The theme of the cult of beauty and pleasure is a significant element in Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. This essay will explore the importance of this theme in the novel and its impact on the characters and the overall narrative.
The cult of beauty and pleasure is portrayed as a powerful force that corrupts Dorian Gray, the protagonist of the novel. Dorian's obsession with beauty and youth is sparked by his viewing of a portrait painted by Basil Hallward, and his desire to remain as youthful and beautiful as the portrait forever. This desire sets off a chain of events that leads Dorian down a path of hedonism and excess where he indulges in all forms of vices and sins.
Lord Henry Wotton, a character who advocates for hedonism and aestheticism, enables Dorian's pursuit of beauty and pleasure. Lord Henry encourages Dorian to pursue his desires and live a life without moral constraints, telling him that "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." Lord Henry's influence on Dorian is significant, as he convinces Dorian that his pursuit of beauty and pleasure is the only way to truly live life to the fullest.
As Dorian becomes more consumed with beauty and pleasure, he becomes involved with a young actress named Sibyl Vane, whom he eventually abandons when she fails to live up to his idealized image of beauty and perfection. Dorian's cruel treatment of Sibyl leads to her tragic death, but he remains indifferent to the consequences of his actions.
The cult of beauty and pleasure also affects other characters in the novel, including Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton. Basil, the artist who painted Dorian's portrait, becomes increasingly disturbed by the changes he sees in Dorian and eventually confronts him about his lifestyle. Lord Henry, on the other hand, continues to advocate for his philosophy of hedonism and aestheticism, despite his growing disillusionment with Dorian's behavior.
The cult of beauty and pleasure ultimately leads to Dorian's downfall. As he becomes more consumed with vices, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, reflecting the ugliness of his soul. Dorian's obsession with beauty and youth leads him to commit a series of heinous crimes, including the murder of his friend Basil Hallward. In the end, Dorian realizes the true horror of his situation, but it is too late to save himself.
In conclusion, the cult of beauty and pleasure is a crucial theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray and is presented as a potent force that corrupts the characters and drives the narrative. The novel serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession and excess, and the consequences of living a life without moral constraints. The cult of beauty and pleasure may be appealing, but as The Picture of Dorian Gray illustrates, it ultimately leads to destruction.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below