Essay On Picture Of Dorian Gray: A Jungian Analysis

970 words - 4 pages

  The Picture of Dorian Gray begins with Basil describing his fascination with Dorian, and ends with his masterpiece reverting to its original splendour. He describes his reaction to Dorian in these words:

"When our eyes met, I felt I was growing pale. A curious sensation of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself." (6)

Such a reaction is not a reaction to another human being. It signals an intimation of something super-human. The word "fascinating" comes from fascinum, which means "spell." A fascination is ...view middle of the document...

Thus he needs Dorian, because only through Dorian can he feel that he is alive. The contrast between them is suggestive. Basil is fascinated by what he himself is not. The attributes which he finds so fascinating stand in "compensatory" relation to him. But, instead of seeing his fascination as symbolic of a need to develop the Dionysian side of his own personality, he seeks to perpetuate his experience through art. His ambition signals the same kind of inflation as Marsyas: artistic inflation. He is punished by Dorian-Dionysos for not giving expression to his Dionysian side, and by Dorian-Apollo for thinking too highly of his art. The novel traces the consequence of his "artistic idolatry."

The novel may begin in Basil's studio, but its story is triggered by Lord Henry, who is equally -- albeit differently -- fascinated by Dorian. Lord Henry is a dandy who has elaborated a theory of Individualism. He advises Dorian to enjoy life to the full, to give way to every temptation, to realize his every fantasy -- but not to allow any experience to arrest the pursuit of his pleasure. He watches Dorian's progress closely, half aware that he is experimenting on himself (59). Dorian has what he values most, and feels he has lost: youth. In other words, Lord Henry is also fascinated by what he is not. He is captivated by Dorian, because Dorian lives the life he would like to live. Instead of seeing Dorian as symbolizing his need to involve himself in life, he contents himself with "philosophic contemplation" (40). He too represses his Dionysian side. He feels it sufficient to experience this through Dorian. The novel traces the consequences of his desire to follow his "experiment" to its end (59).

Basil and Lord Henry personify two different aspects of Wilde's personality....

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