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The Picture of Dorian Gray Persuasive

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The Picture of Dorian Gray argues the idea of life. Lord Henry explains to Dorian that he should be an observer of life, like a work of art. On one hand, Dorian must fully experience life but also must be detached from it like a spectator. Lord Henry makes it seem that this detachment is essential to him avoiding the pain of the life. The other idea of life represented in the story is to fully accept life for what it is and recognize the ugliness of sin. Dorian’s innocent mind is corrupted by the influence of Lord Henry and this influence leads to a long downward spiral for Dorian throughout the book.

Dorian contemplates both aspects of living life and by the end, finally figures out the reality of life. In the Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde portrays through the painting the contrast between seeing life as a piece of art, where a person is completely detached, or embracing the ugliness of life, which includes selfishness, vanity, and degeneration. Lord Henry raises the idea of experiencing life as a person would a piece of art. To live this way becomes very complicated because Lord Henry explains that the person must be completely involved and put his whole being into it but at the same time remain a spectator.

Art becomes a complete example of this because a viewer examining a painting must totally put himself into the painting to reach its full meaning but in the end, he is only just viewing the painting and is not in reality the painting. ‘To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances” (Wilde 22). Lord Henry explains to Dorian in this quote that beauty is of utmost importance in society and Dorian needs to hold onto his beauty as long as he can. Lord Henry also emphasizes that all people look at appearances and if they don’t then they are shallow.

Lord Henry’s notion of people’s observances of appearance relates back to the notion of living life like it’s a piece of art because people admire the appearance of beauty as spectators. “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to be old” (Wilde 25). Dorian begins to believe in this concept and that is what leads Dorian into wishing that his self-portrait would take the burden of life and not his body. Dorian thinks that eternal beauty will always bring him happiness because he wants to be a piece of art that never fades.

Dorian begins to treat his life like a work of art after meeting Lord Henry and that is what leads to his character downfall. Becoming detached from life leads a person into a life of immoral behaviors because the person does not need to take life seriously. Lord Henry makes it clear that the purpose of life is not to display one’s moral attitudes but instead just observe and acknowledge beauty. By the end of the book, Dorian finally learns that he must embrace the ugliness of age and stop living Lord Henry’s disillusion of life, where it is only a piece of art.

Ugliness that had once been hateful to him because it made things real, became dear to him now” (Wilde 156). This realization occurs on Dorian’s ride to the opium den after he has killed his longtime friend Basil. Dorian travels to the opium den so that he can get away from the world because life has become too much for him, and Dorian has become someone he never wanted to be. Dorian explains that “the coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of disordered life, the very vileness of thief and outcast, were more vivid, in their intense actuality of impression, than all the gracious shapes of Art” (Wilde 156-157).

Dorian finally understands the error in Lord Henry’s analysis on life and he comprehends the corruption in society. Reality is dawning on Dorian and his past actions are catching up with him. Dorian realizes that he has lived an immoral life but he cannot just push it away like Lord Henry says he must do. Dorian finally tries to end all the ugliness he sees in the painting by stabbing it but since the portrait is Dorian’s soul, he only ends up killing himself. Dorian realized too late that he cannot run away from his actions, and his conscience will always catch up with him.

The ugliness of age will catch up with everyone but how a person lives his life will determine whether he can handle growing older or not. The painting displays the main reality of life. Even though Dorian does not receive the fatigue of life and corruption, his portrait does, so the painting displays the truth. Dorian’s guilty mind traps itself into the painting so the portrait displays the moral art of the story. “That in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of a hypocrite” (Wilde 186). The portrait works as a mirror to Dorian because when he looks at the painting, the portrait reflects back his sins.

Dorian tries to run from this painting because the painting truly displays his moral decay. Dorian locks the painting in one of his rooms with a cover over it but since the painting takes the form of his conscience, it always draws him back to the painting. Finally by the end of the story, Dorian decides to destroy the painting with the very tool he used to kill Basil. “Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage” (Wilde 188). Interestingly when Dorian stabs the painting he really is killing himself because the painting is his conscience and his true self.

In the end the painting turns back to its original self, and Dorian ends up dead an old man who has the strains of living an immoral life all over his face. Many of Dorian’s attitudes lead to his demise as a moral character and the first characteristic was his selfishness. Throughout the book, Dorian exemplified the attitude of he is the only one that matters. The utmost example of this idea of selfishness is when Dorian decides he is no longer in love with Sibyl because of her bad acting. “You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity” (Wilde 75).

Dorian only loved Sibyl as a piece of art and once that was gone, Dorian wanted nothing to do with her. This selfishness stems from Lord Henry’s explanation on how to live life like a work of art. Sibyl allows Dorian to live from Lord Henry’s motto but when she is no longer able to act, Dorian has lost all interest in her. Dorian’s selfishness with Sibyl leads to Sibyl committing suicide. Even when Sybil does take her own life, Dorian only sees it as her last great work of art. “She had atoned for everything, by the sacrifice she had made of her life.

He would not think any more of what she had made him go through, on that horrible at the theatre. When he thought of her, it would be as a tragic figure sent on to the world’s stage to show the supreme reality of Love” (Wilde 90). This quote explains how at that moment Dorian only views life as a work of art and he appreciates that Sibyl performed the perfect piece of artistry by ending her own life. Dorian even forgives her for making him sit through that horrible play. This just proves that Dorian is truly selfish and will only care about what effects him directly. A main piece of this book is the reappearing theme of vanity.

Lord Henry is the first to bring up the notion that outer beauty is the only characteristic that should matter in life. Lord Henry corrupts the mind of Dorian Gray by explaining to him how beautiful he truly is and this will be his best years. Lord Henry explains that once the beauty fades Dorian’s life is basically over. “When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you” (Wilde 22). Dorian takes this advice to heart and makes a commitment to solely live off looks and that is why he wishes to stay beautiful forever.

Throughout the book, Dorian gives little thought to all the immoral actions he commits because when he sees himself, he still sees a young, beautiful man. Lord Henry does not even believe that Dorian can commit any wrongs because Dorian’s beauty makes him look innocent. Dorian’s motivation throughout the novel has been vanity. Dorian’s most cherished possession is beauty and in consequence, vanity becomes his downfall. “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors” (Wilde preface). Dorian sees himself in art, and admires himself like a beautiful painting.

The tale of Narcissus is reflected in this novel because Dorian falls in love with his own portrait and it leads to his eventual demise. “Once, in boyish mockery of Narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those painted lips that now smiled so cruelly at him” (Wilde 90-91). Dorian never realizes that the painting is his true form and represents how truly beautiful he is, so by the end of the novel, he had lost all his beauty because of his immoral actions. Throughout the novel, Dorian’s major conflict is the fight against degeneration.

After speaking with Lord Henry, in the beginning of the novel, Dorian craved to never grow old and keep his beauty. He prayed that his self-portrait would take his place in the life process of degeneration and that is exactly what happened. Physical degeneration is not the only form of degeneration in this novel. Dorian Gray degenerates morally as well. By not having to pay for the consequences of performing debased acts, Dorian’s soul degenerates into the most corrupt part of his being. Dorian eventually realizes that when he does crooked actions, his portrait begins to change.

The first instance of a change is after Sybil commits suicide. Dorian’s mouth in the painting turns into a sneer. Dorian pitied the portrait because he knew it would become “a monstrous and loathsome thing, to be hidden away in a locked room, to be shut out from the sunlight” (Wilde 91). This monstrous and loathsome thing is also his soul. Dorian wants to become detached from his conscience so that Dorian may do what he enjoys without worrying about the consequences. The novel proves the notion of detaching oneself from his conscience to be impossible and that degeneration is bound to happen to everyone.

Living life as if it were a piece of art seems ideal because it would be impossible for a person to get hurt by love or be responsible for his actions. But as a reader can see in The Picture of Dorian Gray, this lifestyle is not a reality. Every person is born with a conscience and there is no way of getting rid or ignoring it. Dorian tried to ignore his conscience, and it led to his eventual suicide. The ugliness of life may seem like something a person wouldn’t want to live with but in life, there is even more beauty.

In order to fully experience life, a person must embrace the good and the bad because in the end, the person will experience true joy. Selfishness, vanity, and degeneration are facts of life, and a person will always experience them. Becoming detached from reality is not advisable because the person misses out on everything great in the world like love, friendship, and thoughtfulness. Lord Henry emphasizes living life for the beauty of art but that is just unrealistic because it is impossible to live and not experience the ugly with the beauty.

Read an analysis of one of the greatest opuses in American Literature “Atlas Shrugged” – Anti-Utopia of Expanded Consciousness by A. Rand

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