Aestheticism In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Powerful Essays
The Picture of Dorian Gray & Aestheticism Aestheticism is an art movement that supports the emphasis of aesthetic values rather than that of dominant political and social values. The Aesthetic movement argued that projecting social and political ideology onto literary works was a problem and they were particularly prominent in Europe in the 19th century. When Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was first published in 1890 in ‘Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine’ it was decried as immoral. Wilde, in a revised text a year later included a preface which included an explanation of his philosophy of art. According to Wilde the purpose of art is to have no purpose. In order for us to understand this claim fully we must first consider the moral climate…show more content…
Wilde in the novel insists that those who create art and admire art do this only because of its beauty. Wilde notes that an artist can only be the creator of “beautiful things” and that “there is hope” for artists who “find beautiful meanings” (Wilde, 1) in what they create. The creator and they admirer in this case are linked by their shared love of beauty. This is the prominent ideology of the Aesthetic movement. They believe only in “art for art’s sake”. Wilde’s preface acts as his declaration of aesthetic beliefs. In telling the reader that “there is no such things as a moral or immoral book” (Wilde, 1) Wilde is challenging the idea that art, in this case novels in particular should be critiqued by the messages they convey, but instead should be simply based upon how “well written” or “badly written” they…show more content…
This suggests that the life of an aesthetic without a thought to morality can be destructive. Dorian, by observing his hideous transformation in his portrait is “corrupt without being charming” (Wilde, 1) as he manages to find “ugly meanings in beautiful things” (Wilde, 1). Gray discovers that beneath his youthful appearance lies a sinful man that is capable of murder and blackmail. Dorian however at first denies this discovery. He continues instead in his quest for pleasure and intern allows his soul to disintegrate even further. The portrait of Dorian Gray acts as his moral indicator, but Gray simply disregards it. Dorian instead prefers to curtail his sins and live his life with the absence of morality by locking away the portrait. The memory of this terrible portrait however continues to return to haunt him. This makes Dorian paranoid and he fears that the painting will be discovered and his appearance will be forever tarnished to the world. Dorian eventually sees that “his beauty to him had been but a mask, his youth but a mockery,” (Wilde, 223) and the full weight of his sins begin to become apparent. Dorian however caught up in his vanity, refuses to confess any of his sins. Even after committing the most heinous of acts in murder, Dorian resorts to opium addiction to cure his sole. He wishes to erase the act from his memory rather
Get Access