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In The Picture of Dorian Gray can we say the the Dorian character is Wilde himself?

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zahraa27 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted November 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM via web

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In The Picture of Dorian Gray can we say the the Dorian character is Wilde himself?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 3, 2012 at 1:57 PM (Answer #1)

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Although there are similarities between Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray in term of tastes, lifestyles, and life creeds, historical and biographical evidence shows that Wilde was abysmally distanced from the character of Dorian. It is, however, a common belief that Wilde, in his many instances of self-grandeur may have wanted to compare himself to such a creature as Dorian, but we will find that this is far from true.

In an introduction by Wilde for the second edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde states the following:

Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be-in other ages, perhaps

There is much more to this quote than what it says. It all begins with Oscar Wilde's upbringing and younger years in Ireland, and then in England. Almost every single biography of Oscar Wilde agrees that Oscar never thought of himself as a charming, nor as a "beautiful" man in the way that he describes Dorian. In fact, Wilde was always aware of his physical differences: he was awkwardly tall, and was often described as a "huge worm" by his peers. Biographers such as Frank Harris, Neil McKenna, Sheridan Morley, and even Merlin Holland (Wilde's grandson) also state in their different biographical works of Wilde (Oscar never wrote an autobiography), that Wilde was not only aware of his physical differences, but used them to build a completely unique version of himself as a "seeker of beauty". He played himself off a lot.  Even during his most "glamorous" days as a full Aesthete in Oxford, known as the "sunflower" days, Wilde would admit to more "posing" than "bragging" when he donned on his knee breeches, his long hair, and the other various disguises that earned him both a reputation and a notoriety.

In addition to this, Wilde's aesthetic canon led him to "seek" perfection rather than to find him in himself. The Aesthetes, in their uniquely "Greek" way, had in mind that there is an ideal man out there that reunites every single quality of beauty, the same way in which an artificially-made piece of art would. That search for the perfect ideal of beauty fueled the Aesthetic movement. This is the reason why, rather than to mirror himself in the contrasting looks of young, charming and near-magical Dorian, Wilde prefers to separate the young man as the uniquely influential model of Aesthete perfection that he is meant to be.

This is reinforced with the words "Basil Hallward is what I think I am". Just like the painter adores, admires, and worships Dorian, Wilde adores, admires, and worships the inspired ideal of physical beauty evoked by Dorian. In fact, when Wilde meets his future love, and later on his Nemesis, Lord Alfred Douglas in 1893, it just so happens that Douglas coincidentally looked, lived, and behaved as a real-life version of Dorian Gray.  Although Lord Alfred was NOT the model for Dorian (as the common folk says), the fact that he appeared in the life of Wilde as a real-live version of the character is almost real-life dramatic irony. Hence, this shows you that Wilde was not trying to become Dorian; he was, instead, actively hoping and wishing to find Dorian someday. Unfortunately for Wilde, he was not careful what he wished for. Lord Alfred Douglas became his beginning and his end.

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