The Picture of Dorian Gray’s Attitudes Toward Love
The Attitude of Oscar Wilde to Homosexuality
According to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, all male homosexual relationships are illegal. It proves that Oscar Wilde and his character Dorian Gray are controversial figures of XIX century. Oscar Wilde was supposed to be at least a bisexual man. He did not hide his attitude to homosexual relationships and revealed the bisexuality in writers and other famous people. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted for homosexual affairs, as he had never condemned his homosexual identity.
The most interesting fact was that Oscar Wilde had a wife and two children. However, he referred homosexual relationships to an aesthetic experience that was intellectual and noble. Freedom in his sexual relationships proved his definite position in life and his love to opening something new. He did not care about the opinion of the society. Oscar Wilde wrote: “... it may be described as the “Love that dare not speak its name,” and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection ...” As we can see, his opinion was changed neither in the real life, not in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde). The writer was condemned by the society at the Victorian age, and there were many movements that were called “social purity movements”. As a result, according to the Section 11 in 1895, Oscar Wilde was prosecuted for homosexual relationships with Lord Alfred Douglas. There is nothing strange that Oscar Wilde tried to hide the real entity of his novel, as he wanted this book to be published.
Concluding, it is worth saying that in spite of condemning and prosecutions, Oscar Wilde supported homosexuality. Neither conviction, nor trials stopped him from propaganda of homosexuality in his literature. He was free from opinions of the society, lived the way he wanted, and ruined the stereotypes existing at the Victorian Age.
The Theme of Homosexual Relationships in the Novel “The picture of Dorian Gray”
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel of Oscar Wilde that concerns the problem of sexuality. This novel was unusual and strange at that time, as it revealed homosexual terms. At the present time, homosexual terms are the usual phenomenon, but at that time they were hidden and were supposed to be something shameful. In The Picture of Dorian Gray we deal with triangular relationships of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry Wotton, and Basil Hallward.
Ellmann states: “Dorian has like Wilde experimented with two forms of sexuality, love of women and men” (Ellmann 297). However, studying the relationships of Dorian Gray and his attitude to men and women, one can say that this narcissistic boy was not able to love. He did not know the real entity of these feelings. Dorian Gray’s aim was to seduce and then to ruin this person. The chemist Alan Campbell and Lady Gwendolen were the victims of his love.
The Masterpiece Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel with implicit homoerotic ideals. Homoerotic ideals were implicit, because at the Victorian age, it was a forbidden theme. The most interesting fact is that the writer renders these ideals with the help of the language of flowers. Homosexual love was illicit, but Oscar Wilde has found the way to reflect it in his novel. Dorian Grey is the way of approving homosexual love and criticizing the heterosexual one. Comparing with all characters in this novel, Dorian Gray is the most selfish and cynical one, especially when it concerns love. For example, Basil’s position is: “Do not talk like that about anyone you love, Dorian. Love is a more wonderful thing than Art” (Wilde 73).
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In this novel, Dorian Gray is a symbol of aesthetics, beauty, and art. It means that Oscar Wilde associates homosexual relationships with art, beauty, and aesthetics. It seems that the writer wants to prove that all these notions demand freedom, the same as human relationships and love. Despite that fact that homoerotic codes in the novel are hidden for the usual and stereotypical reader, they are open for intellectual, creative, and curious one. With this novel, Oscar Wilde ruined the canons of Victorian Age. No trials, convictions, and condemning prevented Oscar Wilde from supporting his priorities and attitudes.
At the end of XIX century, there was a movement that was called aestheticism that supported the idea of existence of art for art’s sake. Aestheticism devoted too much attention to the estimation of beauty. This movement was social and literary one. Many critics of aestheticism connected it with homoeroticism. As to the novel of Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray, the theme of aestheticism is the central one. The high estimation of Dorian’s beauty hides homoerotism and approval of freedom in love relationships. In this novel, men have feminine behavior, especially when it concerns beauty. There is a stereotypical opinion that beauty is women’s priority. Men that devote much time to their beauty or admire themselves are supposed to be homosexual. Oscar Wilde was the most passionate supporter of the aesthetic movement. He was not the only supporter of it; Walter Peter was the first, who took this movement. One can notice that this movement was becoming more and more popular not only in the society, but in literature as well. For Wild, aestheticism associated with homoerotism and it is evident in The Picture of Dorian Gray. However, the light of the aesthetic movement was only sometimes sparkling there in love affairs of the main characters of the novel.
Moreover, Oscar Wilde wanted to intricate his readers, showing that there was no connection between art and beauty, and the highest beauty could not be expressed with the help of art. Oscar Wilde wrote about Dorian Gray’s beauty “such as Art cannot express” (Wilde 17). One can think that this novel is devoted to the theme of art. In the first chapter, Oscar Wilde emphasized a lot on art. To my mind, the author wanted to distract readers from the theme of homoerotism, as it was forbidden at that time. One can name this chapter a defensive one. Reading other chapters of this novel, one can feel that the theme of art is not so brightly expressed. The next indicators of homoerotic theme and aestheticism are superficiality, shallowness, and profound fascination with physical beauty. However, it is necessary to admit that aesthetes did not support these indicators as homoerotic ones. To my mind, they did it in order to avoid condemning from the side of the society and the negative consequences. It is difficult to say that the principles of aesthetics were the same in Peter and Wilde. As to Oscar Wilde with the help of The Picture of Dorian Gray, he proved that amoral art did not exist, “the moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium” (Wilde 5).
Implicit homoerotic themes are hidden in the portrait of Dorian Gray. The relationships between Harry, Dorian, and Basil contain queer connection, autoerotism, and homosexuality. The portrait symbolizes a queer man with the double life, split of self-representation as the element of survival, split between essence and appearance, struggle with identity, and the contradiction between the inner world and the exterior one. The portrait is a form of self-love, erotic penetration, homosexual love, and autoerotism (Hansen 2011).
Concluding, it is worth saying that in spite of condemning and prosecutions, Oscar Wilde supported homosexuality. Neither conviction, nor trials stopped him from propaganda of homosexuality in his literature. He was free from the opinions of the society, and lived the way he wanted ruined the stereotypes existing at the Victorian Age.
In this novel, Dorian Gray is a symbol of aesthetics, beauty, and art. It means that Oscar Wilde associates homosexual relationships with art, beauty, and aesthetics. It seems to me that the writer wants to prove that all these notions demand freedom, the same as human relationships and love. Despite that fact that homoerotic codes in the novel are hidden for the usual and stereotypical reader, they are open for intellectual, creative, and curious one. With this novel, Oscar Wilde ruined the canons of Victorian Age. Trials, convictions, and condemning did not prevent Oscar Wilde from supporting his priorities and attitudes. For Oscar Wild aestheticism was associated with homoerotism, and it is evident in The Picture of Dorian Gray. However, the light of the aesthetic movement was only sometimes sparkling there in the love affairs of the main characters of the novel. Moreover, Oscar Wilde wanted to intricate his readers showing that there was no connection between art and beauty, and the highest beauty could not be expressed with the help of art.