Wilde's Theory of Art and Morality

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Oscar Wilde Class February 28, 2013 Wilde’s Theory of Art in Regard to Morality and Immorality In the preface of the Oscar Wilde’s book The Picture of Dorian Gray, he lays out different theories that connect with one another in a sense to help prove his theory that, “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all” (Wilde 3). Wilde talks about how complexity changes art and shifts prospective, as well as how views vary from person to person which creates overall different meanings. If abstractness, projection of people’s emotions, and uselessness of art create morality in art, then the art itself cannot be moral or immoral, thus proving Wilde’s theory true. There are different examples in the book The Picture of Dorian Gray that shows Dorian’s projection of his own feelings onto art rather than just letting the art be a form of pleasure. Dorian constantly projects meaning and pulls out morals from art, which leaves Dorian feeling poisoned. At one point he even tells Lord Henry that he was never going to forgive him for being poisoned with a book (Wilde 180). Lord Henry responds to this by noting that Dorian was beginning to moralize, and this was a negative thing because he believed that the books and art themselves did not make morals, therefore art could not be poison. Lord Henry argues, “As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame” (Wilde 180). The fall one sees in the character Dorian in the book is attributed to his need to create a moral out of art. Through Lord Henry’s reaction to Dorian thinking he is poisoned, one can see that it is not the art itself that is doing this poisoning. Dorian lets other
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