Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray written by Oskar Wilde is about a young man, Basil Hallward, who has become friends another man named Dorian Gray. Basil’s other friend, Lord Henry, is a character that has major influences in the destruction of Dorian Gray. Lord Henry leads Dorian Gray to ruin himself be appealing to his inner desires and repressed feelings, which eventually causes his downfall. The way Lord Henry does this and the response that Dorian Gray is giving can easily be analyzed by a psychoanalytic perspective. A psychoanalytic analysis of a specific text consists of examining the characters and their actions and responses to certain situations. This analysis is the basis of which a critic can observe some psychological dynamics such as repression and projection. It can also give insight to the character’s consciousness and unconscious mind. This analysis can give explanations on human behavior which is depicted through the characters.

In the essay by John Haber Who is Jacques Lacan, it mentions that "The "unconscious" is just the part of us that others understand when we do not." The influence of Lord Henry leads, Dorian Gray to do various things that are also brought about from his unconsciousness; the mind which holds impulses and urges which may be too uncomfortable to acknowledge, which can also be referred to Sigmund Freud’s, id. Basil, Dorian's friend, being aware of Lord Henry’s character asks him to not be influential towards Dorian. However, Lord Henry does not listen and tells Dorian that his youth and beauty will fade and urges him to look for new ‘sensations'. This can be related to the psychological philosophy of how a person is always struggling between seeking pleasure and doing the morally right thing. This is projected in throughout the novel, when Dorian goes out seeking for new bodily and artistic pleasures, making him a hedonist, eventually leading to his own destruction.

With his unconscious desires unleashed, Dorian began ignoring his conscience. Dorian’s conscious is present, however not in his face but rather on a painting of him, which Basil had made. Desregarding his conscience, Dorian began to commit acts of cruetly. The painting itself changes each time Dorian indulges himself with immoral deeds. It ages and turns ugly, as Dorian himself remains young. His corrupted soul is reflected onto the painting itself. At one point Basil does question Dorian’s conscience and soul, to which Dorian says that he will show it to Basil. Eventually, Dorian hides the painting, because he does not want to face his conscious and realize what he is doing is morally wrong. Instead he is more focused on the unconscious id, by being hedonistic and pleasure seeking. Being this way also allows Dorian to remain young and aging is only shown in the painting rather than himself. This also brought about another repressed desire he had to remain young. At the same time his youthful and innocent-looking face was the face he wanted people to see and perceive; which possibly could have been his super-ego or ideal self. There is a constant battle within Dorian and the three-part psyche, which Frued talks about.

1 comment:

  1. Good. There's no doubt that Dorian can work this way--that we can read the painting as part of his conscious/unconscious. The question we might still consider is: was Wilde thinking about it this way? Or does, in this case, the Freudian reading limit our considerations of certain metaphors in literature?