Friday, January 16, 2009

Chapter 10.

"One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner.  It was a poisonous book.  The heavy odor of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain.  The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and the creeping shadows.
Cloudless, and pierced by one solitary star, a copper-green sky gleamed through the windows. He read on by its wan light till he could read no more."

Wilde makes this passage an exemplary portrayal of the terrible hold Lord Henry has on Dorian by using a symbol, hyperboles, metaphors, appropriate diction, rhythmic syntax, and vivid imagery.  

The book is a symbol for Lord Henry.  He was the one who gave it to Dorian, and the reader notices their respective effects on Dorian are similar.  Both touch his mind.

Instead of writing, "the book had a poisonous effect," Wilde exaggerates and writes, "it was a poisonous book," in order to highlight the extent of Henry's influence, and instead of writing, "he read on... until it got dark," Wilde writes, "he read on... till he could read no more," in order to portray the hypnotic effects Henry has on Wilde.  Wilde also writes, "the heavy odor of incense seemed to cling about its [the book's] pages and to trouble the brain." This hyperbole intimates that the book is like a drug to Dorian; the incensed air keeps him from thinking straight.

Wilde's metaphor furthers support this idea.  He compares the lines of the book to a piece of music, and complements the metaphors with appropriate musical diction.  He gives the text rhythm, melody, and structure, but chooses the words, "cadence," "subtle monotony of their music," and "complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated."  The purpose of using these words instead of the former, is to connote the mesmerizing effect the text is having on Gray. 
Wilde also uses connotative words like "reverie," "dreaming, " and "unconscious."  The airy diction gives us that same idea of hypnosis. 
On top of the metaphors and the diction, Wilde also chooses a rhythmic syntax to further accentuate the hypnotic theme of the passage.  He structures hypnosis-themed line in that same repeated refrains and cadence-like way he had described the text as having. "The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and the creeping shadows."  He use of commas is very liberal and the clauses/phrases in between are about of the same medium length.  

And Wilde's use of imagery, I believe, is truly amazing.  The passage is first colorless.  The reader only sees the black and white letters of the book, the black of unconsciousness and falling shadows, and gray in monotones and heavy odors.  Then in the next paragraph he introduces color, but in the most gorgeous way.  He writes, "Cloudless (white), and pierced by one solitary star (white), a copper-green sky gleamed through the windows."  A copper-green sky is something I'd like to see very much.  The absurdity and fantasticality of a copper-green sky just adds to the weird, airy, poisoned, druggy mood of the passage which, in turn demonstrate Henry's influence.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chapter 10.

"Hour by hour and week by week the thing upon the canvas was growing old.  It might escape the hideousness of sin, but the hideousness of age was in store for it.  The cheeks would become hollow or flaccid.  Yellow crow's feet would creep round the fading eyes and make them horrible.  The hair would lose its brightness, the mouth would gape or droop, would be foolish or gross, as the mouths of old men are.  There would be the wrinkled throat , the cold, blue-veined hands, the twisted body, that he remembered in the grandfather who had been so stern to him in his boyhood.  The picture had to be concealed.  There was no help for it."

Wilde's unattractive diction reveals Dorian's contempt for old age.  Words used are "hollow," "flaccid," "fading," "droop," "wrinkled," "blue-veined," and "twisted." These words are all related to the idea that beauty dies with age. Something once youthful, full, firm, lively, and nimble becomes old, flaccid, faded, droopy, wrinkled, blue-veined, and twisted.  This vivid description also reminds me of the flower motif because flowers have lively youths, but age comes quickly and the influence is powerful and unforgiving. Petals shrivel up, stems wilt, and colors fade. This passage helped me put the flower motif and beauty motif in perspective.  These things are always mentioned by Wilde because they are so greatly affected by age.  Time is an obstacle.  Also by using a parallel syntactical structure within the line, "It might escape the hideousness of sin, but the hideousness of age was in store for it," Wilde conveys Dorian's seeing sin and age as equal atrocities. 

It also seems that Dorian is disgusted by not only the idea of age but also by actual old people.  He attacks them directly in the line, "the mouth would gape or droop, would be foolish or gross, as the mouths of old men are," and the passage reveals that Dorian was not so fond of his own grandfather.  By associating a character with such a horrid description, the reader wonders about the significance of such a character. How big of an influence did Dorian's grandfather have on Dorian? Will this be the only mention of the stern old man?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 7.

"Kiss me again, my love. Don't go away from me. I couldn't bear it. Oh! dont go away from me. My brother...No; never mind. He didn't mean it. He was in jest....But you, oh! can't you forgive me for to-night? I will work so hard, and try to improve. Don't be cruel to me, because I love you better than anything in the world. After all, it is only once that I have not pleased you. But you are quite right, Dorian. I should have shown myself more of an artist. It was foolish of me; and yet I couldn't help it. Oh, don't leave me, don't leave me!" A fit of passionate sobbing choked her. She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down on her, and his chiseled lips curled in exquisite disdain. There is always something ridiculous about the emotion of people whom one has ceased to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic. Her tears and sobs annoyed him.

Wilde uses an almost stream of consciousness style in Sibyl's dialogue only, it is outloud. We see this in the quick transitions of thought, and general incoherency; she goes from thinking of kissing to pleading him not to leave to worrying about her brother's threat to begging for forgiveness. This style of dialogue portrays Sibyl's innocence and purity. There is very little filtering between her thought and her speech. What she feels she expresses. Her inability to think, filter, then speak also portrays her distress and despair. Furthermore, Wilde uses a simile to compare her to "a wounded thing." By dehumanizing Sibyl, he accentuates her sad sad state. Sibyl is also dehumanized in being seen as melodramatic. Dorian had fallen in love with her because of her acting, and it is quite fitting that he now fall out of love with her because of her loss of acting skill. However, Dorian's seeing her as only a character and not an actual person devalues her life and strips her of her humanity. The purpose of Sibyl being characterized in this way is to juxtapose her pathetic state to Dorian's heartlessness. This passage highlights Dorian's change for the worse. We, the readers, see him turning from a sweet little kid to a disciple of the influential Lord Henry.

Also in Sibyl's speech is the repeated beseech not to leave her; this conveys her frighteningly strong attachment and dependance on Dorian that forms after only a few meetings. In the syntax, we see choppy sentences that show her franticness, and we also see the use of two ellipses bookending her reference to her brother. This draws attention to the reference, and we see the foreshadow in the line. The reader is reminded of her brother's omnious threat to kill Dorian if he ever treat his sister badly, and wonders if this threat will, in fact, be carried out.

In describing Dorian, Wilde utilizes gorgeous diction. Wilde describes Dorian as having "beautiful eyes," "chiseled lips," and even "exquisite disdain." Dorian is god-like and Sibyl is a small thing who has displeased him. Her lines evoke emotion in the reader her "I will work so hard, and try to improve" is terrible. Either she or I know very little of love. His degradation of her is throrough and absolute. Irony is created in the incongruity of such gorgeous details and such terrible actions.

"There is always something ridiculous about the emotion of people whom one has ceased to love." What a gorgeously hideous line.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chapter 4.

"Sibyl? Oh, she was so shy, and so gentle.  There is something of a child about her.  Her eyes opened wide in exquisite wonder when I told her what I thought of her performance, and she seemed quite unconscious of her power."

Oscar Wilde characterizes Sibyl through childlike diction.  He uses the words shy, gentle, child, and wonder in order to make his point.  The way Sibyl is characterized is a lot like the way Dorian Gray was characterized when he first met Lord Henry.  The two are very similar.  Wilde also uses denotation to characterize Sibyl.  Her first name Sibyl means: a woman able to foretell the future, and her last name Vane, if we use vain instead, means: having or showing an excessively high opinion of one's appearance, abilities, or worth.  I think the denotation of her name, is a foreshadow of the role she will play.  Or maybe, because she and Dorian Gray are so alike, what happens to her will foretell what will happen to Dorian Gray. 
There is irony in the fact that Dorian Gray is the one characterizing Sibyl in this way because this is the same way he had been characterized by Lord Henry.  This represents a change in character.  Now that Dorian Gray is more like Lord Henry, I get the feeling that he will soon be influencing/corrupting young Sibyl.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chapter 3.

"So that was the story of Dorian Gray's parentage.  Crudely as it had been told to him, it had yet stirred him by its suggestion of a strange, almost modern romance.  A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion.  A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime.  Months of voiceless agony, and then a child born in pain.  The mother snatched away by death, the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and loveless man.  Yes, it was an interesting background.  It posed the lad, made him more perfect as it were.  Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.  Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow..."

The tone of this passage was really romantic and fairy-tale-like compared to Lord Henry's "crudely" related version.  As the same story had just been told by Lord Henry's uncle, the reader sees the discrepancies in the writing styles and notices things about Lord Henry in the juxtaposition.  Lord Henry's dramatic diction reflects his romantic nature in that the reader sees how much he plays up each emotion with phrases like "voiceless agony" and "mad passion." In addition to this, this passage is a prime passage to convey Lord Henry's expertly executed artistry with words.  This single passage drew all of my attention; it's almost hypnotic the way Henry uses words.  This is an important characterization because Henry's skill with words was what captured Dorian Gray when they first met.  As uncomfortable Henry's words made him, Dorian Gray continued to seek his company because of this almost awesome power of Henry.  

Dorian Gray's parentage reminded me of that Oedipal guilt idea.  In the same way that Oedipus Rex inherited his parents' consequences, I believe Dorian Gray will suffer.  Especially because of the way Henry describes his birth, "a child born in pain," I can't help, but think Wilde will add, "and a child ending in pain," or something along those lines.  Basically I think Gray will not end well because of his mother's straying from standard societal ways. 

The syntax of the passage brings light to some ideas more than others.  Where Henry summarizes Gray's parentage in his own words, the structure of the lines are very short but vivid.  They follow that newspaper-headline sort of format.  "BEAUTIFUL WOMAN RISKS EVERYTHING FOR MAD PASSION." "MONTHS OF VOICELESS AGONY, AND THEN A CHILD BORN IN PAIN." This format enhances the function of the line.  The reader is given a repeat of what has happened in a concise but effective way.  But after the "Yes, it was an interesting background," things slow down.  The contemplative "Yes" helps in doing this because the reader senses Henry's thoughts slowing down, as well as the ellipsis at the end of the passage.  The added ellipsis also brings attention to the line preceding it because the way Henry lets the thought trail off makes the reader believe that it was an important one.  "Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow..."  This is a very odd line.  I think that it is just restating the line before in a prettier manner.  In order for something as beautiful as a flower to move or to sway, it needs to be disturbed by the laborious efforts of the worlds.  I think this line does not only refer to Dorian Gray's past, but also his future.  Terrible things happened to create a beautiful Dorian Gray, but in order for this beauty to persist, more terrible things have to happen.  Beauty is pain.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chapter 2

"'Yes," continued Lord Henry, 'that is one of the great secrets of life-- to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.  You are a wonderful creation.  You know more that you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.'"

In this passage, Wilde uses diction, paradoxes, and syntax.
Wildes choice of the words "wonderful creation" to describe Dorian Gray has a little bit of a religious connotation to it.  He is going back to the Bible's view that people are creations, and this is a holy characterization of Gray.  He is something that required time and thought to build.  However, there is also a negative aspect to being called a creation.  It is a little degrading to be called a creation.  It takes away the human essence from Gray.  He is so perfect that it is unnatural.

Wilde also uses two paradoxes.  The first is "to cure he soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul."  This sounds wrong because the soul is first the problem and then it is the remedy and vice versa with the senses.  However, it can be interpreted as meaning that Dorian Gray needs to use his senses and take in the world to garner some of that human essence he so lacks because of his other-worldliness.  I take the second part of the paradox to mean that Gray needs to stick with his soul, or his gut, and listen to what his heart tells him to do in order to stay alive, in order to keep his body in good shape.
The reverse parallelism in this paradox makes the line much more beautiful and profound. Throughout the book, Wilde writes in such a beautiful manner that is appropriate for his book on art.  This is what I believe to be one of his key purposes: to write beautifully, because this book is to him as a painting is to Basil.  Furthermore, the syntax of the line helps draw a distinction between the senses and the soul.  The soul represents the physical body and the soul is more the emotional body.  Both need to remain in balance and check the other in order for a body to properly function.  This mechanical like task also relates to the idea that Gray is a creation.  The unnatural way Gray is described correlates with the idea that Gray's body needs to regulate itself.

The second paradox, "You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know," discusses the subconscious versus the conscious mind.  How can a person know more than he thinks he knows?  If he is not conscious of this knowledge.  This paradox conveys Gray's obliviousness of his own mind.  He has been ignoring seeds of thought in his mind for so long that he has completely thrown some things into his subconscious.  This represents a struggle within Gray, a man with self conflict.  Gray doesn't know what he wants, or what he wants does not correlate with the things he believes he should want.  I think this idea will be an important one in the book.  It goes along with the previous paradox as the soul can be identified as the subconscious, and the senses are more real and more obvious the way the conscious mind is.  The second clause of the paradox portrays Gray's desire to know more about his subconscious and how he wants to address the things that lie there but cannot because of the boundaries set by version of him that is proper for society.  Within the paradox, Lord Henry uses the words "you" and "know" many times.  This creates a more flowing line and makes the paradox resemble a riddle in the convoluted way both the riddle and the paradox state things.  The repetition also adds to the beauty of the line. 

Drawing distinctions between two things seems to be common with Lord Henry.  He is the character that is always simplifying the world into two opposing sides.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chapter 1.

"Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged, strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he were made of ivory and rose-leaves  Why , my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you-well, of course, you have an intellectual expression, and all that.  But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.  Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.  The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid... Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks.  I feel quite sure of that.  He is some brainless, beautiful creature, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.  Don't flatter yourself, Basil; you are not in the least like him."

This passage is key because of the great characterizations it leaves the reader with.  Harry, the speaker, juxtaposes Basil and Dorian Gray.  Basil is associated with ruggedness and Intellect while Dorian Gray is associated with rose-leaves and Beauty. Harry explicitly states in his lines that Beauty ends when Intellect comes in.  The idea that two cannot exist together serve as a foreshadow and lead the reader to believe one of the two, Beauty and Intellect, has to give in. 

Characterization of Harry is achieved as well.  We see through the syntactical structure of Harry's words and his biased diction, the kind of person he is.  For instance, when he is describing Basil's intellect he says, "Why , my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you-well, of course, you have an intellectual expression, and all that."  Placing the additional "and all that" at the end of the line shows Harry's almost-contempt for intellect.  Harry also describes Intellect as "an exaggeration" that "destroys," and leaves "horrid" things.  This kind of negative diction differs greatly from the flattering diction Harry uses to describe Beauty like "harmony" and "flowers." Even in describing the dull Dorian Gray, Harry's respect for Beauty is shown in his calling Dorian Gray, a "beautiful brainless creature."  There is a nice "b" consonance here. Also, his repetition in the line, "But Beauty, real Beauty" and his including mythological allusions like "Adonis" and "Narcissus" express his thoughtfulness and reverence of the concept of Beauty.  We see that Harry sees Beauty as higher than Intellect, and we also see his honest and blunt nature through his easily insulting a close friend.  The reader can infer that Harry might be a good character to depend on for characterizations and truth.

Besides characterizations, the passage also brings up the flower motif.  Throughout this first chapter, various kinds of flowers are mentioned frequently, and in this passage alone, "rose-leaves" and "flowers" are brought up; both times they are used portray a delicate and beautiful Dorian Gray.  I believe the significance of using flowers as a symbol for Dorian Gray is the fact that flowers are so ephemeral, they do not last.  This is supported by the way Oscar Wilde frequently has Harry plucking daisies in between lines, has him say that flowers are only present in the summer, and has Basil mention that a flower is an easy decoration when tucked in a coat.  Something that adds to the flower motif, is the name Basil.  It's quite fitting that Basil, who represents Intellect, has a name with the denotation: an herb or vegetable, and Dorian Gray, Beauty, is symbolized is by a flower.  In terms of beauty, herbs tend to pale beside flowers, and if the two types of vegetation had brains, I would imagine herbs to be the smarter of the two.