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How Is the Theme of Superiority of Youth and Beauty Depicted in The Picture of Dorian Gray?
Any Obsession Has Its End
Fear of an aging process seems to disturb humans at all times. It is not a secret that nowadays, a beauty industry is a huge business field which constantly fabricates new products for reserving a youth and beauty of people. It appears that they become so much accustomed to their appearances that when they get along in years, a desire to stop this process of changing occurs. Since this obsession with the youth is common for many people, it has also been documented in literary samples. For instance, a novel The Picture of Dorian Gray written by Oscar Wilde. The writer tells the story of a man who wants by all means to save his gorgeous appearance. However, this attempt turns out to be impossible. Although Dorian prefers his youth and beauty to dominate over a natural course of life, he eventually has to surrender to eternal mortality of human beings.
Every period of life is beautiful by opportunities that it provides. In such a way, they all had to be taken timely and used appropriately. Nevertheless, it seems that people are afraid of changes and get easily fixated on something that preoccupies their minds — for example, the youth and beauty which define an external condition of subjects. Since it is the most evident part, it is within sight all the time. As a result, it is rather easy to believe that appearances are the main issues that define things. When people have nothing to hold on to, they hang on to their looks as to the most valuable possessions. As Wilde wrote, the book is about his contemporaries who “…speak to the importance of beauty espoused by the Aesthetic movement” (Baldwin 14). In it, the novel, Dorian is described to be an extremely handsome man. However, he does not realize the power of his beauty until Lord Henry tells him about it.
Specifically, the character has an idea that “there are only a few years in which one can really live and enjoy completely” (Lourido 12). In such a manner, Dorian creates an idea that he has to make the most of his appearance. When his portrait is ready, the man understands that one day, his personal beauty will fade away but remains the same only in the picture. As he says, “…If it was only the other way! If it was I, who were to be always young and the picture that was to grow old! For this—for this—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!” (Wilde 42). Dorian is afraid to lose his greatest power so, and he is ready to do everything to conserve it. He begins to look at his appearance as at an artistic object being distracted by this fear to lose it (Sherman 51). The only fact that the appearance is mortal not just makes the youth and beauty valuable but also pushes to be obsessed with them.
It is worth noting that a mania, in general, is an unhealthy desire to keep something as it is without allowing it to change. This means that the object of favor is important in its certain form. As for the significance of the youth, it boils down to the fact that when it is beautiful, it is socially accepted, important, and acknowledged. It turns out that it is even better to die young. This can be illustrated with the case of an actress Sibyl Vane. Dorian likes her particularly for her ability to die on stage every night but becomes alive backstage afterward. Experts admit that the girl is opposition to Grey since she embodies a peaceful, innocent beauty (Murray). According to Lord Henry, “The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died” (Wilde 119). It is due to plenty of figures she has to play. The one thing that dies about Sibyl is her youth. The actress is remembered to be beautiful. Being dead, she has no more responsibilities. This is another reason why Dorian strives to be always young. At a tender age, it is socially acceptable to make mistakes and be wild since people only enjoy the process of living. The future, as well as the consequences of their actions, seem to be far away. This desire to be free is superior, and since it correlates with the youth, they both grow their importance.
However, as was stated before, life consists of periods. Due to the fact that human beings make an important part of the life itself, they participate in its seasons. When they try to hold on to a particular phase of their existence, they merely lose all others. Everything in the world is based on oppositions. Specifically, the mortality is a contrast to the birth. At that rate, the external beauty and youth fittingly have to be followed by the senility and twilight years. This is natural and, consequently, right.
For this reason, the mortality is also just. The beauty of art is a human creation while the beauty of people is the product of nature. Since individuals have the power over things they produce, nature has its force over humans. In such a manner, the mortality has the right to destroy the youth and beauty, and it should do that to keep a life balance. For instance, Dorian eventually becomes tired of his vicious existence and tries to destroy the portrait which takes his adulting. As Greg Buzwell admits:
Dorian’s ultimate failure to live up to Lord Henry’s ideals is due to his inability to escape his conscience as depicted in the portrait. By attempting to destroy the painting, and thus free himself from the constant reminder of his own guilt he, ultimately, manages only to destroy himself (Buzwell).
The death of Dorian shows that he cannot endure an actualization of his desire because it contradicts with the natural stream of events.
Ultimately, Wilde shows in his novel that even when people do not want to obey social standards because of their desires to be exceptional, there are forces which they cannot overcome. No matter how powerful humans think they are, they will all be subjected to death. External beauty is changeable, and it can never define its owner better than a forever flourishing glory of his actions, intentions, and heart.
Baldwin, Stanley P. CliffsNotes on Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Cliffs Notes. Lincoln, NE. 2000.
Buzwell, Greg. “The Picture of Dorian Gray: art, ethics and the artist.” British Library. Web. 25 Dec. 2017. www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-picture-of-dorian-gray-art-ethics-and-the-artist
Lourido, María Villar. “Research study on the novel: the Picture of Dorian Gray.” Universidade de Coruna. Web. 25 Dec. 2017. ruc.udc.es/dspace/bitstream/handle/2183/11738/VillarLourido_Maria_TFG_2013.pdf;sequence=5
Murray, Isobel. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 1998.
Sherman, Jesse R. “Dorian Gray the Escape Artist.” bu.edu. Web. 25 Dec. 2017. www.bu.edu/writingprogram/files/2010/08/Sherman0910.pdf
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. planetpublish.com. Web. 25 Dec. 2017. www.planetpublish.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray_NT.pdf