The theme of societal pressure in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
The theme of societal pressure in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is one that permeates throughout the entirety of Oscar Wilde's novel. Wilde masterfully portrays the destructive effects of societal pressure on individuals and the lengths to which they will go to fit into societal norms. The novel's protagonist, Dorian Gray, is the embodiment of this theme, as he struggles with the pressures of society and its expectations.
From the very beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Dorian as a young, innocent, and charming man. However, as he becomes more involved with society, he becomes increasingly aware of the importance of his appearance and reputation. His obsession with beauty and youth is a result of the societal pressure to conform to a particular standard of attractiveness. The portrait of Dorian, which serves as a reflection of his true self, is a representation of the internal conflict he experiences as he tries to maintain his reputation while indulging in his darker desires.
One of the most significant examples of societal pressure in the novel is seen in the character of Lord Henry. Lord Henry's influence on Dorian is one of the key factors that lead to his downfall. Lord Henry's philosophy that one should live life to the fullest and pursue pleasure above all else goes against traditional societal norms. He encourages Dorian to embrace his desires and follow his passions, which ultimately leads to his moral decay.
Another example of societal pressure can be seen in the character of Sibyl Vane. Sibyl is an actress who falls in love with Dorian, but her acting career conflicts with her desire for love and a normal life. She is pressured by society to choose between love and her career, and ultimately chooses the latter. This decision leads to her tragic end, as she becomes consumed by her despair and loses the will to live.
Wilde's use of imagery is also crucial in conveying the theme of societal pressure. The portrait of Dorian Gray serves as a visual representation of the internal conflict Dorian experiences as he tries to maintain his societal facade while indulging in his darker desires. As Dorian becomes more corrupted by his own vices, the portrait becomes more grotesque and distorted.
Overall, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a masterful portrayal of the destructive effects of societal pressure on individuals. Wilde's use of vivid imagery and character development serves to highlight the internal conflict and moral decay that can result from societal pressure. The novel ultimately serves as a warning against the dangers of conformity and the importance of staying true to oneself.