『The Picture of Dorian Gray』 — Aesthetics of Immorality

『The Picture of Dorian Gray』

Oscar Wilde(1845 ~ 1900)’s one and only full-length novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was my first experience in reading a work by Oscar Wilde, an author who is renowned for his witty quotations.

The novel consists mostly of dialogues between characters, and the story line acts as nothing but a stage setting or background for the dialogues. In that sense, the author is showing his thoughts very openly to readers through set dialogues, and there is not a hint of pretense or euphemism. I was stirred by emotions as his words were quite dangerous to agree with yet impossible to deny.

In the Bible, Ten Commandments display rules we must follow, implying that people actually tend to act the opposite way. Through civilization we may have been focusing on suppressing the human nature in order to achieve a common goal of the society. I agree with the author in the sense that if an artist gives up on expressing beyond morality, art can lose its true meaning in many ways.

There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral — immoral from the scientific point of view.

Perhaps artists that expressed hedonism-like aestheticism in their works wanted to show the human nature or the extreme of intellectual freedom. I cannot think of an opposing viewpoint to Oscar Wilde’s sentiment that all influence is immoral. All influences are indeed immoral in that it is an external factor that makes us lose our identity in a way.

I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.

Oscar Wilde thinks of aesthetical experience as the greatest pleasure a person can have. Would it be possible to experience sublime beauty or pure pleasure through social interactions in our livelihood?

I couldn’t help but be captivated by the uncivilized and provocative immoral thoughts.

This novel brought about a great social effect at the time. When Oscar Wilde was put in jail, hostility toward this novel probably contributed in some way. Oscar Wilde’s thoughts are well portrayed through correspondence with many critics in the book “A DEFENCE OF THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY”.

The moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist.

The pureness of artistic expression must go beyond the bounds of convention. Meeting Oscar Wilde means you have volunteered to be influenced by immorality. The journey was rather pleasing for me, and if you ever experience the same, I would love to have a chat over a cup of tea with you.