Fear Of Horror Vacui Theme

1962 Words 8 Pages
The Latin-derived term horror vacui translates to “fear of emptiness.” Within literature, the utilization of horror vacui elucidates the human desire to maintain a grasp on the material world in times of adversity or turbulence. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Sarah Waters’s The Night Watch, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, this fear of existential emptiness is manifested into the characters’ own materialist strategies to cope with it. Whether it be through the accumulation of memories and social clout, physical tokens from the past, or knowledge and exquisite treasures, the characters of these three novels find their own distinct ways to fill the vacui, or void, they feel within themselves. The elderly Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, …show more content…
Equally under threat in the novel is the emotional well-being of Duncan, a young candle factory worker with a sordid past. Formerly imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs for what Waters’s alludes to was an attempted suicide, Duncan re-enters society completely unsure of his place in it. As he tells Fraser, his old cellmate, when the two reconnect years later, “When I came out, everything was different. Everything was changed” (Waters, 2006, p. 98). Devoid of friends upon his release, with the exception of his sister Vivian and Mr. Mundy, a former Wormwood Scrubs prison guard with whom he boards, Duncan’s emptiness stems from a lack of life purpose. His self-worth has been reduced so much throughout the course of his life, whether that be by his disappointed father’s coldness or brother-in-law’s homophobic insults, that he constantly finds himself guessing the motives and feelings of the people who are around …show more content…
Under his beautiful facade dwells a void of subjectivity and an oversaturation of shallowness and narcissism. This egotism, encouraged by Lord Henry, expands further as Dorian adopts a lifestyle of pleasure-seeking without regards for morality. His love towards the actress Sibyl Vane, who he once described as “divine beyond all living things,” shatters as soon as he decides she is no longer talented enough nor brings him the pleasure he seeks from romantic partners (Wilde, 2013, p. 73). After learning of Sibyl 's suicide, Dorian simply notes it as being an example of how extraordinarily dramatic life can be and questions why he does not “feel this tragedy as much as [he] wants to” (Wilde, 2013, p. 97). Equating it to the ending of a play rather than the ending of a life, Dorian explains that he played a role in the tragedy but luckily came out of the experience unscathed. With Sybil’s death marking the proverbial “point of no return” for Dorian’s changing life outlook, he becomes unequivocally obsessed with his own beauty and youth — abandoning his morality for the pursuit of absolute physical perfection and

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