A Study of Art and Aestheticism in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

University essay from Växjö universitet/Institutionen för humaniora

Abstract: My twofold aim with this essay is, firstly, to examine the ideas about art expressed in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by the Victorian author Oscar Wilde. Secondly, I analyse how Oscar Wilde has implemented the philosophy of aestheticism throughout his novel. I achieve this by discussing the novel from the perspectives of the arts of painting, acting and literature. I examine the ideas expressed through the three main characters Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton. I give occurrences of alliteration, epigrams and theatrical traits of the novel as examples of how the novel in itself is a beautiful work of art. With this essay I wish to highlight the need for all types of art mentioned in The Picture of Dorian Gray to be included in any discussion about art in the novel. My thesis statement is that the philosophy of aestheticism is promoted throughout the novel. This philosophy states that art should only be seen as something beautiful. Art should not be expected to teach its audience any moral lessons. The over-all conclusion is that it is indeed the philosophy of aestheticism that is promoted in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the ideal of male beauty in particular.

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