A degenerate decadent Victorian society is constructed within Dorian Gray , wealth and image are given more importance than morals. The novel’s only lapse into first person narrative within which Wilde comments on ‘Civilised society’, he argues that insincerity is necessary to conduct oneself in society. This correlates to the idea of performing and wearing a fake mask in order to fit into society. The phrase ‘manners are of more importance than morals’ exemplifies the fake surface nature of society, Dorian is accepted back into ‘society’ due to his handsome appearance on the surface, despite his lack of moral code and acts of debauchery. (Wilde, 2008:80) Lady Narborough’s statement that Dorian is “made to be good” as he looks “ so good” highlights the superficial and fickle nature of society unable to distinguish the real ‘good’ and associating the surface image with good. (Wilde, 2008:171)
Hallward claims that ‘Every gentleman is interested in his good name’ illustrating how name in society rather than actual moral or social values holds more importance. (Wilde, 2010:143) These ‘gentlemen’ such as Jekyll and Dorian Self-consciously put on performances, henceforth are led to live a double lives, simultaneously maintaining their reputations and transgressing society’s moral codes.
Within Dorian Gray, one could argue that the idea of the duality of men tends to be implicitly associated with homosexuality. Oscar Wilde seems to perceive homosexuality as an emblem of refined culture rather than a sordid vice. Homosexuality being perceived as blasphemes to a Victorian society would have been perceived as moral decline as it challenges religion. Homosexuality was a central anxiety especially towards the fin-de-siecle with a distin…
…were employed, in order to consider the texts in their moment of production, enable different vantage points to scrutinise them in accordance to their moral climate.
Stevenson, R .L (2003) ‘The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other tales of horror’, Mighall, Penguin books
Wilde, O. (2008) ’ The Picture of Dorian Gray’,Akroyd, Penguin Classics
Wells, H .G.(2010) ‘The Time Machine’, Orion publishing group.
Mighall,R.( 2003)’Diagnosing Jekyll: The scientific context to Dr Jekyll’s experiment and Mr Hyde’s embodiment’.
Nordau,M (1895)’Degeneration’ ,New York: Appleton, URL: < https://archive.org/details/degeneration1895nord>
Showalter. E, (1990), Sexual anarchy; Gender and culture at the Fin-de-siecle (New York, Viking Penguin), 105-16
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