In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde the eponymous character Dorian follows the lifestyle of New Hedonism. This lifestyle advocates a complete abandon to your impulses, and does not believe in following social dictates or morals. The book illustrates the long-term effects of new hedonism, showing the destruction and death Dorian creates due to following this creed, eventually leading him to complete madness and his own destruction.When Dorian Gray first meets Lord Henry at the studio of artist Basil Hallward, he is fascinated with Lord Henry’s wit and the radical social doctrines that he advocates. Dorian is easily molded and falls for the argument he hears. According to Lord Henry the goal of new hedonism, “to realize one’s nature perfectly…to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream” (198-199). As far as philosophies go this seems rather innocuous until Lord Henry goes on to clarify that, “every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us…the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing” (199). Lord Henry’s advice entices the malleable Dorian, who does not seem to realize that Lord Henry may advocate giving in to every impulse, even the destructive ones, but he does not follow this advice himself. As Basil Hallward informs Lord Henry, “you never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose” (188). Dorian, however, takes Lord Henry’s advice concerning new hedonism at face value and the results are disastrous.Dorian begins to embrace the new hedonism doctrine after Lord Henry proclaims, “Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but yo…
…He is forced to see that the new hedonism he embraces with open arms is not without price to himself and those around him. It leads him deeper and deeper into sin and depravity until he cannot be redeemed for his faults. In a fit of madness he decides he no longer wants to have his own faults, the results of his impulsive, narcissistic, and selfish behavior visible to him. He takes a knife to the canvass and, in doing so, ends his own life. A life devoted to following his impulses without tempering them with reason, a life of thinking only of his own selfish desires and disregarding the hurt caused to the people around him. The legacy begotten by new hedonism.
Wilde, Oscar, and Michael Patrick. Gillespie. The Picture of Dorian Gray: Authoritative Texts, Backgrounds, Reviews and Reactions, Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. Print.