Dorian Gray And Death In Venice English Literature Essay

Oscar Wilde wrote about his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray that: “ My narrative is an essay on cosmetic art. It reacts against the rough ferociousness of apparent pragmatism. It is toxicant is you like, but you can non deny that it is besides perfect, and flawlessness is what we artists aim at ” ( Letters 264 ) . Although the writer claimed to hold written a complete innovation, reading his novel, we can non avoid inquiring the inquiry: “ Was Oscar Wilde composing so a simple innovation, as he calls it, or was he in fact entering his ain life, ideas, and emotions?

The novel reflects happenings and attitudes that used to characterize the period to which Oscar Wilde belonged. The writer famously wrote about the three chief characters from The Picture of Dorian Gray in the undermentioned manner: “ Basil Hallward is what I think I am ; Lord Henry is what the universe thinks of me ; Dorian what I would wish to be – in other ages possibly ” ( Letters 352 ) . Comment upon this citation with mentions from the book. Indeed, reading about Wilde ‘s life, we discover that the connexions between himself and his characters are accurate. Lord Henry resembles Walter Pater in many respects through his influence on Wilde that has been, harmonizing to the writer, toxicant. However, Oscar Wilde besides identifies with Lord Henry in that Wilde like his character plays an of import function in the corruptness of immature waxy adherents such as John Gray. Thus, the novel is self-referential on two degrees: Wilde both identifies with Dorian Gray corrupted by the toxicant influence of Walter Pater and Lord Henry Wotton, the wise man who corrupts his adherents.

Dorian confuses art with life on intent, trusting at the beginning that art will bear the penalty for his life style and finally going aware of the monetary value he has to pay for such confusion. Oscar Wilde writes about Dorian Gray that: “ Each adult male sees his ain ideas and his ain wickedness in Dorian Gray. What Dorian Gray ‘s wickednesss are no 1 knows. He who finds them has bought them ” ( Letters 267 ) .

“ Bad people are, from the point of position of art, intriguing surveies. They represent coloring materials, assortment and unfamiliarity. Good people exasperate one ‘s ground ; bad people stir one ‘s imaginativeness ” ( Letters 259 ) . “ The map of the creative person is to contrive, non to chronicle. Life by its pragmatism is ever botching the subject-matter of art. The supreme pleasance in literature is to recognize the non-existent ” ( Letters 259 ) .

At the beginning, Oscar Wilde belonged to the coevals of Oxford Aesthetes who, under the influence of John Ruskin, had foremost embraced his Christian and Pre-raphaelite enthusiasms and his desire for “ Truth to Nature ” in art, merely to be subsequently seduced by the more indulgently Renaissance-inspired, decadent and instead perilously glamourous instructions of Walter Pater.

Walter Pater ‘s “ Conclusion ” to his Surveies in the History of the Renaissance deeply influenced Oscar Wilde. Walter Pater considered life as a impetus of fleeting Acts of the Apostless and, hence, each event should be lived to the full and each minute dignified. In his point of view, life should be lived for the instant and each person should seek non the fruit of the experience, but the experience itself. Oscar Wilde absorbed Walter Pater ‘s words and allow himself be influenced by their appeal and power. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, at the beginning of the novel, Dorian Gray is corrupted by the Pateresque discourses of Lord Henry. Like Oscar Wilde can non avoid being influenced by Pater ‘s doctrine of life, Dorian Gray can non defy being attracted by Henry Wotton ‘s words: “ ‘Stop! ‘ faltered Dorian Gray, ‘stop! You bewilder me. I do n’t cognize what to state. There is some reply to you, but I can non happen it. Do n’t talk. Let me believe. Or, instead, allow me seek non to believe ‘ ” ( Wilde, 26 ) . Dorian accepts Lord Henry ‘s place declaring in a direct citation from Pater ‘s “ Conclusion ” that he was seeking “ non the fruit of experience, but experience itself ” ( Wilde 151 ) . Rehearsing what Lord Henry, or Walter Pater advocated leads Dorian to black and homicidal effects.

Oscar Wilde told a “ Morning News ” newsman that he was highly moved by a book A Rebours, a fresh written by J. K. Huysmans. Its tremendous influence can be revealed in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde admitted that the “ xanthous book ” which had such a strong consequence on Dorian Gray in his novel is in fact Huysmans ‘ A Rebours. The impact of the xanthous book on Dorian Gray was similar to Oscar Wilde ‘s ain reaction when he foremost read Huysmans ‘ novel:

After a few proceedingss he [ Dorian ] became captive. It was the strangest book that he has of all time read. It seemed to him that the keen array, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the wickednesss of the universe were go throughing in dense show before him. Thingss that he had indistinctly dreamed of were all of a sudden made existent to him. Thingss of which he had ne’er dreamed were bit by bit revealed. ( Wilde 145 )

The hero of the novel, “ a certain immature Parisian ” impresses Dorian through his bravery “ to gain all the passions and manners of idea that belonged to every century except his ain [ . . . ] loving for their mere artificiality those repudiations that work forces foolishly have called virtuousness every bit much as those natural rebellions that wise work forces still call wickedness ” ( Wilde 145 ) .

Therefore, the supporter of the xanthous book becomes more than the original for Wilde ‘s Dorian Gray: “ The hero, the fantastic immature Parisian became to him a sort of prefiguring type of himself. And, so, the whole book seemed to him to incorporate the narrative of his ain life, written before he had lived it ” ( Wilde 147 ) . For the undermentioned old ages, the unusual xanthous book would hang over Dorian Gray like an ominously dark cloud and lurk inside him like a mirror of his darker ego demoing Dorian his true character:

For old ages, Dorian Gray could non liberate himself from the influence of this book. Or possibly it would be more accurate to state that he ne’er sought to liberate himself from it. He procured from Paris no less than nine large-paper transcripts of the first edition, and had them bound in different colorss, so that they might accommodate his assorted tempers and the altering illusions of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to hold about wholly lost control. ( Wilde 147 )

To a grade, he becomes the original of Oscar Wilde himself as he on a regular basis comments in the company of his friends that “ I am huffy merely like diethylstilbestrols Esseintes [ the immature Parisian ] ” ( Mikhail 195 ) .

Another important facet that links Oscar Wilde ‘s life to his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is his attractive force to foppishness. The dandy-aesthetes above all honed their senses and cultivated the rarest of esthesias. Their first concern was the exquisiteness and the cultivation of extraordinary impressions of gustatory sensation that lie beyond mere considerations of manner, and that operates outside all the conventional canons of morality. Peter Raby in The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde indentifies Wilde ‘s attack to foppishness with the transitional period between about 1883 and 1889, during which his earlier, simpler aestheticism underwent a alteration into something darker and more decadent as a effect of his increasing exposure to the richer venas of European, and in peculiar Gallic, literary and artistic theory and activity. The strong influence that Dandyism had on Oscar Wilde ‘s life is revealed in cultivating the subject of the primacy of beauty and of senses in his Hagiographas, which represents the basic rule of the Dandyism of Aesthetic Response.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian laments the period in which persons did non admit their senses and tried to stamp down them: “ As he looked back upon adult male traveling through History, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered! And to such small intent! ” ( Wilde 150 ) . As a affair of fact, Dorian Gray celebrates the primary importance of the cultivation of senses and their positive effects for artistic intents: “ He sought to lucubrate some new strategy of life that would hold its reasoned doctrine and its ordered rules, and happen in the spiritualising of the senses its highest realization ” ( Wilde 150 ) . And because Dorian “ knew that the senses, no less than the psyche, have their religious enigmas to uncover ” ( Wilde 154 ) , he begins to analyze aromas “ seeking to lucubrate a existent psychological science of aromas ” ( Wilde 154 ) , to give himself wholly to music and instruments: “ the antic character of these instruments fascinated him, and he felt a funny delectation in the idea that Art, like Nature, has her monsters, thing of beastly form and with horrid voices ” ( Wilde 156 ) , and to develop a particular involvement in the survey of gems, embellishments and tapestries: “ he was about saddened by the contemplation of the ruin that Time brought on beautiful and fantastic things ” ( Wilde 158 ) . Therefore, Dorian ‘s concern with the exquisiteness and with the cultivation of sophisticated impressions of gustatory sensation coincides with Oscar Wilde ‘s involvement in Dandyism.

Autobiography is besides apparent in a description of Dorian Gray ‘s earlier attractive force to the Catholic Holy Eucharist:

It was rumored of him one time that he was approximately to fall in the Roman Catholic Communion ; and surely the Roman rite had ever a great attractive force for him. The day-to-day forfeit, more terribly truly than all the forfeits of the antique universe, stirred him as much by its brilliant rejection of the grounds of the senses as by the crude simpleness of the elements and the ageless poignancy of the human calamity that it sought to symbolize. ( Wilde 153 )

However, subsequently on, Dorian renounces his attractive force to Christian religion believing that any formal credence of credo or system would collar his rational development: “ But he ne’er fell into the mistake of collaring his rational development by any formal credence of credo or system, or of misinterpretation, for a house in which to populate, an hostel that is but suited for the visit of a dark ” ( Wilde 153 ) . Subsequently, he passed through mysticism to the philistinism of the Darwinists where he “ found a funny pleasance in following the ideas and passions of work forces to some pearly cell in the encephalon, or some white nervus in the organic structure, pleasing in the construct of the absolute dependance of the spirit on certain physical conditions, normal or healthy, normal or diseased ” ( Wilde 154 ) . In the terminal, Dorian besides rejects philosophical Darwinism convinced that all rational guess is bare. As a consequence, he focused merely on action and experiment, aware of the fact that “ the senses, no less than the psyche, have their religious enigmas to uncover ” ( Wilde 154 ) .

Dorian ‘s rational research coincides with Oscar Wilde ‘s ain place at the period in which he was composing The Picture of Dorian Gray. Like Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde has long been attracted by Catholicism and by its credo. Furthermore, Joseph Pearce in his critical work The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, points out that Oscar Wilde excessively was fascinated by the philosophical content of Darwin ‘s theory, although the writer ne’er left any grounds of the fact that he of all time accepted and practised any of its doctrines. Pearce besides argues that Dorian ‘s devotion of the senses was Wilde ‘s ain fetish at the clip he was working on his novel.

The name and the place in the novel of the supporter Dorian Gray is really much edge to Oscar Wilde ‘s life. Oscar Wilde ‘s life mentions the being of a certain immature adult male of whom the writer was really fond. This figure who fascinated Oscar Wilde was John Gray and it is said that he was the theoretical account for the physical beauty of Dorian Gray in Wilde ‘s novel. And possibly there is a strong connexion between Basil Hallward ‘s first feelings of Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde ‘s ain feelings of John Gray:

Well, after I had been in the room about 10 proceedingss, I turned midway circular and saw Dorian Gray for the first clip. When our eyes met, I felt that I was turning picket. A funny esthesis of panic came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with person whose mere personality was so absorbing that, if I allowed it to make so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole psyche, my really art itself. ( Wilde 13 )

In the novel, Basil Hallward foremost sees Dorian at a party. The author Frank Liebich points out that Oscar Wilde and John Gray foremost met at a dinner party in 1889 and that John Gray became Wilde ‘s adherent. There is a contemplation of the relationship between Oscar Wilde and John Gray in the description of Basil and Dorian ‘s friendly relationship:

I know he [ Dorian ] likes me. Of class I flatter him awfully. I find a unusual pleasance in stating things to him that I know I shall be sorry for holding said. As a regulation, he is capturing to me, and we sit in the studio and talk of 1000 things. Now and so, nevertheless, he is dreadfully thoughtless, and seems to take a existent delectation in giving me hurting. Then, I feel, Harry, that I have given away my whole psyche to person who treats it as if it were a flower to set in his coat, a spot of ornament to capture his amour propre, an decoration for a summer ‘s twenty-four hours. ( Wilde 19 )

Thomas Mann identifies with his supporter of Death in Venice. The alterations in Aschenbach ‘s personality after he meets Tadzio, manifested by rejecting the psychological analysis and apprehension he practised in his early work, simplifying morality and abandoning himself to the dark emotions he no longer even wants to command, parallel the Nazist political government adopted by Germany in a period really near to that in which Thomas Mann was composing his novelette. This political government was characterised through violent onslaughts on ground and mind, the floging up of throwback mass feeling, and the corporate irrationality of enthusiasm for Hitler. As Thomas Mann confessed that Gustav Aschenbach ‘s jobs and enticements have been his ain: “ I had these things in me every bit much as anyone, ” we are allowed to believe that the writer had embodied the coming political relations of his age through his authorship of Death in Venice.

Within two old ages, the war that looms in that gap sentence “ It was a spring afternoon in that twelvemonth of grace 19- , when Europe sat upon the dying place beneath a threat that hung over its caput for months ” ( Mann 417 ) had broken out and Mann was carried off, like most intellectuals in the combatant states. Thomas Mann employs a technique that half-hides myth under a realistic surface in Death in Venice. The writer gives the devilish elements an ever plausible mask: the Satan is presented in the novel as portion of the hero ‘s head, while the traditional 24 old ages of the treaty coincide with the term of the disease. In composing The Death in Venice, Thomas Mann was bring outing, undertaking the issues that had ever preoccupied him and been the substance of his work, the endangering inclinations of his age. He was in fact consciously composing what he called the “ novel of my era, ” era in which Germany had sold her psyche to an evil power, to Nazism, associated with the disease that took clasp of Venice.

The novelette is a speculation upon the historical and societal force per unit areas bearing upon the modern person.

Thomas Mann autobiography acknowledges the fact that, like Gustav Aschenbach, the writer visited Venice. While remaining in Venice with his married woman and brother, Thomas Mann, like his fictional Aschenbach, was fascinated by a fine-looking Polish male child whom he watched playing on the beach. In fact, this ‘personal and lyrical experience ‘ , as Mann subsequently described it in a much quoted confessional missive, prompted the narrative Death in Venice.1 And merely as Mann ‘s supporter Aschenbach is inspired by the sight of Tadzio to compose ‘a page and a half of keen prose ‘ on an unspecified job of gustatory sensation and civilization ( eight, 493 ) , so Mann wrote a short essay on his altering attitude to Wagner. Having adored Wagner for many old ages, he confessed, he was now turning off from the composer ‘s steaming Romanticism and towards a new classicalism.

When the narrative begins, Aschenbach is already a authoritative author, in two of the senses which Goethe gave the term. First, he represents the type of ‘classic national writer ‘ His paternal ascendants were soldiers or decision makers in the service of the Prussian province which formed the nucleus of a united Germany. And in one of his major plants, covering with Frederick the Great, Aschenbach has evoked a national topic from Prussian history. Second, he is an model author. Infusions from his plants are reproduced in school readers so that schoolboys may pattern their manner on his. It represents the ‘pure manner appropriate to its topic ‘ ( G xii, 243 ) which Goethe considered classical. In add-on, Aschenbach is a classical author in the obvious sense of emulating the classics. He admires, and attempts to copy, the order, balance, harmoniousness, and restraint deemed characteristic of classical literature. Mann himself followed this principle to the extent of emulating the authoritative prose of Goethe.

In the essay ‘Sweet Sleep ‘ ( 1909 ) , Mann defines the morality of the creative person:

The creative person ‘s morality is composure [ ‘Sammlung ‘ ] , it is the power of egoistic concentration, the committedness to organize, form, restriction, materiality, the rejection of freedom, eternity, snoozing and floating in the illimitable kingdom of experiencing – in a word, it is the will to bring forth a work. But how ignoble and immoral, how bloodless and repulsive is the work that is born of cold, ciphering, virtuous, self-contained prowess! The creative person ‘s morality is self-abandonment, rolling and self-loss, it is struggle and adversity, experience, penetration and passion [ ‘Erlebnis, Erkenntnis und Leidenschaft ‘ ] . ( xi, 338 )

In this declaration, and in his critical portraiture of Aschenbach, Mann is confirming the creative person ‘s responsibility to ask, to examine, to make what will frequently be uncomfortable penetrations into human character. One inadequate, reply is that Mann really encountered such people in Venice:

Nothing in Death in Venice is invented: the traveler by the Northern Cemetery in Munich, the glooming boat from Pola, the aged dandy, the doubtful gondolier, Tadzio and his household, the going prevented by a confusion over baggage, the cholera, the honest clerk in the travel bureau, the malevolent street vocalist, or whatever else you might care to advert – everything was given, and truly merely needed to be fitted in, turn outing in the most amazing mode how it could be interpreted within my composing.

The roamers who cross Aschenbach ‘s way similarly derive their distressing aura from his emotional projections. Not merely are these figures roamers, like Aschenbach, but they besides portion some of his traits: the little physique, the loose oral cavity and the short olfactory organ. They represent the unacknowledged and unwelcome shadow-side of Aschenbach himself, the rootless, Bohemian facet which he has done his best to repress.8 Jung has shown that the heightened esthesia attach toing a mid-life crisis can bring forth exactly such airy incarnations of psychic forces. The narrative bit by bit reveals what Aschenbach is quashing – his power to love, his capacity for homosexual love, and the countries of experience it opens up. His pent-up emotions appear merely where he thought he was safest: amid his devotedness to classicalism.