Stephen Dedalus And Dorian Gray

3062 words (12 pages) Essay in English Literature

19/05/17 English Literature Reference this

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Stephen Dedalus from “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” written by James Joyce and Dorian Gray from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” written by Oscar Wilde, go through many life changes. These two stories are in a ways similar to each other. Where the two main characters go though crucial transformation and how they are influence by religion and peers. As well in the way the authors wrote the novels by using symbolisms to develop the characters throughout the novel also play a role in these two stories.

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“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” tells a story of Stephen Dedalus how decides to cast off all his social, family, and religious constraints to live a life devoted to the art of writing. As a young boy he attends a strict religious boarding school called Clongowes Wood College. Stephen is lonely and homesick at the school but as time passes he finds his place among the other boys. He likes is visits home, even though family tensions run high after the death of the Irish political leader Parnell. As they had a Christmas diner the death of Parnell becomes the topic. Simon, Stephen’s father, is inept with money and the family sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Stephen realizes that his family cannot afford to send him back to Clongowes, and that they will instead move to Dublin. He attended a prestigious day school called Belvedere there is where he grows to do extremely well as a writer and as an actor in the student theater. His first sexual experience with a young Dublin prostitute unleashes a storm of guilt and shame in Stephen. He ignores his religious education, throwing himself with morally wrong abandon into a variety of sins like masturbation and more visits to prostitutes. Then on a three day religious retreat, Stephen hears a tri of fiery sermons about sin, judgment, and hell. Deeply shaken Stephen resolves to rededicate himself to a life of Christian piety. Stephen begins attending Mass every day became Ming a model of Catholic piety abstinence and self denial. His religious devotion is so pronounced that the director of his school asks him to consider entering the priesthood. After a brief considering the offer Stephen realizes that priestly life is utterly incompatible with his love for sensual beauty. Awaiting news about his acceptance to the university Stephen goes for a walk on the beach, were he observes a young girl wading in the tide. He is struck by her beauty and realizes in a moment of epiphany, that the love and desire of beauty should not be a source of shame. Stephen moves on to the university where he develops a strong friendship with Cranly. In a series of conversation with his companions, Stephen works to formulate his theories about art. While he is dependent on his friends as listeners, he is determined to create an independent existence, liberated from the expectations of friends and family. Stephen becomes more and more determined to free himself from all limiting pressures, and eventually decides to leave Ireland to escape them.

In the story “The Picture of Dorian Gray” tells a story of Dorian Gray a wealthy and beautiful young man who curses his fate and pledges his soul if only he could live without bearing the physical burns of aging and sinning. In the London home of his aunt Lady Brandon the well known artist Basil Hallward meets Dorian Gray. Dorian sits for several portraits and Basil often depicts him as an ancient Greek hero or a mythological figure. Basil painted a portrait of Dorian as he truly is but as he admits to his friend Lord Henry the painting disappoints him because it reveals too much of his feeling for his subject. Lord Henry enjoys scandalizing his friends by celebrating youth, beauty and the selfish pursuit of pleasure; he disagrees claiming that the portrait is Basil’s masterpiece. Dorian enters the studio and Basil introduces him to Lord Henry and he fears that he will have a damaging influence on the young Dorian. Lord Henry upsets Dorian with a speech about the transient nature of beauty and youth. Dorian worries that his most impressive characteristics are fading day by day and curses his portrait which he believes will one day remind him of the beauty he will have lost. In distress he pledges his soul if only the painting could bear the burden of ageing allowing him to stay forever young. Lord Henry’s influence over Dorian grows stronger. The youth becomes a disciple of the “new Hedonism” and proposes to live a life dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. Dorian falls in love with Sibyl Vane a young actress who performs in a theater on London’s slums. Overcome by her emotions for Dorian, Sibyl decides that she can no longer act. She wonders how she can pretend to love on the stage now that she has experienced the real thing. Dorian who loves Sibyl because of her ability to act he cruelly breaks his engagement with her. After he leaves the theater he returns home to notice that his face in Basil’s portrait of him has changed. It is then when he fears that that his wish for his likeness in the painting to bear the ill effects of his behavior has come true and that his sins will be recorded on the canvas. The following afternoon Lord Henry brings news that Sibyl has killed herself. At Lord Henry’s urging Dorian decides to consider her death a sort of artistic triumph and to put the matter behind him. Meanwhile Dorian hides his portrait in a remote upper room of his house where no one other than he can watch its transformation. Lord Henry gives Dorian a book that describes the wicked exploits of the nineteenth century Frenchman it becomes Dorian’s bible as he sinks ever deeper into a life of sin and corruption. Dorian lives a life devoted to garnering new experiences and sensations with no regard for conventional standards of morality or the consequences of his actions. His peers nevertheless continue to accept him because he remains young and beautiful. The painting, however, grows increasingly hideous. One night Basil Hallward arrives at Dorian’s home to confront him about the rumors that plague his reputation. They argue and Dorian eventually offers Basil a look at his soul. He shows Basil the now hideous portrait and Basil horrified begs him to repent. Dorian claims it is too late for penance and kills Basil in a fit of rage. To dispose of the body Dorian employs one of his doctor friend how refuses to help Dorian but at the end he helps his because Dorian blackmails him. The night after the murder Dorian makes his way to an opium den where he encounters James Vane the bother of Sibyl and attempts to avenge his sister death. Dorian then escapes to his country state while entertaining guest he notice James Vane peering in through a window and he becomes wracked by fear and guilt. A hunting party accidentally shoots and kills Vane, Dorian feels safe again. He resolves to amend his life but cannot muster the courage to confess his crimes, and the painting now reveals his supposed desire to repent for what it is hypocrisy. He picks up the knife he used to stab Basil and attempts to destroy the painting. There is a crash, and Dorian’s servants enter to find the portrait unharmed showing Dorian as a beautiful young man. On the floor lies the body of their master an old man, horribly wrinkled and disfigured, with a knife plunged into his heart.

First over the course of the novels this two characters went through several transformation. Stephen Dedalus first transformation was during his first years as Clongowes, he goes from a sheltered little boy to a bright student who understands social interactions and can begin to make sense of the world around him. The second occurs when Stephen sleeps with the Dublin prostitute he went from innocence to a sinner. The third transformation occurs when Stephen hears Father Arnall’s speech on death and hell he went from an unrepentant sinner to a devout Catholic. Finally, Stephen’s greatest transformation is from near fanatical religiousness to a new devotion to art and beauty. That transformation took place in chapter 4 when he is offered entry to the Jesuit order but refuses it in order to attend university. Stephen’s refusal and his subsequent epiphany on the beach mark his transition from belief in God to belief in aesthetic beauty. This transformation continues through his college years. By the end of his time in college, Stephen has become a fully formed artist, and his diary entries reflect the independent individual he has became.

In contrast with Dorian Gray, he went through several transformations as well. Dorian’s first transformation to me was when he was introduce to Lord Henry he went from being this young beautiful boy, close minded person to a selfish person with an obsession towards his beauty. His second transformation was when he breaks Sibyl’s heart. She being torn it drives her to suicide herself. This is the point where Dorian first notice the portrait that Basil had painted of himself starts to change. Here is where Dorian reveals that his pledge of staying young forever and his portrait taking the side effects of ageing are becoming true. As Dorian’s sins grow worse over the years, his likeness in Basil’s portrait grows more hideous. He seems to lack a conscience but the desire to repent that he eventually feels illustrated that he is indeed human. Dorian third transformation would be when he murders his friend Basil. He is unable to distract himself from the dissipation of his soul. Although in the past he has been able to be sweep infamies from his mind, he cannot shake the thought that he has killed his friend Basil. Dorian’s guilt tortures him relentlessly until he is forced to go away with his portrait. Throughout this transformation not both of the characters went through a good change. Stephen Dedalus transformation went for a good one, well at least for him. As for Dorian’s transformation it went all bad from the beginning to the end.

Also these two characters have in common that they in their own way were influence and let themselves get influence by others. Stephen Dedalus was influence by his family, his Catholic faith, and Irish nationality. Brought up in a devout Catholic family Stephen initially ascribes to an absolute belief in the morals of the church. As a teenager, this belief leads him to two opposite boundaries. At first, he falls into the extreme of sin, repeatedly sleeping with prostitutes and deliberately turning his back on religion. Though Stephen sins willfully, he is always aware that he acts in violation of the church’s rules. Second, when Father Arnall’s speech prompts him to return to Catholicism, he bounces to the other extreme, becoming a perfect, near fanatical model of religious devotion and obedience. Eventually Stephen realizes that both of these lifestyles the completely sinful and the completely devout are extremes that have been false and harmful.

Dorian Gray influence are heavily mostly by Lord Henry believes and his yellow book given to Dorian by Lord Henry. The yellow book has a profound effect on Dorian, influencing him to predominantly immoral behavior. Reflecting on Dorian’s power over Basil and deciding that he would like to seduce Dorian in much the same way Lord Henry points out that there is “something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence.” Falling under the wave of such influence is perhaps unavoidable but the novel ultimately censures the sacrifice of one’s self to another. Basil’s worship of Dorian leads to his murder and Dorian’s devotion to Lord Henry’s hedonism and the yellow book precipitate his own downfall. As this two characters go through influences they at a point break apart. Stephen Dedalus does not want to lead a completely debauched life, but also rejects austere Catholicism because he feels that it does not permit him the full experience of being human. He reaches a decision to embrace life and celebrate humanity after seeing a young girl wading at a beach. To Stephen the girl is a symbol of pure goodness and of life lived to the fullest. In comparison to Dorian’s influences it is little wonder in a novel that prizes individualism the uncompromised expression of self that the sacrifice of one’s self, whether it is to another person or to a work of art, leads to one’s destruction.

The author’s way on writing their novels with symbolism enables them to develop their characters. In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce, Joyce uses several symbolisms to develop his character Stephen Dedalus. Stephen associates the colors green and maroon with his governess, Dante and with two leaders of Irish resistance, Parnell and Davitt. In a dream after Parnell’s death, Stephen sees Dante dressed in green and maroon as the Irish people mourn their fallen leader. This vision indicates that Stephen associates the two colors with the way Irish politics are played out among the members of his own family. Another symbolism that Joyce uses is Emma. Emma appears only in glimpses throughout Stephen’s young life, and he never gets to know her as a person. Instead, she becomes a symbol of pure love, untainted by sexuality or reality. Stephen worships Emma as the ideal of feminine purity. When he goes through his devoutly religious phase he imagines his rewards for his piety as a union with Emma is heaven. When he is at the university he finally has a conversation with Emma. Stephen’s diary entry regarding this conversation portrays Emma as a real, friendly and somewhat ordinary girl, but not as a goddess Stephen earlier makes her out to be. His view if Emma mirrors Stephen’s abandonment of the extremes of complete sin and complete devotion in favor of a middle path, the devotion to the appreciation of beauty. Joyce also establishes water as a twin symbol of birth and death. Water imagery in the Portrait my point toward pleasure or pain, life or death, or it may be used to suggest both at once. Stephen fears the sea since he views it as an emblem of his own futility but it is the seaside epiphany which awakens him to the demands of life. In chapter five it is where Joyce exploits’s the antithetical value of water. Joyce wrote “He drained his third cup of watery tea to the dregs and set to chewing the crusts of fried bread that were scattered near him, staring into the dark pool of the jar. The yellow dripping had backed to his memory the dark turfcoloured water of the bath in Clongowes”. Here the tone of the language has been radically changed, the symbolism reversed, and this abrupt reversal emphasizes the change in Stephen’s state of mine.

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As for “The Picture of Dorian Gray” the author Oscar Wilde also uses symbolism in his novel. Wilde’s uses the color white as Dorian’s path from figure of innocence to a figure of degradation. White connotes innocence and blankness, as it does when Dorian is first introduced. It was “the white purity” of Dorian’s boyhood that Lord Henry finds so captivating. Basil invokes whiteness when he learns that Dorian has sacrificed his innocence and as the artist stares in horror at the ruined portrait he quotes a biblical verse from the book of Isaiah “Though your sins be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow” those day were over for Dorian innocence. When the color appears again in the form of James Vane’s face “like a white handkerchief” peering in through a window, it has been transformed from the color of innocence to the color of death. It is this threatening pall that makes Dorian long at the end of the novel, for his “rose-white boyhood,” but the hope is in vain, and he proves unable to wash away the stains of his sins. Wilde also uses the opium dens as a symbol. The opium dens represent the sordid state of Dorian’s mind. He flees to them at a crucial moment. After killing Basil, Dorian seeks to forget the awfulness of his crime by losing consciousness in a drug-induced stupor. Although he has a canister of opium in his home, he leaves the safety of his neat and proper parlor to travel to the dark dens that reflect the degradation of his soul. Finally, Wilde uses James Vane as a symbol as well. James is less a believable character that an embodiment of Dorian’s tortured conscience. As Sibyl’s brother he is rather flat caricature if the avenging relative. Appearing at the dock and later at Dorian’s country estate, James has an almost ghost spectral quality. James appears with his face “like a white handkerchief” to goad Dorian into accepting responsibility for the crime he has committed.

Overall these two novels “A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” the main characters Stephen Dedalus and Dorian Gray undergo through life changes. Stephen Dedalus development throughout the novel went evolving to living a good life as he grow up he shut all his influences and develop his own taking him where he wants to be in life. As for Dorian Gray his development as he grows did not succeed. He was always influence throughout the novel he did not do anything to revel to the people he was being influence by and at the end it end it up in tragedy.

Work Cited

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Viking, 1916

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Oxford, 2006

Litz, A. Walton. James Joyce. Boston: Twayne, 1966

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