Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This novel is about a boy who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. It starts with Basil Hallward painting a picture of Dorian Gray while his friend, Lord Henry, observes. After talking with Lord Henry on many occasions, Dorian soon believes that beauty is the only aspect of life really worth striving for and keeping. He wishes that the picture Basil painted of him would grow old in his place so he can stay young and beautiful forever. Soon after, Dorian finds Sybil Vane preforming Romeo and Juliet in a dingy playhouse and proposes to her within a week. She thinks she is completely perfect and goes home to tell her skeptical mother and brother about him. Her brother, James, says that if Dorian (whom she refers to as Prince Charming) harms her, James will kill him.
Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sybil preform one night and she does a horrendous job. He goes to speak with her after the play and realizes he feels nothing for her because she can no longer produce beautiful preformances and tells her the engagement is off. In a fit, she kills herself. When Dorian comes home and looks at the painting, there is a subtle, cruel sneer on his face. This is the last of Dorian's love affairs. Over the next eighteen years, Dorian does everything wrong that he can think of mainly under the influence of a novel given to him by Lord Henry as a gift.
One night, before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives to question Dorian about rumors of his indulgences. Dorian doesn't deny his debauchery. He takes Basil to the portrait, which is as hideous as Dorian's soul. In anger, Dorian blames Basil for his fate and stabs him to death. He then blackmails an old friend into destroying Basil's body. Wishing to escape this crime, Dorian travels to an opium den. James Vane is nearby and hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming." He follows Dorian outside and attempts to shoot him, but is deceived when Dorian asks James to look at him in the light, saying he is too young to have been involved with Sibyl 18 years earlier. James releases Dorian but is approached by a woman from the opium den who chastises him for not killing Dorian and tells him Dorian has not aged for 18 years.
While at dinner, Dorian sees James stalking the grounds and fears for his life. However, during a game-shooting party a few days later, James is accidentally shot and killed by one of the hunters. After returning to London, Dorian informs Lord Henry that he will be good from now on, and has started by not breaking the heart of his latest innocent conquest, named Hetty Merton. At his apartment, Dorian wonders if the portrait has begun to change back, losing its senile, sinful appearance now that he has given up his immoral ways. He unveils the portrait to find it has become worse. Seeing this, he questions the motives behind his "mercy," whether it was merely vanity, curiosity, or the quest for new emotional excess.

1. Do you think Dorian and Lord Henrey are right in thinking that beauty and the conquest for it are the only important things in life? Why or why not?
2.If you had the option of never aging past 17, would you take it? What would you do if you stayed 17 forever?
3. The last aphorism in the preface of the novel is "All art is quite useless." Do you agree or disagree with this?

16 comments:

Richard B. said...

To answer question two, I would not want to stay 17 forever. There's so much to still be experienced in life after high school and late adolescence that nothing is worth staying 17 forever. It's really as simple as not being able to experience everything one wants/is able to.

russell F 11-12 said...

2. No, there is still so much life to live beyond 17. No one will ever take a 17 year old seriously no matter how mature they are.

Kaitlyn H 11-12 said...

1). I think they are wrong in thinking beauty and the conquest for it are the only important things in life for two reasons. First of all, beauty is all subjective, so there really is no point of anyone's life where they finally achieve beauty because it is different in everyone's eyes. Secondly, beauty is not permanent, so its not worth making a goal of if it doesn't last.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

1) I don't think that they are right because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore is different to everybody. Beauty also may be impermanent.
2) No, I would not take it. 17 years of one person's life is not that much at all. A 17 year old is still so young and has so much to live for and to do as they continue to grow and mature. I would not want to miss any part of my life as I grow up.
3) I think this question can sort of relate to the first question. Everyone sees things differently in the world. One person may see a work of art as useless while others may not. It all depends on the person and what he views as valuable.

McKenzieM 11-12 said...

1) I don't think besuty is the only important thing in life because beauty is so different for every culture. And there are also so many better things in life to live for.
2. No I wouldn't take the option of never aging past the age of 17. Your life has barely started at that age and there are so many more things to experience.

Emily C. 13-14 said...

2. I would not want to stay at age 17, I have barely experienced anything at that age and have so many things that I want to do with my life that I could not accomplish if I am only 17.

Liz S.11-12 said...

1. No. People don't fall in love with beauty, they don't learn from beauty, even if they could, beauty is only temporary everywhere apart from this book.

2. No- sorry to make a reference to twilight but when one person in a relationship ages and the other doesn't, things don't really work out. So the person could never fall in love, which in this book Dorian doesn't.

3. I disagree, i think art is a really unique way of expressing things inside of us that we can't necessarily see, and it helps us to learn things about people that they wouldnt necessarily tell everyone.

Justin B. 11-12 said...

3) As a musician for 8 years I definitely disagree with this. Music engages almost every part of the human brain. This allows music to be used as a sort of "brain fitness augmentation." Older people who listen to or play music on a regular basis have been shown to have better memories (the big deal), keener balance/finer motor skills (if they play). Basically music can slow down the deterioration of the mind and since music is a form of art that shows that not all art is useless.

Dana D 11-12 said...

3. Art is not just the paintings or drawings that most people think of. It is the creative force behind everything in our lives. The things we use must be created by someone. Every idea, design, and construction is a work of art. The music you listen to, the ads on tv, the food you eat, and the car you drive are all pieces of art. Art should never be considered useless.

Rachel T said...

2. If I had the option to stay 17 forever I probably wouldn't take it. It would be too hard to watch everyone around me get older while I stayed the same. It would also suck not to be able to experience some of the things that older people get to do.

Greg P. 13-14 said...

2) As much as I would like to not age past 17, there is much more too life that I would end up missing.

Ashley A. 11-12 said...

1) I don't think they are right to think beauty is the only important thing in life. Especially because how Dorian achieves 'beauty' by staying young forever, he misses out on the truely important things like love and family.
2) As fun as it would temporarily be, I regret my decision to stay 17 forever in the end because I would have to watch everyone I care about die while I stayed young.
3) I definately don't agree with this. I completely agree with what Dana said ^^ up there.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

To answer the second question, I would definitely not take the opportunity to not age past 17. By doing so, one would not be able to experience all of the things that typically come after turning 17 such as attending college, getting married, and so forth. I would not feel as if I had lived my life to its entirety. To answer the third question, I disagree with that statement because art allows people to uphold different perspectives on things, and furthermore, it allows people to delve into their creative sides and sort of become a new type of person for a couple hours or however long. Art is a way to express oneself and get across a message that sometimes cannot be conveyed as justly and as accurately as it could be through art.

James F (11-12) said...

1.no because beauty is just a perk in life. intelligence, talent, being a good person are all examples of more important things in life.
2.i would not take it because i would want to grow up and experience life the way i am supposed to. i wouldnt want to change something that dramatic. i also wouldnt want to keep watching my loved ones die.
3.no because art in all of its forms is something great. its a way for people to express who they are through their talents. i also think art is something that not everyone can participate in. being artful is a gift.

CorinneS5/6 said...

I dont think they are the only things in lif worth striving for because beaty is really a reflection of what others think of you and I think happiness has to come from inside not be based on hte opinions of others. If I had the choice to stay 17 I would not because I think growing up and experiencing new things is part of the fun of life and staying 17 forever might get boring. I do not believe art is useless because it makes some people happy.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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