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Monday, April 9, 2012

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  1. Chapter III #2

    What is ironic about Lord Henry's assertion that "Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity"?

    I think Lord Henry thinks that all of the high society people he associates with are hypocritical when it comes to helping the less fortunate. He thinks that these rich people simply throw their money around in order to help, but would never be caught dead actually going to a slum to help the people face to face. I think that Lord Henry believes this to be very superficial and arrogant. However, while saying how hypocritical these rich people are, Lord Henry makes a comment in the same chapter that proves he is one of these rich, arrogant people, stating "I can sympathize with everything except suffering." I believe that this statement by Lord Henry exemplifies his character. He is arrogant, self righteous, and hypocritical. He likes to hear the sound of his own voice, but does not like to listen to the words of advice he is giving.

  2. Chapter VIII Question #3
    Why does Dorian call Sibyl’s suicide “selfish”?
    At this point in the novel, Dorian has just the night before told Sibyl how he wishes to never see her again after he comes to the shallow realization that he loved only her acting and not her personally. The next morning, Dorian is overwhelmed with the guilt of his rash, brutal, and immature actions. As question #1 of this chapter indicates, Dorian feels compelled to reproach himself for his diatribe towards Sibyl by writing her a letter of apology. However, when Lord Henry comes to Dorian’s house and informs him of Sibyl’s suicide, Dorian is intensely shocked by the news. Because Sibyl is dead and therefore can never read his letter, Dorian cannot hope to absolve himself of his festering guilt. In class we have mentioned the idea of Lord Henry and Dorian’s obsession with control over others; in this instance, Sibyl’s suicide removes Dorian from a position of dominance and forces him into a place of vulnerability. Dorian sees Sibyl’s actions as selfish because he fails to see it as a desperate attempt to alleviate her emotional distress like it really is, but views it instead as something which forces him from his pleasurable controlling state.

  3. Chapter II Question 2
    To what extent does Lord Henry's discussion of society reflect Wilde's criticism of Victorian culture?

    In this section, Lord Henry describes society not only as a terror, but he also claims that it is the basis of human morals. He also discusses the rigidity and restraint with which many people in this era carried out their lives, and the tendency to live a double life in order to hide your faults from those that you don't wish to show them. By painting Victorian Society as oppressive, Lord Henry becomes a voice for Oscar Wilde's own concerns. Double lives are apparent in very many of his works, especially The Importance of Being Earnest, wherein the rigid and corrupt nature of Victorian culture and the actions that it forced people to take are satirized through Wilde's use of witticism and literary device. Wilde himself also lived a double life, having married and produced two children with his wife Catherine, before leaving her and their children for a debauched life in London's underground with his partner Lord Alfred Douglas. Therefore, Lord Henry's discussion upon society is very indicative of a work by Oscar Wilde, and resonates with many other authors of the time who were restrained by the same and similar social taboos as Wilde was.

  4. @Sam

    I think it is so cool that you are able to channel your expansive knowledge about both Oscar Wilde and his other works into this novel! I can't wait until my Hemingway knowledge becomes handy to me later on. Your response really makes me want to think about what being in Victorian society was like. I can only imagine how stressful it must have been to live in such a judgmental society which required one to be so conscious about everything that they did. Although sometimes it might not feel like it, today's society is very accepting of all sorts of different styles of life. People in the society within Dorian Grey seem to either be a part of one of two groups: the highly refined wealthy individuals, and everyone else. However, people today can find circles of people that they are similar to and thrive in them, regardless of their financial status, hobbies, or even sexual orientation. For the most part, most of these groups of people are tolerant and supportive of each other. I feel as though occurrences of people who live double lives in this society is inevitable due to its rigidity. You can't blame people for wanting to be both do what they find pleasure in and be liked by others. If the only way to do this in Victorian society was to live a life like this, can you really look down people for doing it?

  5. Chapter XI Question 4
    How do Dorian's lifestyle and his ideals reflect the principles of Hedonism?

    After Dorian's initial brush with evil due to his inadvertent murder of Sibyl Vane, he enters into a hedonistic lifestyle filled with pleasure and self-satisfaction. Dorian does not care how his impulsive actions will affect others or himself, because he only lives in the present. To him, his actions have no consequences, because the only thing he cares about is his appearance, which he knows will never be marred in reality. It is only his picture that takes the damage of his actions. Hedonism, or the belief that pleasure is the highest good, is exemplified in Dorian's life through his friendships and hobbies as well. His strongest relationship, besides with himself, is with Lord Henry, who definitely only thinks about living for the moment. Together, Dorian and Lord Henry throw wild parties, which definitely elevate immediate gratification. Also, Dorian fills his life with collecting objects that stimulate his senses. For example, he collects perfumes (sense of smell), music (hearing), jewels (sight), stories (emotion), and embroideries (touch). His obsession with collecting and obsessing over these items enforce the idea that Dorian is interested in immediate satisfaction caused by the pleasure from his senses. He uses his hedonistic lifestyle to escape the thought of his deteriorating soul and portrait.

  6. Chapter 8 Question 4
    How does Lord Henry help Dorian come to terms with Sibyl's death?

    First off, it bothers me how Henry immediately assumes that Sibyl's death was a suicide. It makes Dorian more vain and egotistical than he already is. Although it was true that she was depending on him, it still bothers me how his cold heart must be the cause of the death. Lord Henry states that the marriage would have been awful and a lie; Dorian wouldn't really love Sibyl and would be doing in a act of duty and kindness. In addition, when Dorian says that her death doesn't feel real, Lord Henry states that it is a beautiful tragedy; a young woman has killed herself due to love. He even wishes that his old flames had proven their love to him through death. Furthermore, Henry states that women appreciate cruelty and no matter how much they protest they like being subjected and dominated by men. Lastly, Henry states that the Shakespearean roles which Sibyl acted were more real than herself. He states that she was just a doll of a human. Henry is objectifying her which makes it easier to view her death as just a broken toy or object.

  7. @ Boochi

    I like your idea that Dorian has been moved to a level of vulnerability and weakness by Sibyl's death. I feel that when people we know commit suicide, it is often easier for us to blame them and say how selfish they are instead of looking at ourselves and how we took a part in the tragedy. However, taking one's life is ultimately that individual's choice and they can't completely blame someone else. It is easier to be mad and blame those that can't protect themselves.

  8. Chapter II #1
    What is Lord Henry's opinion on the nature of influence?

    Lord Henry believes that influence is immoral. His reasoning is that a man who has been influenced is no longer himself, but he becomes the person who has influenced him. I pulled a quote from the book detailing this, "'Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul.'" That quote pretty much sums up not only Lord Henry's opinion on influence, but Lord Henry himself as well. Lord Henry surrounds himself with people the please him, not people that make him think or that could influence his opinion in anyway. It is as if he believes that allowing someone to influence him will prevent him from fulfilling his hedonistic ideology. It is also an ironic statement coming from Lord Henry, because he influences others, particularly Dorian, so much whether he intends to or not.

  9. @Peter

    I totally agree with your characterization of Lord Henry. I cannot stand him. He creates these egotistical and arrogant ideals and claims they are how society is, but really it is all so he can do what he wants, and feel good about it. In order to avoid having Dorian grieve (which would be terrible for Henry because then Dorian will not be so perfect for him) he simply makes up sayings about how the suicide was beautiful and romantic. He only has one thing on his mind...and it's himself.

  10. @Peter

    I never thought of Sibyl being viewed as a broken toy after her suicde. I really like that comparison, especially matched with how Lord Henry views women. I can not stand the way that he treats and views women. Henry only thinks about himself and realizes that Dorian stills has a heart at this point and can not have him caring for a dead girl, who in his mind was never really worth anything. I think it is completely selfish for Henry to try and have Dorian avoid the proper grieving process and have him view her death as an act of admiration for him and not that Dorian's actions provoked her death.

  11. Chapter 5- What do the hopes of Sibyl's mother reveal about her character?

    When Sibyl becomes engaged to Dorian, her mother can only think about one think, that she hopes that he will bring her daughter wealth and a good life. This revelas two sides to her mother. Her mother was never married to her children's father, who was supposed to bring her wealth and a better life. She was left a single and poor mother, unable to give her the best possible life imaginable for them. These events in her life have left her a bitter woman and greedy for the life that she watches other people have, filled with security, love and material things.

  12. @Erin M.
    I think it is interesting that Lord Henry makes that hypocritical statement as well. One thing about Lord Henry is that he isn't ashamed of his flaws, because does not care what other people think of him. So of course he would look down on others for using philanthropy as a vehicle for social climbing, while he does similar actions. Lord Henry is pompous and arrogant, but he is definitely assured of himself.

  13. @Peter

    I think that your observation about Lord Henry's motivations are very profound. Lord Henry's attitude is horrible throughout this entire novel, and he is in fact the only character that I do not sympathize with at any point. His statement that he wishes that his previous lovers would have made the same sacrifices for him is disgusting. At so many points in this novel, Dorian appears to just be on the cusp of repenting for his actions or taking a more honest approach to life, and Lord Henry comes around and extinguishes any pure flame within Dorian's heart.

  14. Chapter 12
    Why does Basil hesitate to believe the worst rumors he has been hearing about Dorian? How does this show that Basil is an Aesthete?

    Basil, like so many others who interact with Dorian, judges the man based on his physical appearance. Living in a society in which beauty is held in such high regard, everyone views Dorian’s youthful visage as a sign of purity and innocence. As we said in class, they are slaves to Dorian’s allure. Basil, as an artist who is particularly sensitive to things of beauty, easily falls under the spell of Dorian’s good looks, believing the boy’s character to be as charming as his face. Basil’s infatuation with Dorian’s beauty is expressed in the first chapter, revealing him to be something of an aesthete. However, the full extent of his aestheticism is not conveyed until this chapter, in which he desperately clings to his idea of Dorian’s perfection, even after ample evidence is given to suggest that Dorian has been cruel, selfish, and manipulative. Basil loves Dorian’s facade, and is not willing to look past it to see the monster underneath.

  15. Chapter 2 #4. Why is Dorian upset when basil finally finishes the portrait?

    Dorian is upset because he is jealous of the portrait's immortal youth and beauty. He starts thinking of when he will grow old and ugly, as the portrait of his beautiful youth is mocking him. This shows how his whole life has revolved around his appearance. He believes he will be nothing when his beauty deteriorates. This is at the beginning of the novel when Dorian is heavily influenced by other people, specifically Lord Henry. Henry expressed his theory to Dorian that beauty is higher than genius. He believes people need beauty and youth to be successful. This frightened the naive Dorian who could not handle the fact that his youth and beauty will only last in one painting.

  16. @Sabine
    The eternal youth created for Dorian through his portrait is the perfect allegory of the hedonistic lifestyle. I like how you point this out by saying that because Dorian’s appearances are unmarred by his actions, he believes that his behavior won’t affect himself or others around him. His physical and mental state are always stuck in the present. I also like how you link Dorian’s obsessions with each of his senses, further expressing his desire for immediate stimulation.

  17. Chapter 6 #1: What does Lord Henry mean when he states that being married and being engaged are two entirely different things?

    Lord Henry says that being engaged doesn't really matter. He says that he doesn't really remember being engaged so he likes to think that he never was engaged. He is basically saying that being engaged is just a technicality and that he can still do whatever he wants because he is not technically committed to his wife yet. Lord Henry acts very nonchalant about the whole saying that every man does foolish things, talking about getting engaged and married. Lord Henry really bothers me in this scene... Especially when Basil is talking about how he hopes that the girl Dorian is to marry is good and Lord Henry casually says oh she's better than good, she's beautiful. This just shows how hedonistic Lord Henry really is.

  18. @Beth
    I like how you said "desperately clings." I feel like this happens all the time when someone is truly attracted to someone. Basil is so enchanted by Dorian that he can't see past Dorian's facade. He clings to the one aspect that he knows is true: his beauty. This shows how powerful appearances can be. It is even more powerful when the person knows the strength of their appearance. I think Dorian becomes increasingly arrogant and this gives him the power to manipulate everyone around him.

  19. @ Peter.

    I really like your post. Lord Henry drives me insane... I think it is absolutely ridiculous that he wants to stop Dorian from grieving just so his perfect vision for Dorian isn't ruined by feeling sorrow over a woman, let only someone of Sibyl's background. And when Lord Henry talks about his past lovers I want to punch him! Like really, you wished they killed themselves over you. Really? Because you are so worth it! (rant over...) Pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth makes want to throw up a little... I really liked your last sentence about her being a broken toy. It seems that this is the normal view of Lord Henry about women. Once he gets what he wants from them. he just throws them aside like a broken toy.

  20. Chapter 9 #3 What was Basil's true reason for not wanting to display his picture?

    I really like this question and the truth it reveals. I think this scene and situation truly reveals and displays Basil's vulnerability and naivety. Basil does not want to display the picture because it reveals his obsession. If Basil were to unveil this portrait, it would show the world how much he truly idolizes and worships Dorian. Although Basil attempts for this worship to be pure and caring, this worship makes him naive. At this point, Dorian has fallen into his hedonism and he is just playing up Basil's naive care so he can control him. I think this situation also reveals how much Dorian wants control and how much he cares about having it. I think this question and situation not only reveals Basil's true nature ad true self, but also helps to reveal Dorian's true nature and true self, making for a really interesting moment.

  21. @Brittany
    I really like your post and that entire situation. I think that moment shows how truly naive Dorian also is. It also purely shows the influence that Henry has had on him. At this point, Henry's terrible Hedonism has become majorly reflected on Dorian. Dorian's mocking attitude towards the painting just shows how cruel and arrogant he truly is and how much control Henry truly has over him.

  22. @Haley
    Lord Henry bothers me in that scene, too! Deception not only infiltrated his potentially nonexistent engagement, but it also has invaded his marriage; his relationship with his wife appears dysfunctional and filled with secrets. Engagement and marriage are supposed to signify a sacred union, and Lord Henry makes both seem unimportant and insincere. I just can’t stand how shallow he is, and it is so hard to watch him corrupt Dorian!

  23. Chapter VIII #1
    “Why is it psychologically necessary for Dorian to write a long letter of apology to Sibyl Vane?”

    This is a moment in which the intense influence of Lord Henry can be seen in Dorian; if Dorian had remained a pure, innocent young man without the “friendship” of Lord Henry, he would most likely have written such a letter out of remorse, or not have even been in love at all in the first place. Instead, Dorian has become obsessed with maintaining his image. Though he most certainly is corrupted internally, he is only able to recognize external corruption by viewing his ever-changing portrait. By writing a long letter of apology to Sibyl, Dorian feels that his conscience will be cleared and his balance of perfection will be restored. Therefore, it is psychologically necessary for Dorian to write this letter to be able to move on with his life. It really bothers me that Dorian just assumes that Sibyl will “get-over-it” the instant she reads his letter!

    P.S. Sorry Hayley! I forgot the "y" in your name in my previous post!

  24. @Cece

    I agree with you about Dorian being corrupted by Lord Henry and this being the cause for his shallow form of apology. However, I do think that Dorian still has a little of his old self in him still at this point. If Lord Henry were in this situation, he wouldn't have written a letter at all, to save face. He is much mor interested in the public view of himself rather than one girl's grieving.

  25. Chapter 12
    Why does Basil hesitate to believe the worst rumors he has been hearing about Dorian? How does this show that Basil is an Aesthete?

    Basil knew Dorian before Lord Henry did and believes that he is still capable of acting like the innocent youth that engaged his creative mind. Because Basil is romantically interested in Dorian he doesn't see him for his true self and sees the outter image that he projects. Dorian's name shows his true potential, he is a door. A decorative door that can change people that pass through but remains forever in the same place, opening and closing.

  26. @julie

    I like what you did with Dorian's name! You are really good at noticing the subtle nuances
    Of the the characters. I think your right about how Dorian can transport the other characters
    And allow them to view the
    World in a different way.

  27. Chapter 3: #4

    Lord Henry is truly an aesthete as he wants to write a nov that is just appreciated for its popularity and it's unconventionality rather than its true merit. This applies to a Persian carpet because he only recognizes the carpet as pretty to look at, not see and appreciate its complex patterns. He does not appreciate the honest work and effort that goes into creating a carpet or novel, just the pretty end result without any thought.

  28. I really like the book so far, but I have have to admit I have been struggling a little after missing so much school!! Thank you everyone, these responses are very helpful for me :)

    Chapter IV Question 4
    Where did Dorian meet Sibyl Vane and what does their meeting reveal about her social class?

    Dorian meets Sibyl at a cheap, tacky theater, revealing her to be in a much lower social class than himself. The footnotes of my book says that actresses of the time were often regarded as little more than prostitutes, which shows just how different Dorian and Sibyl are in terms of social class. The fact that he falls in love with a lower class girl is abnormal during the time and demonstrates just how much influence Lord Henry has had on Dorian. Dorian loves Sibyl because he loves beautiful things due to Henry's hedonistic influence. This becomes more obvious after Sibyl's death when Dorian goes to greater extremes of hedonism and lives for pleasure.

  29. @Brittany: When I read that part I didn't identify it as the time when Dorian is first heavily influenced by others, but that definitely makes sense to me now that I read your comment!! I thought that was a good observation