Contrast Lens In Shakespeare's The Picture Of Dorian Gray

1763 Words 8 Pages
“Contrast Lens”

Have you ever wondered how, exactly, you measure changes in yourself and the people around you. By comparison of course, for without darkness, how can one measure the light. It is a very common practice, in fictional literature, for authors to use static characters in order to expose change in the protagonist. For example, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde uses the characters of Lord Henry Wotton and Basil Hallward to measure Dorian’s descent into Henry’s hedonistic ways. When we meet Dorian he is pure and innocent. Throughout the book he reacts differently to Henry’s statements and actions. Another use of a static character is apparent in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, wherein Horatio is used to contrast Hamlet’s
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Dorian’s transformation acted as a warning for the largely aesthetic Victorian society for which it was written. Hamlet has made a profound effect on how society views mental illness. Ellen Langer, Professor of psychology at Harvard University, “Lord Henry displays The classic signs of an aesthete, while in contrast Dorian Gray personifies the aesthetic lifestyle in action, pursuing personal gratification with abandon. Yet, while he enjoys these indulgences, his behavior ultimately kills him and others, and he dies unhappier than ever” (Langer) An aesthete is someone to whom there is “no distinction between good or bad, only what brings you pleasure and what doesn’t” (Langer) This opens the idea that this book may have been written to warn the largely aesthetic victorian society of the dangers that their immorality would bring them. It could be argued that Dorian’s descent only made such a genuine impact on its readers because they were able to analyze it so thoroughly. Policy associate for Mental Health of America, Laurie Barnett Levine, in her article “Mind Over Pop Culture: Hamlet” says “ Hamlet is genuinely seen as one of the most humanistic stories ever written. All of the characters are recognizable people, even after 400 years, with motivations you can understand and reactions that make sense.” (Levine) Shakespeare uses contrasting …show more content…
After Carl Linnaeus published Systema Naturae in 1735, it became evident that families of plants and animals all somehow evolved from common ancestors. Two rival concepts concerning evolution were at war during the early nineteenth century. “In 1809 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that species evolved via acquired characteristics… this theory, however popular, had serious flaws” (Cheshire 184) Lamarck had only compared one human family in his study and made a blanket statement about genetics as a whole.. He had failed to compare a large enough group. “In 1859, after 25 years of collecting specimens and studying variations between species, most often oysters,Charles Darwin revealed his theory of evolution by natural selection” (Cheshire 185) Darwin’s theory had been reached only after comparing countless specimens. All of those contrasts had given him enough data to form an accurate and logical theory. “While Darwin was pondering over his oysters, Gregor Mendel had already been experimenting with heredity for years. By 1865 he had tested over 29,000 plants and amassed enough evidence to show that it was possible to accurately predict what traits an offspring could show” (Cheshire 190) Gregor Mendel is the epitome of using contrasting evidence to come to a logical conclusions. Because of his outstanding research, Gregor Mendel came to be known as the “Father of Genetics”, even though

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