Comparison of the endings of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Dracula”
“The picture of Dorian Gray”, like to “Dracula” was written near the end of the 19th century. Both novels were written within the context of the “fin de la siècle”, which brought lots of cultural change. Specifically, to “Dracula”, the “fin de la siècle” brought upon new ideas about science, technology, the role of women, and fear of invasion, which Stoker comments heavily upon through the layout, structure and linguistic devices when commenting on particular characters such as Mina as an ideal woman and using setting to play on the fear of invasion. Stoker particularly addresses these points at the end of the novel in his description of Mina, and the journey into the east. Although Wilde does gloss over a few of these themes in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the prominent themes that he focuses on are hedonism, aestheticism, and the secrecy of Victorian society. Particularly through the tragedy form and the presentation of Dorian at the end of the novel in his death, Wilde shows his view on these themes.
In the ending of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, Wilde uses Dorian as the focaliser for chapter 20. However, at the very end of the novel, the focus is switched. Before the focaliser switch, Wilde would use the phrase “he seized the thing” in reference to Dorian, showing that he is the focaliser. After Dorian attacks the painting, Wilde changes the focaliser to “two gentlemen passing by” and then afterwards a “policeman”. This creates tension for Wilde by emphasising the death of Dorian and his tragic journey by showing the discovery of his body and the painting being turned to its original form, which shows Dorians tragic journey as the reader sees that the painting is reverted back to how it was before the Faustian Pact. Wilde can also use this technique to show the Gentlemen “walking away and sneering”, which shows that Dorian’s transgression has caused him to gain a notoriety. “Dracula” was written in an epistolary, meaning that it is a compilation of documents from different perspectives, so by the nature of the novel, Stoker changes the perspective many times. Stoker’s use of switching focalises in the ending can help his to build tension through moving time. After it says “Madam Mina still sleeps”, the perspective changes three times and time keeps moving on up to the “5th November”. This builds tension with the reader because they will know the state of Mina is deteriorating while time passes by. Also, where the perspective changes from “Mina’s journal” to “Van Helsing’s memorandum”, Stoker shows us that he uses voice for another purpose. The primary narrator of the final chapter is Mina, to Stoker’s inclusion of “Van Helsing’s memorandum” indicates to the reader that Mina is too weak to write. This creates suspense for the reader, as showing Mina’s weakness increasing shows that it is only a matter of time before Dracula can cause her full change. The voice changes used by both Stoker and Wilde at the end of their novels do not directly give a message to the reader, but do make the stories more readable, so the reader can reach the conclusions of both novels more fluidly. As a result of this the reader will be able to understand Wilde’s view on the pursuit of the Hedonic lifestyle, and how it can cause moral transgression if it is pursued the wrong way, and Stoker’s view on the “New Woman” and the strength in the unity of the men.
The setting of the attic is important in regards to the final chapter of “the Picture of Dorian Gray”. In chapter 10, Wilde shows that this setting carries emotional resonance for Dorian as it is the room “in which he had so often hidden himself as a child”, showing that this was the room in which Dorian associates with hiding during his rough childhood. Dorian’s tragic journey and subsequent death is emphasised by this setting because it shows how Dorian was during his childhood, and his tragic death. The setting also brings up the theme of Victorian secrecy, as the room where Dorian kept his biggest secret was “entered” shortly after his death. The idea that “the window yielded easily” could show that it is not hard to discover what goes on beneath the surface in Victorian society. Stoker uses his final setting in a very different way. In the end of Dracula, the British protagonists enter the “Danube” area to hunt for Dracula. I think that Stoker is trying to show that though Dracula invaded England before, the east is now becoming the invaded territory, which emphasised Dracula’s weakness. Furthermore, Stoker suggests that “the country gets wilder now” in the east. I think that the wildness of the country mirrors the disarray that Dracula is in when he is being hunted towards the end, as the men were “bent on finishing their task” of killing Dracula together “before the sun should set”. The circular narrative of the novel emphasises this because it shows the change in the balance of power throughout the novel. At the beginning, Dracula is keeping Jonathan in Castle Dracula in the east, whereas at the end, Dracula is becoming hunted in the east. In Dorian Gray, the main purpose of the attic setting in the novel the whole way through not just the end, was to show the hidden secret of Dorian, and to show Dorian’s journey from an innocent child into a fully transgressed murderer as a result of Dorian’s spin on the hedonistic lifestyle. This relates in no way to Stoker’s use of the setting, which I think was purely to show that Dracula is becoming weaker, and that the tables have turned, and now the east is being invaded, which plays along with the theme of fear of invasion.
Through the characterisation of Dorian in the end, Wilde shows that he has been destroyed by his pursuit of Hedonism. In chapter 19, Dorian is shown as attempting to redeem himself. He tells Henry that he “determined to leave her as flower like as I found her”. In reference to Hetty. He later learns that he has in fact brought “disgrace on her”. This shows that Dorian’s sinful pursuit of hedonism has caused his transgression to be taken too far, to the point that he unwittingly caused “Hetty’s heart” to be “broken”. His attempted redemption ending in failure shows that Dorian has transgressed past the point of no return. In the final chapter, Dorian would rather “destroy” the painting as he considers it “evidence”, than “confess”, which he views as “monstrous”. His attempt to destroy the painting further shows his full transgression and his selfishness and therefore causes his death. Wilde shows that Dorian has fully transgressed as he no longer cares about anything except for not being exposed as guilty. This highlights his fall from grace. In “Dracula” Mina is presented as a “brave and gallant woman” at the end. This highlights that Mina’s actions, specifically her loyalty made her the ideal “new woman” in Stoker’s eyes. The band of men were also characterised as successful due to their determination and unity. The men were “bent on finishing their task”. This shows that they were determined to kill Dracula as they were “bent” on it, and that they were united as it is described as “their task” showing that it is their common goal. To emphasise this, when they hunt Dracula in England, Seward states that “he fears us”, implying that when they are a group they can destroy him. In Dorian Gray, the characterisation of Dorian at the end shows his transgression. Wilde could be trying to make a point about the emerging idea of hedonism, that the pursuit of pleasure is dangerous when it is at the expense of others, through Dorian’s attitude and eventual death. This would have made Victorian’s think about what an emerging trend in Victorian society was. Stoker also uses characterisation to comment about attitudes in society, particularly Mina, who is shown to be the ideal “new woman” as she is commended as being “brave”, as opposed to Lucy, who receives no such praise after death. As different ideas of the “new woman” began to emerge in Victorian society, Stoker wanted to reinforce that the ideal woman was loyal, responsible, mother like, and passive to an extent. He also attempted to do this through his use of Van Helsing’s revenge on the brides at the end. Van Helsing kills the brides even though he states that “the mere beauty and fascination of the wanton undead have hypnotize him”, showing that in Victorian society, real, genuine men do not fall for the tricks of the wanton woman. Stoker makes this point to show us that he thinks that female sexuality is not respectable.
In the end, both stories are concluded decisively, leaving no cliff-hangers or unanswered questions, but the man difference in the novels is that “Dracula” ends with the forces of good prevailing over evil, and in “the Picture of Dorian Gray”, I would argue that evil does prevail as the protagonist dies before having a chance to redeem himself. The main motives of each author are different. Stoker aims to present his idea of the “new woman” and play on the fear of invasion amongst Victorian society, and Wilde aims to comment on the costs of following attitudes such as hedonism in the wrong way, the appreciation of art, and Victorian secrecy. Furthermore, another main difference is that I think that Wilde’s novel is more of a comment on Victorian society, whereas even though “Dracula” does make comments about Victorian society, the main purpose of the novel was to entertain the reader with a thrilling horror story.