The Picture of Dorian Gray

Social and Economic Mobility in The Picture of Dorian Gray College

Aristocratic beauty and values comprise culture which is used as a proxy for social and economic and mobility in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. To at least appear as having the same intelligentsia as the Victorian upper class is to utilize the very thing which defines the upper class, their affinity for the arts. Having this appearance makes one cultured. Accentuating the shallowness of the Victorian upper class, Wilde characterizes his middle and lower class characters as appreciating art not for its symbolic meaning, but for the mobility it provides them. Their opinions and interests are not their own, but those of the class which they are trying to best mimic in order to obtain access. Wilde’s titular character, Dorian Gray, is a greedy and vain dandy representative of the aspirations of the Victorian upper class. He is shallow to the extent that even money is trivial when compared to art. Art is abstract enough to be manipulated while the concreteness of money speak nothing to the Victorian concern with mobility. Shallowness permeated every class in Victorian England. If one appreciated art for its symbolic meaning they eventually were destroyed, exemplified through the fates of Basil Hallward and Sibyl Vane....

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