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Aestheticism and Decadence

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Aestheticism and Decadence

The Aesthetic movement developed in the universities and intellectual circles. It reflected the sense of frustration of the artist and his reaction against the materialism. This doctrine was imported from France into England. The theorist of Aesthetic movement in England was Pater and for him life should be lived in the spirit of art. The artist was seen as the transcriber of his sense. Pater had an important influence on Oscar Wilde and decadent artists.

Oscar Wilde

Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 then he was sent to Oxford. As a disciple of Pater he accepted the theory of "Art for Art's Sake". In 1880 he began to write short stories as "The Canterville Ghost" and in 1891 the novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray". In 1891 Wilde was sent to prison for homosexual offences. When he was released, the went into exile in France and died. Wilde adopted "the aesthetic ideal", he lived the double role of rebel and dandy, that for Wilde is a symbol of a superiority of spirit. The concept of "Art for Art's Sake" was to him a moral imperative. Wilde perceived the artist as an alien in a materialistic world.

The picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray is a young man whose beauty fascinates an artist who decides to paint him. But the sins of age appear on the portrait. Dorian lives only for pleasure, using everybody. When the painter sees the corrupted image of the portrait, Dorian kills him. Later Dorian want to free himself from the portrait but he kills himself. In the moment of death the picture return to its original purity. This story is told by a third-person narrator with internal point of view, the point of view of Dorian. The character reveal themselves through what the say or through what the others say of them. Dorian, the protagonist, is the typical dandy. This story is very allegorical: the picture is the soul of the protagonist, which recoded the signs. The moral of this novel is that every excess must be punished and reality cannot be escaped.

Text analysis [Dorian's death E145]

Dorian Gray makes references to his past in line 18 to 21. The portrait makes him understand that it is the mirror of his corrupted soul [95-96] and he decides to destroy the picture [112-113] to kill his past and to free himself but as a result of this he kills himself in stabbing the picture [115-137]. Dorian consider his portrait loathsome and he feels sorry and guilty because of his behavior and he see it as the reflection of his own soul. He kills himself in stabbing the portrait because it symbolize the dark side of his soul and Dorian kills himself because the picture is Dorian. Beauty and youth have caused his ruin and the mirror became the symbol of his double personality.







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