The novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde shows the life of three men who are affected by art in the Victorian society. In Victorian times men were expected to provide for himself and his family, accumulate wealth, exemplify good morals and prove his masculinity. If a man did not show one of these qualities in the Victorian time his masculinity would be questioned. In the novel these men show three different sides to masculinity. Each character finds himself unhappy with the role he is forced to play in order to prove his masculinity. For them it seems in order to be successful or achieve happiness they must push past the gender roles society has placed on them. Basil Hallward represents the artist, Dorian Gray represents the conceited young man concerned with his own pleasures, and Lord Henry Wotton represents an aristocrat in Victorian society; which were all typical roles that men played during the Victorian era. Their characters in the novel represent typical masculine gender roles in Victorian society, that is until they are all come in contact with the portrait of Dorian Gray. It seems as if their perspective on life changes which allows them to question what they want to do with their lives. While questioning their lives, the topic of pushing and being confined to their gender roles seems to come into play.
Lord Henry Wotton’s character exemplifies the typical aristocratic masculine role. With the status as an aristocrat, society rules that Lord Henry must have also have a wife and family to keep up with his status. Belonging to the higher-class because of his wealth and title always expresses his unasked for opinions on the meaning of life, the human quest for pleasure and different...
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...ing to chill or intelligence.” (6-7). Overall this means that Dorian’s beauty puts him at obligation for society, they would constantly judge him and as a man he would have to uphold righteous morals. This is the exact opposite of what Dorian does as he becomes hedonistic, which means involved and devoted into seeking and striving the greatest pleasures of life.
These three men symbolise three different types of masculinity during the Victorian era because of a portrait that affected their identities to society. While admiring the portrait it is easy to see that they all feel some level of confinement because of the gender roles placed on them by society. Though is it shown in different ways the idea of obligation to society seems to be the ultimate setback for these men that really want to express themselves without being defined by society’s rules of masculinity.
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