Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is similar to Joyce novel, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” in regards to the evil of that exists in the society. One can see how people deteriorate slowly based on the evil that is within. Similar to the actions of Stephen with the prostitute, the evil present in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” shows how individuals create their personal evil. In addition, both writers employ different stylistic approach to writing. The dialogue is in simple language in the “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The reader clearly sees where each speaker starts and ends. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” does the opposite. Joyce stylistic form forces the reader to become a part of the story. Although, Joyce and Wilde use different styles writing, both writers look at the way sexuality, religion, socialization, and education impact on these two young men.
While Stephen faces the evil of selfishness and greed through his father’s actions, Dorian creates his personal evil through his greed and selfishness. Ultimately, both characters show an evil side. Dorian represented the typical mid-century man in terms of physical appearance and social status. He is wealthy and charming and his beauty charms the world. Basil draws his portrait to maintain this beauty and age. He fears the day when he would age, and selfishly believes that the day when he becomes wrinkled, is the day he becomes miserable.
The novel, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce is a classical piece. It presents Joyce’s unique stylistic method of writing. The author does not use any form of quotation marks to offset the dialogue in the piece. This method makes it difficult for the reader to judge when or where the conversation between the characters begins and ends. In addition, the plot has huge gaps in it. The time of the setting of the story, and the exact age of Stephen is hard to figure out at many stages of the piece. The reader can conclude that the author uses this style to force the reader to draw on their personal thoughts while reading the book. Joyce seems to want the reader to interpret the events in the story in a personal way, which makes the novel even more fascinating. A number of critics postulate that the novel is autobiographical in nature, as there are many similarities between Stephen’s and Joyce’s life.
Joyce’s main character, Stephen Dedalus, is a dynamic, yet complex young man who experiences a number of changes during his lifetime. The major influences of his life are his family and his religion. However, as he matures, his sensitivity towards religion and family, revolutionize significantly. The reader realizes that family is important to Stephen. He is not selfish or self-centered like Dorian. His father, Simon, is instrumental in his early life, and he respects his father very much. As with individuals today, one does not always agree the choices that parents make. Stephen becomes angry with his father in chapter one, as he resents the fact that he incurs a number of debts, and force him to change homes and schools.
One can contrast Dorian’s inner evil and selfishness to Stephen’s ability to recognize evil and attempt to remove that evil from his life. Dorian’s evil increases as the story develop. He trades his soul for youth and the reader can conclude that evil lies within everyone. This evil contrasts with Stephen’s admission of committing evil, and attempting to remove the sexual evils from his life. Dorian on the other hand, revels in his malicious actions, and sexual exploits. At the start of the novel, he is a naïve young man. He is easily influenced by others, but Stephen appears to be more matured in his thoughts from the onset. Dorian’s friends, Basil and Lord Henry, are responsible for his eventual evil actions, while Simon is responsible for the kind of person that Stephen turns out to be. Basil influence is simple as e spurs the first thoughts of immortalizing Dorian’s beauty however Lord Henry is more influential in Dorian’s life. His cynicism leads Dorian to carry out his bad deeds with Sybil. It is through the eyes of Lord Henry that the reader sees Dorian’s beauty and can link youth to purity, “Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth's passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him” (“The Picture of Dorian Gray, pg. 15). Eventually, Lord Henry changes Dorian's view of the world. Dorian's initial innocence changes, as he starts view life as a stream of pleasures. In contrast to Stephen, Dorian does not question the balance between good and evil. To Dorian, these virtues have no bearings on his life. On the other hand, Stephen struggles to deal with his values on religion, sexuality, and sin. In addition, both characters differ in their mannerisms. Dorian seizes the opportunity to be at the center of everything. He adores himself and is vocal about his views. Stephen struggles internally to understand the errors of his ways. One can say he is originally an introvert, because in Chapter one, line thirty. He hides when he gets in trouble at school. The reader journeys with Stephen into maturity. In Chapter five, he speaks openly to Lynch about art and beauty, and later in the chapter, he speaks of his heretic views on religion. Similarly, Dorian changes, but one questions the type of changes he makes as an individual. The thoughts he has of immortalizing himself are almost childlike, yet he kills as an adult.
Dorian, like Stephen starts off as kind, modest individuals whose early life created decent young me. However, the society and the people in the society change their mentality or outlook on life. Dorian’s influences are social, and come in the form of his friends, while religion and family are the driving factors that influence Stephen’s life. Both characters deal with the social issues differently. Dorian embraces the evil in his life, while Stephen attempts to change the evil and become a better person. On the whole, both novels symbolize an attempt to teach the lesson that people should work towards the dreams they have regardless of the obstacles they face. The novels represents the classic nature of both Joyce’s and Wilde’s style of writing. Even though the reader may have difficulty following the chain of events at times in Joyce’s work, the stylistic approach serves to encourage the reader to read critically as they become involved in the story on a personal level.
One can say that Dorian is not a religious character as he would not have traded his soul to the devil simply because he wants to immortalize his beauty. On the other hand, Stephen’s actions are channeled by his religious beliefs. He attempts to change the evil he commits, but he is not successful. Eventually, Stephen moves away from his attempts to remain a devout Catholic. One can say that his conscience and his deep root in the inherent good forces him to respect God. Through Dorian, the reader learns that when one departs from God, there can be no success in life. He craves infinite love, and shows that he idolizes himself. This idolatry goes against the teachings of the Bible and is in direct contrast to Stephen’s actions.
Originally, Dorian embraced the views people have of him, but once he begins his life of degradation, he put aside the opinions that people have of him. It is ironic that the very thing that mattered to him most, and created the evil in him is no longer important in the end. Similarly, Stephen worries about what people think of him, and this forces him to move to another parish to confess and purge. Ultimately, both characters break the chains of social confinements and begin to live their lives as unique individuals. In Dorian's endeavor to change his ways, he takes his life.
Joyce, James, (2014) “ Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Published by Fairleigh Dickenson
Wilde, Oscar, (2011) “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Published by McPherson Library, Special
Collections, Canada. Print