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Narcissism

Satisfactory Essays
In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde compiles a deadly combination of narcissistic and vain qualities into the title character, Dorian Gray. In a similar manner, John William Waterhouse depicts the aptly-named Narcissus as obsessed with his reflection in his painting Echo and Narcissus. These two characters may come from different places and different eras, but their mental and emotional similarities are striking. Captivated with the idea of being young forever, Dorian Gray falls in love with himself, leaving the woman who loves him behind just as Narcissus did to Echo. Just as Narcissus stole Echo’s heart and broke it, Dorian Gray ruins Sybil Vane’s life and leads her to an untimely death. Influenced by Lord Henry Wotton’s advice on not being young forever and pressured by Basil’s perfect painting of him, Dorian Gray quickly begins to look at life through a different lens. He stumbles upon a theater in a London slum and by extension upon a beautiful young actress— Sybil Vane. He courts her and she is smitten with him instantly. Their relationship escalates quickly, so much so that Dorian Gray proposes to Sybil. As they are engaged, Sybil is unable to contain her love for Dorian. Her newfound passion leaves her unable to assume other characters on the stage, and as a result her talent diminishes. Disgusted at a terrible performance from Sybil after their proposal, Dorian berates her. Angrily, he tells her: “You have killed my love,” (Wilde 88). Sybil is heartbroken and all of a sudden her life feels meaningless. She is unable to cope with so before Dorian can reconcile with her, she commits suicide. Dorian is speechless and shocked at first, however Lord Henry convinces him that she was selfish to kill herself. H... ... middle of paper ... ...rd Henry would appreciate Waterhouse’s painting for its honesty and self-appreciation it depicts. Lord Henry and especially Dorian would appreciate the fact that Narcissus is admiring himself— seeing as the two men admire themselves quite often. The painting is definitely true to the Aesthetic movement at the time. The similarities between Dorian Gray and Narcissus are innumerable. For one, both of them leave the women they love (Sybil and Echo, respectively) for themselves. They become engrossed with the ideas of beauty and immortality and, as a result, disregard the world around them. In the novel, Sybil actually dies, whereas in the painting the nature around Echo dies. Overall, through their selfishness, deceit, and violence, both Dorian Gray and Narcissus become so obsessed with themselves that they lose touch with the real world and hurt others around them.
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