The Picture of Dorian Gray: Dorian as Tragic Hero
In “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, we see a beautiful young man who makes tremendous efforts to transform the actual world into the idealistic world of art, dreams and sensations. Dorian’s quest, however, culminates in his ultimate tragic destruction. Given that Dorian lives a corrupt life, one is likely to focus on the negative aspects of his character. In spite of his significant character flaws, Dorian Gray may still be considered a hero. This essay will examine Dorian’s degradation from the innocent world to the vicious, sensation-oriented world. The elements contributing to Dorian’s status of tragic hero will then be discussed.
At the beginning, the general mood looks like pure and innocent expressed by the descriptions as follows: “the rich odours of roses…the light summer wind…the heavy scent of lilac”(Wilde 5). This opening scene precisely symbolizes the world in which Dorian is situated at present. Just like the beautiful setting, Dorian is a “beautiful creature”(7) and the portrait Basil draws shows Dorian’s “extraordinary personal beauty”(5). In other words, Dorian is in front of the mysterious gate of life that has immense possibilities. At this point, Dorian is ignorant about both the world of idealistic art and the world of mundane, earthly values. Dorian merely possesses “all youth’s passionate purity”(17).
With the fateful encounter with Lord Henry, Dorian is ushered into a world of idealistic art and beauty. Lord Henry plays a key role in introducing a new world in which beauty, youth and sensations dominate. First, Lord Henry employs a powerful strategy of developing Dorian’s self-consciousness of his ow…
…t in order to “kill the past” and “monstrous soul-life”(192).
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