Dorian Gray And Aestheticism Vs. Responsibility

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Oscar Wilde wrote a body of work that is relevant today for many reasons. He struggled with the relationship of style to substance, wanting both to enjoy art for the sake of enjoying beautiful things, but also worrying about the effects living such a lifestyle would have on society. This theme runs through all his major works in some way... The individuals preferring to do something they find interesting, fun, or beautiful, but having to balance that with their duties to society. One of the strongest examples of this is in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” where the main character and his foil, Lord Henry Wotton, struggle with their different approaches to this question. The struggle seems to be between the longing to live for aesthetic and sensual pleasure and the responsibilities we have over others and to be good, honest human beings. That's absolutely something people still worry about and struggle with today.

Wilde is believed to be one of the most well-known writers of the Aestheticism movement. Aestheticism comes from the Greek word 'aesth,' meaning "feeling" or "perception." In modern times the word "aesthetic" has come to mean something relating to or appealing to the sense of beauty. The Aesthetic movement is simply defined by the saying, "Art for art's sake." As Wilde says in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, "Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming...Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated." Aestheticism deals with the idea of art as a thing to be treasured and appreciated, not for an underlying purpose.

Although it can be argued that Wilde's novel and other works, as well as many details of the way he lived his life follow those ideals, it cannot be ignored that the theme of this novel is corruption by beauty and aestheticism. When the novel opens, Basil Hallward,
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