Social Darwinism In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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Art is like that of a peacock’s tail, an extravagant display of beauty in an attempt to meet societal expectations. Yet, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray questions whether art is an expendable additive to humankind or if it has become the basis for human morality. Such a consideration draws its roots in the theory of Social Darwinism, an idea proposed by Herbert Spencer. Social Darwinism asserts that society is governed by the same laws of evolution that Charles Darwin observed in animals – that is, those who flourish are justified as being naturally fit for society, while the weak are intended to perish (Britannica). Wilde utilizes artistic forms to suggest the upper class’s obsession with materialism in order to critique their disregard for moral depravity. Throughout the novel, Wilde utilizes Basil’s portrait of Dorian Gray, Sybil’s acting, and Dorian’s obsessions to combat the usage of Social Darwinism to justify the…show more content…
In mockery of the upper class, Wilde presents the argument that unconventional ideas must take root within the lower class, people who choose lived their lives as themselves, to possess any form of legitimacy. Those in the upper class, despite their capabilities to realize their desires, are far too enamored by materialism to pursue truth. However, the problem arises that the lower class is tainted with the pursuit of social mobility rather than contentment with their current status. Nonetheless, the environment of a lower-class family and its influence in a character such as Sybil clearly allows for a more definite understanding of truth than that of Dorian. Yet, the former is marred by the influence of the latter. Likewise, the phoniness of upper society will inevitably effuse into that of the lower
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