When I first read The Picture of Dorian Gray, what struck me most, and what inspired me to write my essay, was the irony that Dorian exhibited in his life. In pursuing aestheticism—a philosophy based in the simplistic beauty of things—the pursuer may, in the end and without notice, emerge uglier than ever before. Dorian, the once wide-eyed innocent, buckles and caves in to depravity while practicing an aesthetic lifestyle, despite the beauty that such a life idea claims. I began to wonder what Oscar Wilde intended to convey with his portrayal of the Aesthetic Movement incarnate and its often harsh consequences, especially given the well-documented involvement of Wilde in promoting aestheticism in his contemporary society. The juxtaposition of Wilde’s support for the Aesthetic Movement with Dorian’s corruption at the hands of it provided a great jumping-off point and a lingering question with which to begin an essay. What exactly is Wilde’s view of aestheticism when one bears in mind the story of Dorian Gray? In writing my essay, I realized Wilde’s outlook is not as straightforward as it may first appear.

Throughout the writing process, a difficult task I faced was to encapsulate the aesthetic position when the philosophy often meant different things to different people. In researching the movement, I found that the moral philosophies of various proponents of aestheticism often varied and, thus, it became difficult to nail down the aesthetic tenets and apply them to Dorian Gray. In retrospect, some observations about the philosophy may, consequently, appear too generalized. I was also challenged in the initial formulation of my argument. It was initially difficult trying to broaden the significance of my argument beyond mere observation and to explain its significance, i.e. the reasons for and implications of Wilde’s exposition of aestheticism. I hoped not only to tell what Wilde was saying about aestheticism in his novel, but also to prove that what he was saying transcended fiction and profoundly impacted society as well.

PATRICK DUGGAN, of Arlington, VA, is a junior at BU’s Sargent College for Health and Rehabilitation Sciences majoring in human physiology on a pre-medical track. A crossword puzzle enthusiast, Patrick has authored and published several puzzles in The New York Times and Bostonia. At BU, Patrick is active in Sargent’s Health Science Club and the Naval ROTC program. Upon graduation, Patrick will be commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy and plans to attend medical school. This essay was written for Theodora Goss’s WR150: The Gothic in Literature.