Biography of Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray as Symbolic Representation of Wilde's Personality
1.Ellmann, Richard (1988). Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books. 1988
2.Holland, Merlin. De Profundis. 2000
3.Keyes, Ralph. Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde: A Treasury of Quotations, Anecdotes, and Repartee. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996
4.Leach, Maria, Ed. The Importance of Being a Wit: The Insults of Oscar Wilde. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1997
5.Mendelshon, Daniel; The Two Oscar Wildes, New York Review of Books, Volume 49, Number 15 • 10 October 2002
6.Pritchard, David. Oscar Wilde. New Lanark, Scotland: David Dale House, 2001
7.Wilde, Oscar. Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins, 2003
8.Wilde, Oscar. The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. Holland, Merlin & Rupert Hart-Davis, Ed. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000
Показать всеWilde, Oscar. The Letters of Oscar Wilde. Ed. R. Hart-Davis. London: Hart-Davis, 1962
10.Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Isobel Murray. London: Oxford University Press, 1974
11.Wilde, Oscar. The Soul of Man Under Socialism. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Collins. 1988 Скрыть
A year whose days are long.6
After his release from prison Wilde lived in France. He attempted to write a play in his pretrial style, but this effort failed. He spent the rest of his life wandering Europe, staying with friends and living in cheap hotels. He died of cerebral meningitis in a cheap Paris hotel on November 30, 1900, penniless.
Numerous books and articles have been written on Oscar Wilde, reflecting on the life and contributions of this unconventional author since his death over a hundred years ago. A celebrity in his own time, Wilde’s indelible influence will remain as strong as ever and keep audiences captivated in perpetuity.
Dorian Gray as Symbolic Representation of Wilde's Personality
All that I desire to point out is the general principle that life imitates art far mo
Показать всеre than art imitates life.
The only novel of Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray can be defined as a symbolic representation of a dialectic between two aspects of Wilde's personality. Dorian is an archetypal image by which both aspects are fascinated. This suggests that his behaviour symbolizes Wilde's unconscious (i.e. unacknowledged) attitudes. Dorian is characterized by his evasiveness and his obsession with objets d'art. For example, when Basil comes to console him about Sibyl's death, he is unwilling to discuss the matter. He does not want to admit the possibility that his behaviour was reprehensible. He tells his friend: “If one doesn't talk about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as Harry says, that gives reality to things”.7 Later, after murdering Basil, he again seeks to avoid acknowledging what he has done: “He felt that the secret of the whole thing was not to realize the situation”.8
Dorian escapes from every unpleasant realization by turning his attention to other things. Unwilling to admit that his actions have moral implications, he seeks refuge in art. On hearing of Sibyl's death, he accepts an invitation, for that very evening, to go to the opera. He learns to see life only from an aesthetic perspective. He reflects:
Form is absolutely essential to it. It should have the dignity of a ceremony, as well as its unreality, and should combine the insincere character of a romantic play with the wit and beauty that makes such plays delightful to us.9
The consequence of this attitude is that he finds himself increasingly “stepping outside” his experiences in order to observe them from a distance. Instead of living his experiences more intensely, he finds himself observing them, as in a theatre. He confesses to Lord Henry, with reference to Sibyl's suicide:
“I must admit that this thing that has happened does not affect me as it should. It seems to me simply like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play. It has all the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy in which I took a great part, but by which I have not been wounded”.10
He tells Basil: “To become the spectator of one's own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life”.11 Some eighteen years later, Dorian no longer even feels part of his own drama. He has become only a spectator, and what he sees is a projection of the grotesque shape that his own personality has assumed. He coldly watches Basil as the latter reacts to his now hideously deformed painting:
The young man was leaning against the mantelshelf, watching him with that strange expression that one sees on the faces of those who are absorbed in a play when some great artist is acting. There was neither real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in his eyes.12
He is no longer watching himself only. He is watching another person's reaction to the callousness and cruelty which he does not want to recognize in himself.
Throughout the novel, the mechanism whereby involvement is translated into aesthetic perspective is associated with fear. For example, when Dorian first meets Lord Henry, to distract him from the latter's words, he turns to observe a bee:
He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.13
He has been granted the means to enjoy life to the full, but — paradoxically — he is afraid of life. Consequently, he seeks refuge in a pseudo-aestheticism. For example, when he shows Alan Campbell into the room where Basil's murdered body lies, he is suddenly afraid that he will have to see the consequence of what he has done: “There he stopped, feeling afraid to turn round, and his eyes fixed themselves on the intricacies of the pattern before him”.14 His subsequent passion for objets d'art, so lengthily described in chapter XI, is simply a way “by which he could escape, for a season, from the fear that seemed to him at times to be almost too great to be borne”.15 He is afraid of that side of his own personality for which he is not prepared to accept responsiblity.
Dorian is the Wildean dandy par excellence. He is what both Basil and Lord Henry would like to be. It is worth noting that Wilde wrote of the characters in his only novel: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps”.16 Dorian personifies a conflict between Dionysian and Apollonian elements particularly fascinating to his creator. He has a passion for “the colour, the beauty, the joy of life”, but avoids becoming involved with any experience for fear of it causing him possible pain. Basil's and Lord Henry's fascination with him represents Wilde's obsession with a young dandy whose evasiveness and pseudo-aestheticism symbolize his own unconscious fears.
For Wilde, the purpose of art was to guide life, and to do this it must concern itself only with the pursuit of beauty, disdaining morality. Just as Dorian Gray's portrait allows its owner to escape the corporeal ravages of his hedonism, and Miss Prism mistakes a baby for a book in The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde sought to juxtapose the beauty he saw in art onto daily life.17 This was a practical as well as philosophical project: in Oxford he surrounded himself with blue china and lilies; in America he lectured on interior design; in London he paraded down Piccadilly carrying a lily, long hair flowing.
In Victorian society, Wilde was a colourful agent provocateur: his art, like his paradoxes, sought to subvert as well as sparkle. His own estimation of himself was of one who “stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age”.18 Wilde believed that the artist should hold forth higher ideals, and that pleasure and beauty would replace utilitarian ethics. When asked, in America, if he had really promenaded in such a way in London, Wilde replied, “It's not whether I did it or not that's important, but whether people believed I did it”. Ellmann argues that Wilde's poem Hélas was a sincere, though flamboyant, attempt to explain the dichotomies he saw in himself:19
To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play
Wilde's deepest concern was with man's soul; when he complained of poverty in “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” it was not the material well-being of the poor that distressed him, but their lack of enlightenment. He adopted Jesus of Nazareth as a hero, calling Christ the supreme individualist. For much of his life, Wilde advocated socialism, which he argued “will be of value simply because it will lead to individualism”.20 He also had a strong libertarian streak as shown in his poem Sonnet to Liberty and, subsequent to reading the works of Peter Kropotkin (whom he described as “a man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ which seems coming out of Russia”) he declared himself an anarchist.
Wilde was concerned about the effect of moralising on art: following his vision of art as separate from life, he thought that the government most amenable to artists was no government at all. This point of view did not align him with the Fabians, the leading intellectual socialists of the time. In The Soul of Man Under Socialism he presents a vision of society where mechanisation has freed human effort from the burden of necessity – effort can be expended entirely on artistic creation.
Wilde became one of the most prominent personalities of his day. Though he was sometimes ridiculed for them, his paradoxes and witty sayings were quoted on all sides.
1. Ellmann, Richard (1988). Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books. 1988
2. Holland, Merlin. De Profundis. 2000
3. Keyes, Ralph. Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde: A Treasury of Quotations, Anecdotes, and Repartee. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996
4. Leach, Maria, Ed. The Importance of Being a Wit: The Insults of Oscar Wilde. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1997 Скрыть
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