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Wilde moving away from a strictly Christian interpretation 
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Lawrence,

Your last post has piqued my interest a great deal about the author himself. I had no prior knowledge about Mr. Wilde other than his writings. This is quite interesting and I intend to do some research on him.
In reading TPODG one picks up the inferences and innuendos along the way but I didn't really see it in the prespective you have just given to me.
Interesting ... very interesting. :hmm:

Boheme,

I am so excited for you to be going to New York and visiting the Morgan Museum. I can not wait to hear all about it. Safe travels.


Raving Lunatic,

This is how I see it as well. Good vs. evil. I may be way off base and am not reading as much into it as one should. But there again ... I read for the pure pleasure of reading and not much more than that.
T


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Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:44 am
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I felt that Basil and Lord Henry represented good and evil in a general way, as well as more specifically as the conflicting desire for good and temptation for evil within everyone. Sort of like the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

This relationship is shown at the end of Chapter 2, where Dorian is asked to choose between going to the theatre with Lord Henry and staying to eat dinner with Basil.



Tue Mar 24, 2009 5:19 pm
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gracefullgirll,

The fear of a bad—or good—influence is, in fact, one of the novel's primary concerns. As a work that sets forth a philosophy of aestheticism, the novel questions the degree and kind of influence a work of art can have over an individual. Furthermore, since the novel conceives of art as including a well-lived life, it is also interested in the kind of influence one person can have over another. After all, the artful Lord Henry himself has as profound an effect upon Dorian's life as Basil's painting does.
Di


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Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:40 am
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Post Good v evil, homosexuality and the influence of art
I think this is a story that can be read in a variey of ways.

Firstly I think it can, but doesn't have to be read from a religious perspective - with Dorian Gray representing the common man, Basil representing God; someone that believes innocence is at the base of everything and wishes to keep Dorian in this state - to capture his innocent beauty, and Sir Henry representing the Devil; someone that wishes to corrupt Dorian and then watch him.
Both Basil and Sir Henry view Dorian as something to be viewed and manipulated - as God created and viewed us, and the devil corrupts us. It is as if Dorian is in a test tube as part of a scientific experiment. It is ironic that Basil wishes to manipulate Dorian into staying innocent. He does, however, allow him to make his own mistakes - never actually deliberately stopping him seeing Sir Henry. Again this reflects how he could be seen as a God like figure - allowing man to make his own mistakes, and feeling sorry when he does. Sir Henry on the other hand deliberately manipulates him, as the devil deliberately tempts man to evil and then denies that it is his fault, believing it is just down to his nature.

I think the story is partly a debate on the place of art in the world. It could be seen as a modernist piece - concerned with meaning in the World, and how art relates to exposing that meaning. Whether it is possible to truly capture something in art without corrupting it (the story would suggest not). Also at this time there was a move away from a more natural form of art as used in romantic art and literature to the art of the decadents. So the story could be exploring the question of quite how far from nature art should be removed - if removing too far is dangerous, in the same way that living life in a way that you remove yourself too far from human emotion is dangerous.

It is of course also just a very good story - full of suspense, lush description and, love them or hate them, excellent characters. (I love the imagery of hands throughout the book). It does of course containt portrayals of homosexual relations. This does not strike me as a massively important part of the book, however I must remember that I am reading this in the twenty first century when we are much freer to express such things.



Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:56 am
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TPoDG is simultaneously a Gothic horror story, a science-fiction fantasy, a homosexual allegory, a cautionary tale about corruption, and a manifesto for Wilde's beloved Aesthetic movement, a philosophy that gives priority to beauty and its particular demands over any other consideration ... moral, narrative, or otherwise. As the read discovers, Dorian Gray also has a surprising range of effects. The novel may shock, enthrall, or even bore, perhaps all on the same page. When approached, with an open mind, however, the reader will be ready to be impressed with Wilde's verbal gymnastics and witty, famliar aphorisms (even if you don't agree with them). At the same time, don't let Wilde intimidate you (which he does try to do). The end reward is that the book reveals itself as what it always is, regardless of personal definitions: a jewel of a novel that combines beautiful language with ugly circumstances and controversial concepts, delighting in itself all the way.


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:27 pm
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I've read TPODG twice, and there are not many books that I want to read twice because, there are always so many others waiting. So it must be more than just a gothic horror story.

I admire Oscar Wilde for his wit and sensitivity. I thought Stephen Fry was superb in portraying him in the film 'Oscar'.

Wrt the dilemma caused by the guilt, thrust upon homosexuals by society's disapproval, of what, to them, is a natural state of being, I think that those of us, who are aware of falling short of what is approved of, (and that is all of us) find solace in such sensitive explorations of 'the human condition'.

There is a wonderful film called 'Peter's Friends' with Stephen Fry, and it is a sensitive exploration of just this subject. That is, Our vanity, our need for love (sometimes at any price).

But I don't think that our desire to be loved is evil and dark. We are, often, initially loved for our appearance. In a homosexual relationship, I think perhaps the appearance, takes more priority than in a heterosexual one.

But after all, to a large extent, we are what we appear.


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:51 pm
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Pen wrote


Quote:
But after all, to a large extent, we are what we appear.


In the same sense ... we hear and interpret what we want to hear. As far as TPoDG is concerned, I think we all take what we want from the literature. Homosexuality, religous conotations, good vs. evil, etc...

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too, interpretation is in the mind of the listener.


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:29 pm
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Thrillwriter:

Quote:
As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too, interpretation is in the mind of the listener.


Every eye forms its own beauty, is another way to say it. I suppose we interpret what we see, read, hear from our own life experience and from our own personalities/temperaments.

It is wonderful though, is it not, when we read or hear something that resonates and rings true to our own experiences.

It is good to talk/communicate.....mostly. It is a privilidge. But how often I agonise, wondering, Have I said too little? Have I said too much? Well, that is the skill of a great writer. They just say it right. I wish..... :smile:


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:42 pm
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Post Back from New York and
no manuscripts on display at the Morgan Museum :angry: I was really looking forward to seeing what, if any, notes Wilde had written in the margins of TPoDG, but, it was not to be. The Morgan, as every other museum, rotates its collection on a regular basis and there was a visiting collection of drawings and prints on until mid-April, after which the manuscripts will be back in their usual spots. Oh well.

I have at least started the book (!), and am fascinated by it. There are such great lines in it. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through, and so far, am not particularly sympathetic to Dorian Gray's character. Perhaps that will change. Lord Henry is omnipresent and Basil seems almost a peripheral character, at this point at least. There are fairly large doses of anti-Semitism and class-ism in the book along with the misogyny, so it certainly gives those of us reading from the vantage point of the 21st century plenty over which to feel perturbed/angered/superior :D Lots to discuss, for sure! Each generation has its own prejudices and "-isms". Our 21st century attitude towards beauty and youth is not much changed from that of Wilde's generation. What if Dorian had had botox and plastic surgery available to him?

I am enjoying everyone's comments immensely, which may be doing a disservice to my reading of the novel, but I'm too curious and can't resist logging on to find out what's been said :smile:

Off to read some more now!



Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:26 pm
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Post Manifesto for aesthetics
Thrillwriter wrote:

[/quote] TPODG is.... a manifesto for Wilde's beloved aesthetics movement.

Do you think it really is? Or could it be more of a debate about the movement. The outcome of the book is not a positive one for those who are concerned about beauty or those who think anything is more important than simple human emotion.

As you said it is a book that can be read from a variety of viewpoints. Do you think any one viewpoint is more important than any other? Or do you think it is a book that is simply meant to present a lot of different viewpoints so they can all be discussed and debated as we are doing!?

Gem



Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:57 am
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Gem:

Quote:
Or do you think it is a book that is simply meant to present a lot of different viewpoints so they can all be discussed and debated as we are doing!?


I think Oscar wrote it for our entertainment and edification, with a lot of showing off of his sophistication in the background....'cos he seems to have been like that. But I still love him.


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Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:11 am
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This discussion has a lot of lively participation and interesting perspectives. People were concerned that it wouldn't happen, but it has.

One idea we could explore is that the painting could be seen as a metatext or figure for the text itself, a screen on which the author can project the introspective self-examination he makes around issues of morality versus beauty, what is presented to the world versus what is known to one's own conscience; it could be the artifice by which one conceals "sins" in plain sight, thereby transfoming what at first seem to be character defects into an object that has value.

Through the vessel of art (like the painting in the story and like the story itself) even the ugly, difficult, shadow side of life can be safely explored, contained and expressed. This constitutes a kind of alchemy of the individual as artist or magician. In alchemy the base metals are transformed into gold and the alchemist finds the philosopher's stone which grants immortality (like eternal youth).

One of the features of fiction is that it allows the creation of a provisional space where we can act out our evil without doing real harm, as when playing a villain in theater. I think Oscar Wilde revered the ornamental and beautiful as much as he did based on a deep understanding of its power, much as he liked to make light of it as a deflection of attention from its seriousness, as all good sleight of hand artists must do for their own protection. What is ornamental is pretty, but it is a mistake to underestimate it on that account.


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Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:07 pm
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I was glancing over the past few pages and I noticed something - it mentions the unique mirror that Lord Henry gave Dorian. I remember it being referenced earlier in the book.

We've already pointed out that both Lord Henry and Basil both tried to influence Dorian. Henry encouraged him to value youth and beauty and the outward appearance, while Basil encouraged him to remain pure and innocent at heart. And they both gave him gifts that reflected their wishes for him.

Henry gave him the mirror, which showed his looks, and Basil gave him the painting, which (unbeknownst to the painter) showed Dorian the state of his soul. Wilde uses these objects to represent the influences and intentions of each of the two men.
(PS I think this is called metonymy - does anyone know?)



Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:00 pm
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gracefullgirll wrote:

Quote:
Henry gave him the mirror, which showed his looks, and Basil gave him the painting, which (unbeknownst to the painter) showed Dorian the state of his soul. Wilde uses these objects to represent the influences and intentions of each of the two men.
(PS I think this is called metonymy - does anyone know?)


Oh you are not sixteen! (Hyperbole; I don't really mean it, but am exaggerating my astonishment at your precociosity -- maybe you can tell me if I've spelled that right, gracefullgirll).

"Metonymy," as I understand it means a part standing for the whole, as in, "A sail! A sail on the horizon," or "He has a fine head on his shoulders," meaning what-all he does with his fine head, mind, brain. But it also means, a meta-text within a text that stands for the whole text, which I was just talking about above your post. The painting and the mirror may be metonymic to their givers' intentions, as you suggest, and they can be metonyms for the text as a whole.

If you want one more fancy term for this kind of thing -- although I'll bet you already know it, you smartypants -- there is always "mise-en-abyme," (meez uhn ah BEEM) which means a figure inside the text that operates like a miniature of the text itself. Like Shakespeare's play-within-the-play in Hamlet. This term comes from Heraldry and in that context it literally meant when a coat of arms has a picture of the whole coat of arms inside it somewhere, with hints of miniature coats of arms inside that, advancing to Tiny Infinity.

Tiny Infinity is the mythical place I just discovered where great thinkers who are well-educated and use their knowledge in sophisticated analyses get younger and younger until one discovers, alarmingly, that they were already way ahead of one when they were born. I hope you don't take this as ageist and patronizing. I truly am just impressed, gracefullgirll. I was quite a bit less sophisticated when I was your age and I thought I was pretty smart.


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Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:40 pm
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Do you think peoples' characters show in their faces?

I do, because often people may never have been beautiful like Dorian, but if they are kind or warm and affectionate, it shows in their faces eventually, and as they get older, they develope 'nice' faces. Not beautiful, but nice just to look at. I was always discouraged from using the word nice.....but I think it is a good way to describe some of the faces I love and have loved.

My OH has a kind face and he is a very kind man. When I went back to my school reunion a few years ago, I was surprised to see that many of the 'girls' (Ha! in their fifties then) who were in my year, had really changed. Some who were quite plain had become quite strikingly attractive and one or two who had been real glamour pusses, had begun to look quite harrowed.

The boys didn't seem to have changed at all. They had the same personalities as I remembered....the silly ones were still funny and the serious ones were still serious. All seemed to have grown more portly...to put it kindly. But the really nice ones, had 'nice' faces.

I know that I usually look quite vacant and puzzled.....which is often how I feel. :cry:


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Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:53 pm
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