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Literary Criticism of Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the most tantalizing books by Oscar Wilde. The literary criticism in the novel is evident through the protagonist, the portrait and the development of the plot. The book integrates some of the most common aspects of life where some actions taken by human beings could lead to destruction. In the story, Wilde depicts a situation where everyone is almost doomed to destruction. In his development, he brings into focus the world of Dorian Gray where his thoughts are criticized as they are said to be monstrous (Wilde 28). This type of thoughts is facilitated by law and temptations as depicted by Lord Henry who is a manipulative character in the novel. In altering the portrait of Wilde, Dorian achieves the delight within himself. He views other people to be smitten by blood, evil vices as well as weariness. Wilde provides a vivid criticism about the portrait (Wilde 14). At the beginning, Basil Hallward who was responsible for painting the portrait of the Dorian Gray feels that his soul definitely lies in that portrait and its beauty. However, at the end, he sees that the portrait has the eyes of the devil. This represents the monstrous thought of Dorian.

Dorian and the portrait

Dorian is the protagonist of the novel. He plays a great role in enhancing the development of the play. The Dorian portrait acts as the driving force in the entire novel as it is associated with him. He carefully kept it in secret for a long time. This was his secret. Therefore, when Hallward uncovered the secret behind the portrait, Dorian killed him. This marks the beginning of series of murders committed by Dorian. Wilde describes the Dorian portrait as “the living Dorian still looking beautiful, untainted picture that he loves. The picture has gone rotten at the core” (Wilde 26). Hallward falls in love with the portrait as he describes its magnificence. Dorian is callous about Sibyl decision to leave acting for his love. He discourages her telling her that without acting she would be nothing (Briggs 59). Sibyl is greatly shocked. This precipitates her stupid decision of committing suicide.

Previously, Hallward feared his own painting of Dorian. He states, “I have shown the secret, the secret of my own soul” (Wilde 78). Dorian is angry as Hallward has shown what he didn’t dare to speak. The result is that a knife is taken from the canvas and is used to kill the painter. Through criticism, hypocrisy is also seen in the Dorian`s life. He pretends to be good until Hallward reveals his true identity.  The result is that he starts to kill everyone who is close to him. Wilde states that he wore a mask of goodness. He tried a self denial. However, he could not hold the secret for a long time as he kills himself because he feels guilty.

Dorian has been playing with other people’s lives for a long time. He feels pride when he leaves a village girl without harming her. Lord Henry is aware of his actions and decides to tease him with a question, “How do you know that Hefty isn’t floating at the present moment in some star lit mill pond, with lovely water lilies around her like Ophelia” (Wilde 16). Literary, Wilde shows that Lord Henry was aware of Dorian actions and decided to test his intention. Later he discovered his conscience. He resents his actions as he comes to reality about his earlier actions. The deep resentment is seen as his tears fall on the painting while holding the knife used to stab Hallward. Dorian projects his regained conscience to the portrait (Brooks 17). At this point, he regains his senses. He is determined to “kill this monstrous soul life”. He decides to kill his “loathsome and corrupted soul”. Thus, he dies. Despite that fact he caused the death of many people, he feels guilty and that is why he commits suicide at the end. He does not feel justified to live as he is haunted by his earlier actions.

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