedly!!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QawAJRxdgSg

Life is for the living

In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Lord Henry persuades Dorian that life is worth living when you are young, and that youth is important. Whenever I read this I think of Fiyero from Wicked, a carefree layabout who only wants to live his life while he is young and do what he pleases. Fiyero seems almost corrupt at the beginning of the show, as he seems only to do what he wants. He reminds me slightly of Dorian when he grows more influenced by Lord Henry and lives his life in pursuit of pleasure alone. This song is Fiyero’s principle song, ‘Dancing Through Life’.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

The Preface all the way to Chapter 2!

So here are some notes on ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ from the Preface through to Chapter 2! Hope these help if you’re studying ‘DG’ too!

There will be references to the WHOLE of the book so if you haven’t finished the book and don’t want the ending spoiled then read no further!!

Preface:

  • The preface is basically a retaliation to the critics of the book, with Wilde’s observations on art and the meanings of art.
  • “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim” – This shows immediately that this book was not meant to be about Wilde. Many people suggested that the book was near autobiographical.
  • “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming” – Thus those who claim the book had latent homosexual messages are themselves the ones thinking the ‘corrupt’ thoughts, as they are the ones who noticed the homosexual messages that were ‘not meant to be there’
  • Wilde speaks of the ‘dislike of Realism’ which he suggests is like “the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” Caliban is an ugly and ignorant character from ‘The Tempest’, and thus Caliban would be upset to see how he really looks, just how the people of the 19th century would be upset to see how they really act.
  • Wilde also speaks of the ‘dislike of Romanticism’ which he suggests is like “the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.” This suggests that people disliked Romanticism as they thought it was too much like fantasy, and couldn’t see anything of real life in it, however this was obviously the point of Romantic works.
  • “No artist desires to prove anything” – thus Wilde never intended to offend or insult anyone by the themes of the book that were shocking at the time.
  • “All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.” – Again Wilde shows how the homosexual themes were laid very deep under ‘symbol’ and thus if the critics dug that far down then it’s their own fault if they disliked what they read. The findings of the critics reflects the mind of the the readers not the mind of Wilde, as THEY interpreted it that way, he didn’t present it openly.
  • “All art is quite useless” – art is there to be admired only, no deeper meaning is necessary, reflecting the ideas of the aesthetic movement of the time.

Chapter 1:

  • This chapter opens with artistic artisan imagery, especially of nature: “rich odour of roses”, “light summer wind”, “heavy scent of the lilac”, “more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.” Gives idea of Eden, and thus later on Lord Henry tempts the innocent Dorian out of this heavenly place, and this reflects the fall of man, the first sin, and the tempting snake. Talk of nature seems ironic in a place that is so full of art.
  • “The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.” gives an industrial feel to London, the word “organ” especially giving the idea of machinery.
  • “Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.” This former scandal lends itself almost perfectly to the ending where Basil gets murdered. It is merely assumed that he has disappeared again, just like the last time.
  • “a smile of pleasure passed across his face” – is this a smile of pleasure because of his masterpiece or due to Dorian himself?
  • “You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar.” immediately shows his judging and opinionated nature
  • “No, I won’t send it anywhere.” The painting was painted for himself alone, just like he wants Dorian for himself alone.
  • “thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy, opium-tainted cigarette.” this sentence gives a sense of heaviness and effort to everything.
  • “I have put too much of myself into it.” – Does this phrase also relate to the novel itself? Has Wilde put too much of his own sexuality in the themes of the book? Is the book almost autobiographical in nature? The painting could condemn Basil like the book eventually condemns Wilde.
  • “we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.” – Our lives are in the hands of ‘the gods’, Wilde is almost saying that if he is homosexual then it is God’s fault, not his.
  • “When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them.” This is similar to Sybil later on, who only ever refers to Dorian as “Prince Charming”
  • “the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.” Lord Henry is a very witty and cynical person
  • “I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.” Basil always thinks the best of everyone, Lord Henry is the immoral tempter in the book, yet Basil has nothing bad to say about him.
  • “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.” This could reflect Wilde’s opinions being reflected in the book. The attitude of this passage seems to contradict the preface directly, suggesting that art reveals the artist.
  • “With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized. Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge overdressed dowagers and tedious academicians” – Basil doesn’t seem to like the times he’s living in, making such comments on society.
  • “Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,” appears rude, but Basil thinks his cynicism is a pose
  • “oh, yes, plays the piano–or is it the violin, dear Mr. Gray?” Dorian presented as educated
  • “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.” Seems very shallow in his opinions of people,
  • “My elder brother won’t die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else.” His speech is almost always orientated with the aim to shock.
  • ‘ “Tell me more about Mr. Dorian Gray. How often do you see him?” “Every day. I couldn’t be happy if I didn’t see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me.” ‘ Basil seems obsessed and besotted with Dorian.

Chapter 2

  • “As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann’s “Forest Scenes.” “You must lend me these, Basil,” he cried. “I want to learn them. They are perfectly charming.” “, the fact that Dorian has his back to them causes suspense. The inclusion of the “Forest Scenes” gives a sense of nature and innocence.
  • ” “That entirely depends on how you sit to-day, Dorian.” “Oh, I am tired of sitting, and I don’t want a life-sized portrait of myself,” answered the lad, swinging round on the music-stool in a wilful, petulant manner.” Basil seems like a parent chiding Dorian, and Dorian seems like a sulky child throwing a tantrum.
  • When Dorian sees Lord Henry a “faint blush coloured his cheeks”, giving Dorian a feminine character and showing that he is already slightly attracted to Lord Henry
  • “I promised to go to a club in Whitechapel with her last Tuesday, and I really forgot all about it.” shows that Dorian is essentially good but is weak minded and willed and this will be weak willed.
  • ” “That is very horrid to her, and not very nice to me,” answered Dorian, laughing.” Dorian is shocked but amused by Lord Henry’s quips about Lady Agatha
  • Dorian described like a young Adonis/Narcissus and this shows why he is trusted by many and why he gets away with things: “Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity.”
  • ” “Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?” Lord Henry smiled and looked at Dorian Gray. “Am I to go, Mr. Gray?” he asked. “Oh, please don’t, Lord Henry. I see that Basil is in one of his sulky moods, and I can’t bear him when he sulks. Besides, I want you to tell me why I should not go in for philanthropy.” ” Basil is very protective of Dorian, and Lord Henry knows that he can use Dorian to manipulate Basil. Dorian is already fascinated by Lord Henry.
  • “If Dorian wishes it, of course you must stay. Dorian’s whims are laws to everybody, except himself.” Basil is battling Lord Henry for Dorian’s affection.
  • “He has a very bad influence over all his friends, with the single exception of myself.” Warning Dorian Gray subtly about the influences of Henry, and then as if on cue Henry begins influencing Dorian with a long speech, “Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed.”
  • “People are afraid of themselves, nowadays.” reflects how people are afraid to be themselves, especially if they’re homosexual.
  • Basil is almost always referred to as “the painter” in the rest of this chapter as that is now all he is, Dorian’s affections have been taken by Lord Henry.
  • In that day many people would be Christian, yet Lord Henry talks about the powers of the “brain” – showing his scientific and anti-religious side.
  • “Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them!” This shows how much of an influence Lord Henry has had over Dorian, as his “mere words” have gotten him into a confused stupor, contemplating life and death and all in between.
  • “Why had it been left for a stranger to reveal him to himself? He had known Basil Hallward for months, but the friendship between them had never altered him.” Lord Henry has now shown Dorian that he is homosexual. Dorian wonders why he’s attracted to Lord Henry but not Basil.
  • Henry starts to show Dorian that beauty and youth are the only things worth having, saying it would be “unbecoming” to get sunburnt, and that “youth is the one thing worth having.” He continues to talk to Dorian, persuading him that he needs to live while he has youth: “But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it,”
  • Lord Henry exaggerates the effects of aging to show Dorian how youth is the most vital thing: “Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!”
  • “A furry bee came and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble all over the oval stellated globe of the tiny blossoms.” Very childish language ‘furry bee’ to represent the youthful and innocent nature of Dorian. There are sexual overtones however as the bee is pollinating.
  • When Dorian sees the picture he has a shocking realisation: “Yes, there would be a day when his face would be wrinkled and wizen, his eyes dim and colourless, the grace of his figure broken and deformed. The scarlet would pass away from his lips and the gold steal from his hair. The life that was to make his soul would mar his body. He would become dreadful, hideous, and uncouth.” This description is very like Henry’s over-dramatic interpretation of what aging does, showing how much Dorian has been influenced.
  • Dorian still seems childish: “a mist of tears” and Basil is concerned, ” “Don’t you like it?” cried Hallward at last, stung a little by the lad’s silence,”
  • Dorian expresses how the Dorian in the painting will never be older “than this particular day of June”, this day could have been the summer solstice, a day of magic, which could explain the supernatural element. He states that he “would give everything” for the painting to grow old and himself to stay young forever. He then states “I would give my soul” which seals the deal and is reminiscent of Faustus.
  • Dorian seems to become bitter and jealous of the painting and starts to think that Basil only likes him for his art, “I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your silver Faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose.” Art is immortal and man is not, and Dorian realises this. He grows rather over-dramatic, almost like a hormonal teenager when he states “When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.”
  • Basil blames Henry, ” “This is your doing, Harry,” said the painter bitterly.” and Henry defends himself. Basil has already resigned himself to the fact that Dorian has changed.
  • Basil goes to stab the painting, despite the fact that it’s his masterpiece – this shows how much he loves Dorian. However Dorian realises that there’s life in the painting and stops him, ” “Don’t, Basil, don’t!” he cried. “It would be murder!” “. Dorian is in love with the painting as he is now vain and loves himself.
  • Dorian pours out the tea, a woman’s role in that day and age, showing his feminine nature
  • We can see that Lord Henry is not a loyal person when he discusses cancelling his meal with his old friend, “I have promised to dine at White’s, but it is only with an old friend,”
  • Basil calls the painting the real Dorian, as the painting was painted before Dorian was negatively influenced by Lord Henry. Basil bites his lip, something he does constantly in this chapter as he is worried that Dorian is being stolen from him by Lord Henry. Basil then explains that Dorian and the painting are alike in “appearance” – suggesting that Dorian’s soul has been tainted by Lord Henry’s influence.
  • Basil begs Dorian not to go as he is besotted with him and cannot bear the idea of losing him: “He won’t like you the better for keeping your promises. He always breaks his own. I beg you not to go.” Lord Henry looks on “with an amused smile” as he has caused this argument.
  • When Dorian and Lord Henry leave together a “look of pain” came into Basil’s face, as he has been rejected and has lost Dorian.

This was a long blog post but I hope you got something out of it! I know I did!!

Thanks for reading,

Jack

A variety of things to relate to Dorian Gray

Dandyism

A Dandy is a man who has the belief that good looks, fine clothes and refined language are very important.

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In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Lord Henry is a Dandy, seeming to hold the view that people’s physical appearance are most important – and can somehow define their personality and how they think:

“Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature..”

Lord Henry’s advice and thoughts turn Dorian into a Dandy, caring only for his physical appearance, so much that he could trade his soul to be youthful forever:

“If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

William Morris and the Aesthetics Movement

William Morris was an artist famous for his floral patterns, used especially in wallpaper and curtains etc. He was one of the figures in the Aesthetics Movement, a movement concentrating more on aesthetics (looking good) than social/political themes. In essence it supported art for art’s sake, art to be pretty rather than express a view.   

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This was not only in art, this was in all forms – literature, dance, etc, meaning that many things became meaningless – it’s only meaning was to look good.

In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Dorian’s only concern is to ‘look good’ – and be aesthetic and youthful for as long as possible. As well as this Wilde portrays his opinion of art in the preface. This seems to support the aesthetic movement, saying that “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.” This suggests that the “beautiful things” need no meaning, their beauty is enough without themes or back-stories behind them. Wilde also states that “No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.” – suggesting that there is no need to prove beauty with an overarching social theme etc, it is good enough without it. Wilde seems to be of the impression that good art is “useless” – and that creating art is the only good thing that is useless: “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”

Thanks for reading,

Jack