Reader-centred approach to Oscar Wilde's ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’
Part A: Reader Response.
Prior to the perusal of Oscar Wilde’s literary pinnacle – A Picture of Dorian Gray – no preconceptions held impact or leverage upon my comprehension of the text. I submerged into the novel with the intention of allowing my knowledge and perception of classic literature to guide my reading. By virtue of this, the format and colossal language evident in the novel were predictable. The abnormal scenery and lifestyle of the characters opposing the modern versions were also expected. However, although I was expecting some elements of classic literature to be evident in The Picture Of Dorian Gray, since no preconceptions regarding the novel in precision held impact on me before reading, my initial reading of the text was illusory and hypothetical.
At the commencement of the opus, the tale was interpreted as one of ignorant and vacuous protagonists and the delineation of ethical quandaries as consequences of an infatuation with the aesthetics of life. However, soon a cognizance of a fundamental theme of moral enlightenment, directed at those subjected to self-imposed nonage, was detected. This theme was continuous throughout the novel.
"But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration and destroys the harmony of any face." (Wilde, 1891, p.3)
This new construal was preserved through the progression of the novel.
As an opinionated interpretation, the text itself heightens these quandaries throughout the entirety of the novel as an approach to apprise and forewarn the audience of the consequences of inexhaustible obsession.
The protagonist, Dorian Gray himself, is conveyed as a being not subject to engagements and obligations. Thus, the text is a portrayal of the idea that social and moral obligations are not justifications for a downfall. On the contrary, an individual's revolutionary discarding of them in coalescence with the infatuation of peculiar desires is the causation for the individual’s ruination.
Dorian embodies the tangible form of such ruination. At initiation, Dorian conveyed the image of an individual with consideration to social and moral obligations. He with his pious and divine beauty was looked upon with immense admiration by other protagonists and the audience.
[Henry to Dorian] – “You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame –
"Stop!" faltered Dorian Gray, "stop! you bewilder me. I don't know what to say”. (Wilde, 1891, p.21)
Lord Henry enlightens Dorian of his underlying despicable desires amidst his ethereal beauty. However, Dorian is yet to yield to these desires. After his yield to his devouring temptation of infinite beauty, the progression of his downfall begins....