Epigrams In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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Oscar Wilde 's The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a story almost solely infused with the Victorian era 's obsession with appearances. Epigrams pierce through this shallow pool of perfection and offer slight glimmers of the harsh reality behind this vanity. Lord Henry, the main source of epigrams, acts as a magnifying glass for the Victorian culture 's deep and dark problems lying just below the calm, mellow surface. Many of Wilde 's epigrams concentrate on the morality of how one deals with one 's own impulses, how one relates to others close to them, and how one relates to the rest of society. Oscar Wilde uses epigrams as a seemingly light-hearted but actually deadly serious vehicle to express social criticism of what he regarded as the shallow, …show more content…
Lord Henry stands up for self-responsibility in the epigram: "Books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame" (Wilde 326). Wilde suggests that immoral may just be the word humans use when, much like Wilde’s epigrams, words pierce through the shallow layer of vanity and show Victorians their true selves. Wilde suggests that one reason for the word ‘immoral’ is to discredit anything that may lessen the appearance or reputation of a person or of society itself. Victorians would rather live in ignorant complacency than see the dark side of their vanity. After a tiring bargain, Lord Henry realizes that, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing" (53). Wilde’s comparison of price and value highlights the difference between the appearance of status and importance of happiness. Especially in Victorian culture, the appearance of wealth was highly valued over what Wilde believes is truly important: living one’s life to the fullest. He suggests that, given the choice, the people of Victorian England would choose to work all their life to give the perception of conformity rather than trying new things and adding something to society. In an effort to defend his influence over Dorian, Lord Henry states that "There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral,—immoral from the scientific point of view" (Wilde 28). Wilde suggests that any influence is a bad influence as it may take someone off their natural course. For him, the highest morality is self-development, seizing the opportunity to explore all that life has to offer. Wilde 's epigrams highlight the inability and lack of motivation of people in Victorian society to look at the darker or immoral sides of themselves and society. People are too wrapped up in the

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