The Death In Venice By Dorian Grey English Literature Essay

In chapter one I have shown that both Aestheticism and Nietzsche promote art for art ‘s interest and believe that art justifies itself and does non necessitate to hold a intent since art is purpose in itself, the intent of making and cultivating beauty. Nietzsche urges creative persons to give importance to two opposite sides of their personality, the Apollonian, that is, the rational and the Dionysian, that is, the passionate. Harmonizing to him, merely by accomplishing equilibrium between these two antonym and, in the interim, complementary forces will artists be able to make reliable plants of art. This chapter centres on the analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice from the Aesthetic and Nietzschean position. In both novels, the supporters are creative persons seeking for perfect beauty in their plants and lives and hovering between the Apollonian and Dionysian. Since Nietzsche points out that both the Apollonian and the Dionysian govern the human being, I will demo how these two forces compete in each character in their hunt for beauty.

Both The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice wage testimonial to art and emphasis the fact that art is non something that all people can absorb. Their aestheticism was a reaction against the philistinism of the shooting in-between category considered to be composed of anti-intellectuals, people ignorant of art who responded to it in an unprocessed mode. Aestheticism claimed that the lone intent of art is to be beautiful. Both Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann give primary importance to the subject of beauty and observe it in their Hagiographas. Oscar Wilde believed that the ability to recognize beauty and to react to it with a refined passion implies the fact that one possesses inherently a peculiar beauty of disposition and spirit. This desire for rare experience, along with an compulsion to show beautiful things represents the cardinal thought of the English Decadent authors and creative persons.

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Both Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann struggled against what was prevailing and what was expected of an creative person in their epochs. They fought against going what Lord Henry criticises in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “ Modern morality consists in accepting the criterion of one ‘s age. I consider that for any adult male of civilization to accept the criterion of his age is a signifier of the grossest immorality ” ( Wilde 92 ) . Oscar Wilde brings to the pragmatism and the objectiveness of the 19th century a new version of aestheticism that promotes subjectiveness, individualism, and the liberty of art. In Oscar Wilde, Thomas Mann discovered much of Nietzsche ‘s doctrine, his “ ferocious war on morality ” and his transmutation of moral into aesthetic values.

As affirmed in “ The Decay of Lying, ” Oscar Wilde ‘s doctrine on art insists on the fact that art should happen flawlessness in itself, that it has as its object non simple truth, as Victorians expected it to show, but complex beauty. As he points out in the foreword of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, “ the creative person is the Godhead of beautiful things ” and “ those who find beautiful significances in beautiful things are the cultivated ” ( Wilde 5 ) . A common characteristic of The Portrait of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice is their jubilation of beauty in artistic creative activity. Therefore, Lord Henry Wotton believes that “ Beauty is of the great facts of the universe, like sunshine, or spring-time, or the contemplation in dark Waterss of that Ag shell we call the Moon. It has its Godhead right of sovereignty ” ( Wilde 29 ) and Aschenbach thinks that “ nature itself trembles with rapture when the head bows down in court before beauty ” ( Mann 460 ) . The creative persons ‘ chase of beauty constitutes both their inspiration, the intent of their creative activity and their Hell.

Through their jubilation of art as a chief subject, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice portion some common points in their analysis of the creative person. In his work, The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche affirms that artistic creative activity depends on a coaction between two opposite forces which he footings the “ Apollonian ” and the “ Dionysian. ” He believed that true artistic creative activities have to be generated by people that were non merely extremely civilised and cultured, but besides passionate. Nietzsche described good creative persons as keeping a balance between two forces, the Dionysian, or those associated with the God Dionysus and the Apollonian, those associated with the God Apollo. While Dionysus was the God associated with passion, inherent aptitudes, and thrusts, Apollo was the God of ground and reason which transforms thrusts and inherent aptitudes into lucidity and order. Like Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann believe that the struggle between witting will and uncontrolled passion, between reason or morality and passionate art represents a really serious battle in human being. This is the ground why the creative persons ‘ flight towards decease in both fictional plant is a descent to either extreme and a failure to keep equilibrium between these two antonym forces.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the three major characters, Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton, and Dorian Gray are at the same clip different aesthetes and parts of the same ego. In Death in Venice, the poet Gustave von Aschenbach is the lone supporter and creative person in the novelette, but he has common characteristics with all three different characters from Oscar Wilde ‘s novel. Each of these creative persons, unique in their manner of thought and personality, undergoes serious alterations provoked by the war unleashed between the Apollonian and Dionysian forces.

Aschenbach ‘s resemblance to Basil is manifested in his Apollonian concern with wash uping work. They both believe that difficult work leads to flawlessness and that flawlessness is the key to the artistic endowment. They both reject passion because they think it blocks the chase of excellence. Hallward ‘s aestheticism is manifested in his complete devotedness to sole artistic creative activities. His womb-to-tomb aspiration and battle is to go one with his art. He searches in the outside universe for the perfect manifestations of perfect beauty and when he finds them, he can make chef-d’oeuvres by painting them. His fatal error is that in making the portrayal of Dorian Gray, Basil “ puts excessively much of himself into it, ” ( Wilde 18 ) , which Lord Henry criticises for at some point in the novel, by reasoning that “ an creative person should make beautiful things, but should nil of his ain life into them ” ( Wilde 25 ) .

Gustav von Aschenbach is introduced as the utmost instance of the civilized Apollonian, neoclassical creative person who becomes a hero of the times given his self-controlled mode of laboring on the border of exhaustion:

Gustave Aschenbach was the poet-spokesman of all those who labour at the border of exhaustion ; of the bowed down, of those who are already worn out but still keep themselves unsloped ; of all our modern moralizers of achievement with scrawny growing and bare resources. ( Mann 426 )

He is, therefore, the archetypal modern creative person. However, the fact that he has spent his full life without admiting his passions and desires foreshadows possible jobs in the hereafter because, harmonizing to Freud, repressed passions will sooner or subsequently rise to the surface. Therefore, he bit by bit abandons his committedness to Apollo when he foremost journeys to Venice and, subsequently, when he decides to stay at that place. He passes beyond balance and ground, replacing beauty for morality, even though the cost of such a pick is decease.

Far from being fruitful to the artistic intent of their lives, their exposure to the perfect authoritative beauty of both Dorian Gray and Tadzio overshadows the ensuing art itself. Both Basil and Gustav ‘s universes start go arounding around their Muses and, unawares, they grow dependent on their presence. Therefore, Hallward admits that: “ I could n’t be happy if I did n’t see [ Dorian ] every twenty-four hours. He is perfectly necessary to me ” ( Wilde 18 ) and Gustav, one time he meets Tadzio, can no longer go forth Venice, even though the metropolis does him serious injury: “ He felt the ecstasy of his blood, the affecting pleasance, and realized that it was for Tadzio ‘s sake the leavetaking had been so difficult ” ( Mann 455 ) .

The obsessional esteem for the perfect physical beauty is what binds Basil Hallward and Gustav Aschenbach and what leads them towards devastation. Once they discover perfect beauty, the Dionysian force is unleashed and it can barely be controlled. Both creative persons worship beauty in their creative activities. As Aschenbach declares, “ in about every creative person ‘s nature is inborn a won ton and unreliable proneness to side with the beauty that breaks Black Marias, to individual out blue pretenses and pay them homage ” ( Mann 441 ) . The ideal of beauty is represented in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice by the vernal Dorian and Tadzio. Basil confesses that Dorian “ is all my art to me now ” ( Wilde 16 ) and Gustav decides that “ [ Tadzio ] should be in a sense his theoretical account, his manner should follow the lines of this figure that seemed to him divine ” ( Mann 461 ) . However, the beauty of the two immature work forces is non merely a beginning of artistic inspiration, it really shortly starts exercising influence on the creative persons. Basil argues that “ [ Dorian ‘s ] personality has suggested me an wholly new mode in art, an wholly new manner of manner. I see things otherwise, I think of them otherwise. I can now animate life in a manner that was hidden from me before ” ( Wilde 17 ) and in Aschenbach ‘s instance, “ [ Tadzio ‘s lovely phantom ] was that filled him with content, with joy in life, enriched his stay, and lingered out the row of cheery yearss that fell into topographic point so cheerily one behind the other ” ( Mann 457 ) .

Once witting of the serious function beauty dramas in their lives, Basil Hallward and Gustav Aschenbach become concerned to conceal it, fearful that if they reveal it, they will in fact, unveil their psyches. Therefore, Basil tells his friend, Lord Henry, that he will non exhibit the portrayal, his expansive chef-d’oeuvre, because “ I will non bare my psyche to [ the universe ‘s ] shoal prising eyes. My bosom shall ne’er be put under their microscope. There is excessively much of myself in the thing, excessively much of myself ” ( Wilde 18 ) . Aschenbach, excessively, feels a unusual alleviation because “ the universe sees merely the beauty of the completed work and non its beginnings nor the conditions whence it sprang ; since cognition of the creative person ‘s inspiration might frequently but confuse and dismay and so forestall the full consequence of its excellence ” ( Mann 461 ) .

The tragic stoping of Basil and Gustav is a effect of their inability to happen a balance between the Apollonian and the Dionysian sides of their lives. Lord Henry warns the creative person that “ the lone manner to acquire rid of a enticement is to give to it. Defy it and your psyche grows ill with hankering for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous Torahs have made monstrous and improper ” ( Wilde 26 ) . Accustomed to defy any other ideas than those related to artistic creative activity, Hallward and Aschenbach find themselves incapable to command their inordinate esteem for beauty and they are, hence, destroyed by it.

Lord Henry Wotton is an creative person of the head. Unlike Basil who is an creative person that uses the coppice, Lord Henry is an creative person that uses words. Lord Henry ‘s doctrine on life and art resembles in a great step that of Nietzsche, in that they both celebrate the primacy of single senses and feelings over ground and morality. Lord Henry, like Nietzsche, urges the creative person to accept his Dionysian, dark and cryptic universe of the inherent aptitude, to populate his life to the full and take advantage of its pleasances, for art is a signifier of hyperbole, the merchandise of spontaneousness:

I believe that if one adult male were to populate out his life to the full and wholly, were to give signifier to every feeling, look to every idea, world to every dream, I believe that the universe would derive such a fresh urge of joy that we would bury all the maladies of medievalism and return to the Hellenic ideal, to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, as it may be. ( Wilde 25 )

Lord Henry, like Nietzsche, believes that the unsatisfactory position of modern art is due to the persons ‘ fright to admit their passions, that is, the Dionysian side of their ain egos, and turn them into something beautiful and reliable: “ The mutilation of the barbarian has its tragic endurance in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every urge that we strive to strangulate broods in the head and toxicant us ” ( Wilde 25 ) .

The influence that Lord Henry ‘s doctrine exerts on Dorian Gray can be compared to the influence that the trip to Venice has on Gustav Aschenbach. Both Lord Henry and Venice represent the voice that alerts the pent-up side of Dorian and Aschenbach. Both Dorian Gray and Aschenbach start undergoing serious alterations when they come in contact with the delicious influence of Lord Henry ‘s charming words and the exoticness of Venice. When he meets Henry Wotton, Dorian feels that “ the few words that Basil ‘s friend had said to him had touched some secret chord that had ne’er been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to funny pulsations ” ( Wilde 26 ) . The position of going to Venice unleashed in Aschenbach a “ craving for freedom, release, forgetfulness ” which the creative person admitted to be “ an impulse towards flight, flight from the topographic point which was the day-to-day theater of a stiff, cold and passionate service ” ( Mann 420-421 ) .

As I have already mentioned above, Lord Henry is an creative person of the head, a charming speaker, a superb mind, and a really good cognoscente of human character. When he foremost sees Dorian Gray, Lord Henry is stuck by the perfect beauty and young person of the male child and he immediately feels the impulse to near him like an creative person would near a work of art: “ He would seek to be to Dorian Gray what, without cognizing it, the chap was to the painter who had fashioned the fantastic portrayal. He would seek to rule him. He would do that fantastic spirit his ain ” ( Wilde 46 ) .

Following Nietzsche ‘s doctrine of life and art, Lord Henry believes that life and art are non merely connected, but interchangeable. By seeking to model Dorian ‘s personality harmonizing to his ain doctrine of life, Lord Henry believes that this will non merely do him an creative person, but it will besides do him different in an age which he describes as “ limited and vulgar, an age grossly animal in its pleasances, and grossly common in its purposes ” ( Wilde 45 ) . Through asseverating the freedom of passions and desires and through his slogan that “ the hunt for beauty is the existent secret of life ” ( Wilde 59 ) , Lord Henry is linked to one of the dogmas of aestheticism that celebrates the primacy of beauty and pleasance.

In what concerns Death in Venice, the exoticness of Venice will hold a powerful influence on the rational and stiff Aschenbach. Culturally, Venice possesses Oriental influences and the Orient has ever been believed to pay court to Dionysus, the God of pleasances in contrast with the Occident that celebrates Apollo, the God of ground, through its though civilization and subject. Aschenbach ‘s desire to go to Venice can be associated with the complex procedure of accomplishing self-knowledge. While populating in Germany, state that belongs to the Occident, Aschenbach dedicates himself wholly to artistic creative activity. Harmonizing to Nietzsche, the Germans were excessively “ Apollonian, ” excessively stiff, excessively reticent, excessively intellectual to make genuinely great art because, as I have already mentioned, he believed that merely a coaction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian forces could make reliable art. Like Lord Henry, he predicted that the Dionysian forces would break out if avoided and held in cheque excessively long and that the consequence could be lay waste toing.

Venice is the location where Aschenbach bit by bit abandons his restraint and gives manner to his animal, passionate side. This fact is important because Venice represents the sensuous South in contrast to austere Germany. The creative person ‘s ocean trip from one different civilization to another and from a distinguishable clime to another parallels his descent from rigorous control to uncontrolled passion. Equally shortly as he arrives in Venice, Aschenbach can non quash a secrete bang that pleases his bosom: “ The tepid air of the dust storm breathed upon him, he leaned back among his shock absorbers and gave himself to the giving up component, shuting his eyes for really passion in an laziness every bit unaccustomed as Sweet ” ( Mann 435 ) . While opening his cryptic box of passions, he opens the door to corruptness and decay. Aschenbach lets himself be swallowed by the Waterss of passion as Venice allows itself to be surrounded by Adriatic Waterss.

Gustav Aschenbach ‘s resemblance to Dorian Gray lies in that they are both the merchandise of artistic creative activity. The influence of the conventionally minded Basil and that of the pagan Henry Wotton on Dorian Gray parallels the influence of stiff Germany and alien Venice on Gustav Aschenbach, which generate the battle between the Apollonian and Dionysian forces. Dorian Gray is at foremost introduced as possessing “ all the candor of young person, every bit good as all young person ‘s passionate pureness ” ( Wilde 23 ) . He is really fond of the painter Basil Hallward, that is of the Apollonian. As he meets Henry Wotton, Dorian Gray feels more and more attracted to his personality and to his words which ever manage to hold a serious impact upon him: “ Words! Mere words! How awful they were! How clear, graphic, and cruel! One could non get away from them! And yet what a elusive thaumaturgy there was in them! ” ( Wilde 26 ) . Dorian is bit by bit drawn to admit the Dionysian side of his personality, as Lord Henry ‘s words resonate in his head:

Ah! Gain your young person while you have it. Do n’t waste the gold of your yearss listening to the boring, seeking to better the hopeless failure, or giving off your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sallow purposes, the false ideals of our age. Live! Live the fantastic life that is in you! Let nil be lost upon you. Be ever seeking for new esthesiss. Be afraid of nothingaˆ¦ A new Hedonism, that is what our century wants. ( Wilde 30 )

Measure by measure, Dorian Gray becomes more and more tempted to take into consideration Lord Henry ‘s charming words and use them to his life. Dorian ‘s personality alterations wholly from the minute he sees for the first clip the portrayal painted by Basil Hallward.

Before seeing the celebrated image, Dorian Gray is described as a pure, inexperienced young person. He even used to happen the regards of the people with whom he came into contact mere hyperboles: “ Basil Hallward ‘s regards had seemed to him to be simply the charming hyperboles of friendly relationship ” ( Wilde 33 ) . But when Dorian is introduced to the portrayal, he becomes for the first clip aware of his perfect beauty and right from the start, the portrayal exerts a really strong influence upon him:

When he saw it [ the image ] he drew back, and his cheeks flushed for a minute with pleasance. A expression of joy came into his eyes, as if he had recognised himself for the first clip. He stood there motionless and in admiration, indistinctly witting that Hallward was talking to him, but non catching the significance of his words. The sense of his ain beauty came on him like a disclosure. He had ne’er felt it before. ( Wilde 33 )

The disclosure of his beauty brings with it the apprehension and credence of Lord Henry ‘s impulse to go cognizant of his young person and perfect beauty and to populate his life to the full: “ Lord Henry Wotton is absolutely right. Young person is the lone thing worth holding ” ( Wilde 34 ) . From so on, Dorian allows the Dionysian forces to command and steer his life.

The image that reveals Dorian ‘s true individuality can be associated with the cholera that invades Venice. They are both marks that warn the supporters of the danger in which their uncontrolled passions and inherent aptitudes might pull them. The image is the projection of Dorian ‘s true ego, while his physical visual aspect, the everlasting perfect beauty is, in fact, the mask which protects him from the puritanical stenosiss of Victorian society: “ Eternal young person, infinite passion, pleasures elusive and secret, wild joys and Wilder wickednesss, he has to hold all these things. The portrayal was to bear the load of his shame ” ( Wilde 123 ) . Dorian hides his image once it troublingly begins to alter from an keen portrayal into a monstrous image of malformation, witnessing the immature adult male ‘s eternal error. The treachery of the actress Sibyl Vane, the barbarous slaying of Basil Hallward, the blackmailing of the chemist Alan Campbell, and the inadvertent shot of James Vane, each despairing destiny is associated with Dorian ‘s externally unmarred individuality.

When Aschenbach visits the British Travel Agency, he is informed that the disease migrated from India. “ Emanating from the humid fens of the Ganges Delta, lifting with the miasmic halituss of that alcoholic, uninhabitable, aboriginal island jungle shunned by adult male, where togers crouch in bamboo brushs, the epidemic had long raged with unwonted virulency ” ( Mann 465 ) . Although Aschenbach is cognizant of the parlous disease and its black effects, he can non go forth Venice every bit long as Tadzio is still at that place. Furthermore, the unstable state of affairs gives him certain satisfaction since it bears a similar secret as that kept in his bosom: “ these things that were traveling on in the dirty back streets of Venice, under screen of an official hushing-up policy, they gave Aschenbach a dark satisfaction ” ( Mann 468 ) . Just like Venice keeps the cholera unveiled for the intent of maintaining the tourers in the state, so does Aschenbach maintain secret his devotedness to Tadzio ‘s beauty.

As they grow cognizant of the negative effects of their actions and ideas, Dorian Gray and Gustav Aschenbach witness how strongly the Dionysian force takes control of them once it is given manner. Therefore, Dorian reflects on the fact that “ there are minutes when the passion for wickedness, or for what the universe calls wickedness, so dominates a nature, that every fiber of the organic structure, as every cell of the encephalon, seems to be replete with fearful urges. Work force and adult females at such minutes lose the freedom of their will ” ( Wilde 218 ) . In a similar manner, Aschenbach thinks that “ passion is like offense: it does non boom on the established order and the common unit of ammunition ; it welcomes every blow dealt the businessperson construction, every weakening of the societal cloth, because therein it feels a certain hope of its ain advantage ” ( Mann 468 ) .

Both Dorian Gray and Gustave Aschenbach are artists populating in the severe Victorian and German society that would wish to show themselves freely and openly, to admit their inherent aptitudes, but are afraid to face the conventionality of their clip. Therefore, gaining how the portrayal becomes more and more distorted under the load of his errors, Dorian confesses to Henry that “ I want to be good. I do n’t bear the thought of my psyche being horrid ” ( Wilde 113 ) . Aschenbach gives manner to his passions and instincts merely in the alien Venice, far off from stiff Germany.

It is true that such decidedly unusual passions, in all their complexness and multiformity, were encouraged to be accepted and turned into positive instruments for the intent of art by celebrated philosophers such as Nietzsche. But the job for Dorian Gray and for Gustav Aschenbach lies in how they fall quarries to their passions. Violently split between perfect beauty and seamy ugliness, Dorian and Aschenbach ‘s divided lives make it obviously clear, to metropolis Wilde ‘s ain words, that “ all excess, every bit good as all repudiation, brings its penalty. ” In a different society, free from the puritanical stenosiss of Victorianism and the stiffness of severe Germany, these creative persons would possibly be able to research their vibrant being as a complex, multiform animal.

All in all, this chapter focused on the importance of the construct of beauty for aestheticist creative persons in two literary productions, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice. The creative persons ‘ chase of beauty determines their recognition of two opposite sides of their personality termed by the German philosopher Nietzsche as Apollonian and Dionysian. In this chapter, I have demonstrated how these two forces compete in each character, instead than delegate them to divide characters because they both govern human being, even though they are unevenly acknowledged. Nietzsche argued that merely a coaction between these the Apollonian and Dionysian could assist the creative persons achieve self-knowledge and make reliable plants of art. This is the ground why in The Picture of Dorian Gray and Death in Venice, the supporters ‘ failure to happen a balance between these two forces leads to their devastation.


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