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Oscar Wilde "The picture of Dorian Gray"
HE S A E LI GUIS IC U IVERSI Y AF ER V. BRUSOV OSCAR WILDE: HE PIC URE OF DORIA GRAY Yereva 2009 Oscar Wilde Oscar Fi gal O'Flaher ie Wills Wilde (16 Oc ober 1854 – 30 ovember 1900) was a Irish playwrigh , poe a d au hor of umerous shor s ories a d o e ovel. K ow for his bi i g wi , he became o e of he mos successful playwrigh s of he la e Vic oria era i Lo do , a d o e of he grea es «celebri ies» of his day. Several of his plays co i ue o be widely performed, especially he Impor a ce of Bei g Ear es . As he resul of a widely covered series of rials, Wilde suffered a drama ic dow fall a d was impriso ed for wo years' hard labour af er bei g co vic ed of homosexual rela io ships, described as «gross i dece cy» wi h o her me . Af er Wilde was released from priso he se sail for Dieppe by he igh ferry, ever o re ur o Irela d or Bri ai . Oscar Wilde was bor a 21 Wes la d Row, Dubli . Oscar Wilde was educa ed a home u il he was i e. He he a e ded Por ora Royal School i E iskille , Ferma agh, spe di g he summer mo hs wi h his family i rural Wa erford, Wexford a d a his fa her's family home i Mayo. Wilde had a disappoi i g rela io ship wi h he pres igious Oxford U io . O ma ricula i g i 1874, he had applied o joi he U io , bu failed o be elec ed. ever heless, whe he U io 's libraria reques ed a prese a io copy of Poems (1881), Wilde complied. Af er a deba e called by Oliver El o , he book was co dem ed for alleged plagiarism a d re ur ed o Wilde. While a Magdale , Wilde wo he 1878 ewdiga e Prize for his poem Rave a, which he read a E cae ia; he failed o wi he Cha cellor's E glish Essay Prize wi h a essay ha would be published pos humously as he Rise of His orical Cri icism (1909). I ovember 1878, he gradua ed wi h a double firs i classical modera io s a d Li erae Huma iores, or «Grea s». A Oxford U iversi y, Wilde pe i io ed a Maso ic Lodge a d was la er raised o he sublime degree of Mas er Maso re ai i g his membership i he Craf u il his dea h. Lege ds persis ha his behaviour cos him a du ki g i he River Cherwell i addi io o havi g his rooms rashed, bu he cul spread amo g cer ai segme s of socie y o such a ex e ha la guishi g a i udes, « oo- oo» cos umes a d aes he icism ge erally became a recog ized pose. Publica io s such as he Spri gfield Republica comme ed o Wilde's behavior duri g his visi o Bos o i order o give lec ures o aes he icism, sugges i g ha Wilde's co duc was more of a bid for o orie y ra her ha a devo io o beau y a d he aes he ic. Wilde's mode of dress also came u der a ack by cri ics such as Higgi so , who wro e i his paper U ma ly Ma hood, of his ge eral co cer ha Wilde's effemi acy would i flue ce he behaviour of me a d wome , argui g ha his poe ry «eclipses masculi e ideals u der such i flue ce me would become effemi a e da dies». He also scru i ized he li ks be wee Oscar Wilde's wri i g, perso al image a d homosexuali y, calli g his work a d way of life «immoral». Wilde was deeply impressed by he E glish wri ers Joh Ruski a d Wal er Pa er, who argued for he ce ral impor a ce of ar i life. Wilde la er comme ed iro ically whe he wro e i he Pic ure of Doria Gray ha «All ar is qui e useless».
Wilde's sexual orie a io has variously bee co sidered bisexual or gay. He had sig ifica sexual rela io ships wi h Fra k Miles, Co s a ce Lloyd (Wilde's wife), Robbie Ross, a d Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde also had umerous sexual e cou ers wi h you g worki g-class me , who were of e male pros i u es. Wilde became o e of he mos promi e perso ali ies of his day. hough he was some imes ridiculed for hem, his paradoxes a d wi y sayi gs were quo ed o all sides. he pic ure of Doria Gray he Pic ure of Doria Gray is he o ly published ovel by Oscar Wilde, appeari g as he lead s ory i Lippi co 's Mo hly Magazi e o 20 Ju e 1890. Wilde la er revised his edi io , maki g several al era io s, a d addi g ew chap ers; he ame ded versio was published by Ward, Lock, a d Compa y i April 1891. he s ory is of e mis i led he Por rai of Doria Gray. he ovel ells of a you g ma amed Doria Gray, he subjec of a pai i g by ar is Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Doria 's beau y a d becomes i fa ua ed wi h him, believi g his beau y is respo sible for a ew mode i his ar . alki g i Basil's garde , Doria mee s Lord He ry Wo o , a frie d of Basil's, a d becomes e hralled by Lord He ry's world view. Espousi g a ew hedo ism, Lord He ry sugges s he o ly hi gs wor h pursui g i life are beau y a d fulfilme of he se ses. Realisi g ha o e day his beau y will fade, Doria cries ou , expressi g his desire o sell his soul o e sure he por rai Basil has pai ed would age ra her ha himself. Doria 's wish is fulfilled, plu gi g him i o debauched ac s. he por rai serves as a remi der of he effec each ac has upo his soul, wi h each si displayed as a disfigureme of his form, or hrough a sig of agi g. he Pic ure of Doria Gray is co sidered a work of classic go hic horror fic io wi h a s ro g Faus ia heme. Plo he ovel begi s wi h Lord He ry Wo o , observi g he ar is Basil Hallward pai i g he por rai of a ha dsome you g ma amed Doria Gray. Doria arrives la er, mee i g Wo o . Af er heari g Lord He ry's world view, Doria begi s o hi k beau y is he o ly wor hwhile aspec of life, he o ly hi g lef o pursue. He wishes ha he por rai of himself which Basil is pai i g would grow old i his place. U der he i flue ce of Lord He ry, Doria begi s o explore his se ses. He discovers a ac ress, Sibyl Va e, who performs Shakespeare i a di gy hea re. Doria approaches her a d soo proposes marriage. Sibyl, who refers o him as «Pri ce Charmi g,» rushes home o ell her skep ical mo her a d bro her. Her pro ec ive bro her, James, ells her ha if «Pri ce Charmi g» harms her, he will kill him. Doria i vi es Basil a d Lord He ry o see Sibyl perform i Romeo a d Julie . Sibyl, whose o ly k owledge of love was love of hea re, loses her ac i g abili ies hrough he experie ce of rue love wi h Doria . Doria rejec s her, sayi g her beau y was i her ar , a d he is o lo ger i eres ed i her if she ca o lo ger ac . Whe he re ur s home he o ices ha Basil's por rai of him has cha ged. Doria realizes his wish has come rue – he por rai ow bears a sub le s eer a d will age wi h each si he commi s, whils his ow appeara ce remai s u cha ged.
He decides o reco cile wi h Sibyl, bu Lord He ry arrives i he mor i g o say Sibyl has killed herself by swallowi g prussic acid. Wi h he persuasio a d e courageme of Lord He ry, Doria realizes ha lus a d looks are where his life is headed a d he eeds o hi g else. ha marked he e d of Doria 's las a d o ly rue love affair. Over he ex 18 years, Doria experime s wi h every vice, mos ly u der he i flue ce of a «poiso ous» Fre ch ovel, a prese from Lord He ry. Wilde ever reveals he i le bu his i spira io was possibly draw from Joris-Karl Huysma s's А rebours (Agai s a ure) due o he like esses ha exis be wee he wo ovels. O e igh , before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives o ques io Doria abou rumours of his i dulge ces. Doria does o de y his debauchery. He akes Basil o he por rai , which is as hideous as Doria 's si s. I a ger, Doria blames he ar is for his fa e a d s abs Basil o dea h. He he blackmails a old frie d amed Ala Campbell, who is a chemis , i o des royi g Basil's body. Wishi g o escape his crime, Doria ravels o a opium de . James Va e is earby a d hears someo e refer o Doria as «Pri ce Charmi g.» He follows Doria ou side a d a emp s o shoo him, bu he is deceived whe Doria asks James o look a him i he ligh , sayi g he is oo you g o have bee i volved wi h Sibyl 18 years earlier. James releases Doria bu is approached by a woma from he opium de who chas ises him for o killi g Doria a d ells him Doria has o aged for 18 years. While a di er, Doria sees Sibyl Va e's bro her s alki g he grou ds a d fears for his life. However, duri g a game-shoo i g par y a few days la er, a lurki g James is accide ally sho a d killed by o e of he hu ers. Af er re ur i g o Lo do , Doria i forms Lord He ry ha he will be good from ow o , a d has s ar ed by o breaki g he hear of his la es i oce co ques , a vicar's daugh er i a cou ry ow , amed He y Mer o . A his apar me , Doria wo ders if he por rai has begu o cha ge back, losi g i s se ile, si ful appeara ce, ow he has cha ged his immoral ways. He u veils he por rai o fi d i has become worse. Seei g his, he ques io s he mo ives behi d his «mercy,» whe her i was merely va i y, curiosi y, or he ques for ew emo io al excess. Decidi g ha o ly full co fessio will absolve him, bu lacki g feeli gs of guil a d feari g he co seque ces, he decides o des roy he las ves ige of his co scie ce. I a rage, he picks up he k ife ha killed Basil Hallward a d plu ges i i o he pai i g. His serva s hear a cry from i side he locked room a d se d for he police. hey fi d Doria 's body, s abbed i he hear a d sudde ly aged, wi hered a d horrible. I is o ly hrough he ri gs o his ha d ha he corpse ca be ide ified. Beside him, however, he por rai has rever ed o i s origi al form. Charac ers I a le er, Wilde said he mai charac ers are reflec io s of himself: «Basil Hallward is wha I hi k I am: Lord He ry wha he world hi ks me: Doria wha I would like o be–i o her ages, perhaps». he mai charac ers are: Doria Gray – a ha dsome you g ma who becomes e hralled wi h Lord He ry's idea of a ew hedo ism. He begi s o i dulge i every ki d of pleasure, moral a d immoral.
The parallel between bowerbirds and humans may be even closer if, as friends of mine who are into sports cars assure me, duller young men tend to decorate themselves with fancier sports cars. Now let's re-examine, in the light of bowerbirds, those three criteria supposedly separating human art from any animal production. Both bower styles and our art styles are learned rather than inherited, so that there is no difference by the third criterion. As for the second criterion (doing it for aesthetic pleasure), it is unanswerable. We cannot ask bowerbirds whether they get pleasure out of their art, and I suspect that many humans who claim to do so arejust putting on cultural affectations. That leaves only the first criterion: Oscar Wilde's assertion that art is useless, in a narrow biological sense. His statement is definitely untrue of bower art, which serves a sexual function. But it is absurd to pretend any longer that our own art lacks biological functions. Instead, there are several ways in which art helps us to survive and to pass on our genes
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