The Pupil Exceeds the Master: The Authentic Dandy within The Portrait of Dorian Gray

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Within The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde depicts two characters that follow the philosophy of Walter Pater. These two characters are Dorian Gray and Henry Wotton. They both embody Pater’s ideal of placing as much enjoyment in one’s short life as possible. While Dorian learns of Pater’s philosophy from Henry he soon exceeds his teacher and becomes invested within the philosophy of living life to the fullest. Dorian exceeds Henry in Pater’s philosophy through his active experimentation and desire for beauty, but Dorian fails to live up to all of Pater’s expectations due to his inability to separate morality for art. Through the novel Henry’s conversations with Dorian and Basil Hallward depict him as an invested disciple of Pater. Henry’s insight into to Pater’s philosophy can best be seen when he states that, “the only horrible thing in this world is ennui” or boredom (Wilde 220). Henry echoes Pater’s distaste for the formation of habits and not having new experiences that bring the individual out of their daily rut. Henry is the one who advises Dorian to live his life to fullest and to appreciate art and beauty, but the reader is not privy to Henry’s private life or his internal thoughts. While Henry accurately represents Pater’s ideals through his speech the reader cannot assume that he also enacts them in his daily life. The reader is reminded of their lack of insight into Henry’s character when Basil continually states “you don’t mean a single word of all that, Harry” (200). Basil is a close friend to Henry and from the beginning of the novel Basil is not blind to flaws of Henry’s character. In fact, he is fearful that Henry’s influence will corrupt Dorian. Due to the readers disconnect to Henry’s character the words of ... ... middle of paper ... ...s to live and experience as much as you can in the short time you are allotted. He shows how art can help an individual experience moments of exhilaration, but he also warns that one should connect to the innate beauty of art rather than impose their own morality into art. Though Dorian Gray fails to separate his own morality from art he is the character that most accurately illustrates Pater’s philosophy. Henry does illustrate the ideals of Pater’s philosophy through his dialogue, but the reader must not ignore Basil’s firm belief against Henry’s dedication to the words that he preaches. As Dorian embodies the ideals of Pater he also shows the dangerous side of Pater’s philosophy. Pater’s philosophy is not naturally corrupt, but when Dorian chooses to ignore morality through the murder of Basil he shows the wicked extremes to which Pater’s philosophy can be taken.

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