Theme Of Modernism In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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About Time The advent of modernism at the end of the twentieth century ushered in an era best defined by Karl Marx’s “all that is solid melts into air,” when society reexamined its preexisting notions about reason and representation. One particular target of this scrutiny was the foundation of time. Previously considered a constant, time was reimagined under the scope of modernism and was molded to better reflect the human experience. This transformation is especially evident in James Joyce’s “Counterparts” and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which each protagonist’s warped perception of time highlights how time is perceived not as a universal standard, but in units personalized to the setting of each narrative and values of …show more content…
Joyce’s liberal use of exclamation points in the opening dialogue — “send Farrington here!... blast it!... come in!” — illustrate the breakneck pace of the modern industrial workplace. This is no place for calm. Farrington’s managers then repeatedly bombard Farrington with pointed questions, “Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain of you? May I ask you why you haven’t made a copy of that contract between Bodley and Kirwan?,” further developing a tone of frantic unease (Joyce 55). By not giving Farrington time to answer and by having his managers cut him off when he tries, Joyce is able to recreate Farrington’s perpetual stress of not having enough time. This anxiety amalgamates in Farrington’s frantic thought process later in the scene; time is moving so fast that Farrington stumbles over his own thoughts: his desire to “revel in violence,” his desperation “for an advance,” and his need for a stiff drink all jarringly flow into each other, broken only by a few syncopated ellipses (Joyce 58). However, the narrative’s structure slows dramatically when Farrington is slogging through his dismal job. Here, Joyce employs a sentence pattern of simple, independent clauses beginning with the subject — “Miss Delacour was… she came… Mr. …show more content…
However, this distance does not exempt Dorian from the plasticity of time proposed by Bergson, but rather shifts the metrics that he sees the world through. After the death of Sybil Vane, Dorian decides to lock his portrait away, symbolizing his utter rejection of not only age, but of standard measures of time. This next chapter — Chapter XI — features a rhetorical shift away from Wilde’s straightforward narrative structure towards a dreamy, trance-like recounting of Dorian’s various obsessions. In the eighteen years that pass by in this single chapter, traditional standards of time melt away; the almost two decades are measured not by their standard form of months and years, but by the various passions that Dorian is pursuing. Ranging from “the Roman Catholic communion” to “the secrets of [perfume] manufacture” to the “study of jewels,” these fixations span twenty pages and reveal the extent of Dorian’s obsession with the vogue (Wilde 135, 136, 138). The narrative only snaps back to simple linearity when the next chapter reintroduces the traditional measurements of time and date: “it was on the 9th of November, the eve of his own thirty-eighth birthday” (Wilde 151). Staying true to the roots of aestheticism, Dorian also uses the physical decay of beauty as a measurement of time. He counts the years gone by not in months on the

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