Essay on The Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde

Essay on The Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde

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Is it worth maintaining an ornately aesthetic life? Is it better to seek a moral lifestyle following society’s moral standards? With ideal appearances and superficial beauty, a decorated life can seem easier and more luxurious than a moral life. Leading a moral life is not as appealing to most people; and is filled with hardships and trouble over “doing the right thing”. One quality cannot be held without losing the other, due to their conflicting natures. While the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray brings out the central question “Is it better to pursue Aesthetics or Morality?” it describes the life of Dorian Gray, who constantly sought to maintain his appearance at the cost of his morals, and answers the question by revealing the consequences of living Mr. Gray’s “beautiful” lifestyle.
In the novel, Oscar Wilde depicts the explosion of aesthetic philosophy in higher English society during the 19th century and showed that the ideas not only reached out and influenced art and artists of the time, but also influenced the lives of many richer English citizens. Aestheticism advocated whatever would give the most happiness, beauty, and luxury in the individual’s life, normally through the tradition of Hedonism, or pleasure-seeking self-indulgence. To the aesthetic English citizen, the ideal life is selfish, beautiful, and is only concerned with the individual living it. Lord Henry Wotton, a principal character in the novel, is a man with “wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories” (Wilde 87). Although Lord Henry claims that he himself is a hedonist, he lives a rather dull life in the story. He is active in civil English society and attends parties, salons, and the theater/opera, but he does not indulge in any low or distastef...


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...hout which would lead to a severe loss of morality. The concept of unrestrained aestheticism, as displayed by Dorian, results in egotism, a lack of guilt, and decay of the logical mind. As the novel asks, “Is it better to pursue Aesthetics or Morality?” it depicts an uncontrollably aesthetic lifestyle, the life of Dorian Gray, and answers the question by revealing the slow decay and eventual demise of Mr. Gray’s life. It is indeed better to maintain a moral life with a conscience filled with guilt for our wrong actions than to have a life of beauty and self-indulgence, filled with nothing but the “meaningless” pleasures of the world around us. (New International Version Bible, Ecclesiastes 2:11).



Works Cited

The New International Version Bible. Michigan: Zondervan, 1998. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New Jersey: Everbind Books, 1890. Print.

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