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The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde
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What kind of language is used In The Picture of Dorian Gray, second paragraph of chapter 11? "In one point he was more fortunate than the novel`s fantastic hero.  He never knew- never, indeed, had any cause to know- that somewhat grotesque dread of mirrors, and polished metal surfaces, and still water, which came upon the young Parisian so early in his life, and was occasioned by the sudden decay of a beauty that had once, apparently, been so remarkable.  It was with him an almost cruel joy-and perhaps in nearly every joy, as certainly in every pleasure, cruelty has its place- that he used to read the latter part of the book, with its really tragic, if somewhat over-emphasized, account of the sorrow and despair of one who had himself lost what in others, and in the world, he had most dearly valued."

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If I were you, I would want to focus on the way that language is used in building up a contrast between the joy of Dorian Gray and the despair of the character of the book that he reads and that exerts such a stange and curious on Dorian. Note the use of diction that establishes the negative impact of mirrors and polished surfaces for the character in the novel. His fear of such objects is "grotesque" and he does not share the "sudden decay of beauty" that sight of his own reflection reveals to the character in the novel. Indeed, we are told that Dorian takes a "cruel joy" in vicariously reading about the sufferings of a character which are so alien to Dorian thanks to his supernatural ability to maintain his youthful form and never be tainted by age or by his actions. The "sorrow and despair" of this character is therefore used to heighten the contrast between Dorian and the character. Of course, the irony of this extract is that if it weren't for the supernatural phenomenon that allowed Dorian to never age, he would be in exactly the same position as the character that he feels such a fascination with.

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