The Picture of Dorian Gray

Representations of the Double Life in The Picture of Dorian Grey. College

‘Those who go below the surface do so at their own peril’. If the aesthetic exterior of a person is the ‘surface’, it is assumed that below this surface is sensibility and emotion. Wilde warns against probing too deeply, or at all, the conscience; the threat that you cannot experience pleasure to the same intensity once moral consequence has been considered haunts the novel. The phrase ‘terrible pleasure’ is thus both antithetical and associated. Dorian is only able to lead a life of ‘pleasure’ through remaining blind to his ‘terrible’ sacrifice of others; pleasure is almost intensified with the knowledge that it was born of another’s suffering. Yet, the mythic quality dictates that this separation of morality and unheeded pleasure is unsustainable and, as fresh paint does, the consequences of sin begin to seep to the suppressed conscience. It is to a self-afflicted ‘peril’ when Dorian submerges, albeit temporarily, ‘below the surface’ and realises he cannot live a life soulless. Once he has submerged in his conscience, he can no longer reach this perfect surface, and inevitably drowns.

To avoid degeneration is to live a life based on balance of two elements. The very phrase ‘double life’ is associated with the Gothic...

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