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Buca 1 Roxana Mihaela Buca Professor Ioana Zirra Victorian Literature 13.01.

2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray


Demonstration about the Impossible Synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism Hellenism and Hebraism are two philosophical perspectives on the question of how human beings can be perfected. Hellenism means seeing things as they really are in their essence as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve, in their beauty, getting rid of ignorance, thinking clearly. Its defined by the spontaneity of consciousness, figuring things out spontaneously and its aim is mans evolution. The best man is he who most tries to perfect himself and the happiest man is he who most feels that he is perfecting himself.(Socrates) Hellenists think that people can be perfected through an understanding of reality, through a search for the truth. Also, the Greeks quarrel with the body and its desires is that it gets in the way of right thinking. In contrast to Hellenism, Hebraism is based on conduct and obedience, on the strictness of conscience, differentiating between good and evil, self-conquest, self-devotion, following the will of God. It speaks of becoming conscious of sin, of awakening to a sense of sin. Its aim is mans salvation and it also says that one should give oneself up to the will of God, be conscious of ones sinfulness, and follow what God has said people should do. The Hebrews quarrel with the body and its desires is that it gets in the way of right acting.

Buca 2 The Picture of Dorian Gray shows clearly the difference between Hellenism and Hebraism and is more Hellenic than Hebraic. Greek art in general was very much interested in portraying human figure as an object of beauty. The main idea of Greek art is that the naked male body was idolised and the statues were models of perfection, but in Wildes time, in opposition to the Hellenistic period, idolising the male body was taboo. In ancient Greece boys were seen as desirable mostly when they were young and beautiful, so in Wilde's novel the praise of beauty and youth holds a prominent position. Dorian Gray is a fascinating personality that could draw you in itself, just like Greek statues. In every moment he is described, he has the characteristics of Greek sculptures. His personality has the same force of influence on Basil, as Henrys personality has on him. By telling Henry that he has a great passion for sensations that is, things that one can feel which is a pure Hellenic concept, Dorian proves that Henry fulfilled his aim, that of influencing Dorian completely. He also says that he likes beautiful things that can be touched or handled, which is in opposition to the concept of Hebraism of believing without seeing. Dorians name might be derived from The Dorians, who were among the principal ancient Greek tribes. His name has also its etymology in reference to the mode of ancient Greek music, literature. It also means "of Doris," from Greek Doris, district in central Greece, traditionally named for Doros, the legendary ancestor of the Dorians, whose name is probably related to doron "gift." Dorians swept away the last of the declining Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations of southern Greece and plunged the region into a dark age out of which the Greek city-states began to emerge almost three centuries later. His name is linking him to ancient Greek culture, which Lord Henry upholds as the high point of human civilization. It also has another meaning it's linked etymologically to "gold" and "golden" (think El Dorado), like Dorian's appearance. Finally, "Gray"

Buca 3 is a more obvious one Dorian occupies a morally gray area, and his transformation from good to evil mostly takes place in limbo. Henry Wotton (his name is of Germanic origin and it means house owner, lord of the manor and is also related to Wotan/Odin, considered the supreme god of Germanic and Norse mythology, his name meaning "possessed" with a more general significance of "spiritually excited", wide in wisdom, greybeard older than the one whom he influences, shaker could be interpreted as the shaker of Dorians beliefs) is a devoted fan of Hellenism he never says moral things, he says he chooses his friends for how they look, for their character and for what they know and he chooses his enemies for their intelligence that is, he follows exactly the rules of Hellenism, in which people see things as they really are. If there are such things as sins (Wilde 18) another proof that Lord Henry is not a Hebraism adept and that he agrees with the fact that the purpose of our existence is mans evolution, mans perfection. Henry also would like people to be returning to the Hellenic ideal by giving form to every feeling, expression to every thought and reality to every dream. Henry despises self-denial, conscience, guilt feelings, ideas of sin, all the elements that Matthew Arnold called Hebraism, strictness of conscience, and he calls them all the maladies of medievalism(Murray 7) Henry is devoted to the senses, to reality, just as the Hellenists and the Hedonists. He is also relating to Hellenism by saying the Gods have been good to you(Wilde 21). By telling Dorian not to give his life to the ignorant people, Henry agrees again with Hellenism by getting rid of ignorance. As one can notice when reading the novel, the presence of Hellenism is absolutely striking and can be found on almost every page of the book Lord Henry also mentions that one should sympathize with the colour, the beauty, the joy

Buca 4 of life(Wilde 38) that is, the Hellenic concept of seeing things in their essence and beauty as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve. In the fragment philosophy herself became young, and catching the mad music of pleasure, wearing, one might fancy, her wine-stained robe and wreath of ivy, danced like a Bacchante over the hills of life, and mocked the slow Silenus for being sober(Wilde 42-43), one can find Hellenic mentions like: Bacchante - which means ivy-draped, wine-inspired female priestess of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, known to the Greeks as Dionysus and also Silenus - the lazy, debauched foster father of Dionysus. Another thing one can clearly see in the novel is that Henry Wotton is a misogynist and misogyny implicitly relates to the homoeroticism of the Greek. Wotton believes that mans evolution and perfection would be blocked if one accepts a certain faith or a system and he also thinks that, if man doesnt go through evolution, mans life is destroyed. Lord Henry indirectly says that if one shows off in front of others with ones moral notions, it means that one is a supporter of Hebraism, being a puritan. Puritanism and hedonism are antonyms, just like age and sin, seen and not seen, realism and romanticism, Hellenism vs. Hebraism (all of these being mentioned directly or indirectly in the novel), hence being proved once again that Henry is a complete Hellenist, given the fact that hes also a hedonist.. Sibyl Vane's name meaning is, of course, obvious. Her vanity is apparent in all of her words and thoughts, and we can't help but be repelled by it. She is also an adept of following Gods will, therefore a Hebraism adept. She has (a blind) belief in God and she puts all her hopes in him, for example when she tells her brother that God will help him lead a good life.

Buca 5 In a different approach, Dorian represents Hellenism and Sybil represents Hebraism. Given the fact that they dont end up together and that she commits suicide because she could no longer live in a world in which he existed, this could be a part of the demonstration that theres an impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism. Another proof of the impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism is represented by the relation between Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton two completely different people, with different concepts on life and even though they are friends, they never get to an agreement, like Hellenism and Hebraism exactly. As Gautier says my whole worth consists in my being a man for whom the visible world exists, Dorian was one for whom the visible world existed this excerpt agreeing with the Hellenic concept of seeing things as they really are, understanding reality, searching for the truth, an excerpt in opposition with the Hebraic notions of believing blindly in what is said to you (like in Christian religion) without ever wanting a visible proof. Basil (a name used mostly in English and German; of Old Greek origin. Basil means royal, kingly. Its origin and use are also present in the Arabic language. The meaning here is valiant, brave) therefore believed that only God could see our souls, but when Dorian told him that he will show him his soul and that he would show him what he thinks that only God could see, he accuses Dorian of blasphemy, proving us that he, Basil, follows the notions of Hebraism. Basil wants Dorian to tell him that what everyone talks about Dorian is not true and Basil will believe him if he says so, another reason to regard Basil as a Hebraic for believing in what it is said and not proved. Also, Basil tries to convince Dorian to pray to an entity for his sins to be forgiven and his soul cleaned of all evil.

Buca 6 Basil is trying to hide his true self Charmides Self, a hiding motivated by narcissistic selflove , projected in terms of homosexual passion for Dorian behavior (sic) not to be tolerated by his puritanical conscience or his Hebraic, paternalistic society(Baker and Nadel 142). Basil, Lord Henry and Dorian suggest the three sides of oneself: id, ego and superego, Dorian being the id, Henry the ego and Basil the superego. It may also be interpreted as the artist, the critic, the subject. Ironically, the novel kills off both artist and subject; only the critic survives. When asked which character most reflected himself, Wilde replied: Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps. If Lord Henry is the Devil's advocate, then Basil Hallward is God's. He believes in redemption, in the goodness of mankind and in morals. Lord Henry and Basil do have one thing in common they both view Dorian as an artistic inspiration, as Hellenism and Hebraism do their aims are the good of man, be it physically or spiritually, even though they try reaching these aims through completely opposite methods. At the end of the novel, Dorian is influenced by Hebraic thoughts There was purification in punishment. Not Forgive us our sins but Smite us for our iniquities should be the prayer of man to a most just God. (Wilde 202) The central irony of The Picture of Dorian Gray is that the Hellenic ideal of "the harmony of soul and body" pursued by Basil and Henry alike, and localized in their separate visions of Dorian, is not realized largely because they project onto the young man their own unbalanced and fragmentary images. (Summers, 5) This proves us the impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism. In the end, Dorians both body and soul become separated.

Buca 7 Was the author of Dorian Gray, increasingly uneasy about the way in which his heroes invariably were extricated from their sinful pasts, and facing an increasingly hostile press and public, willing to allow romance to be killed by reality a principle he habitually associated with the Hebraic spirit which plagued Victorian England and which begat the naturalistic novel? (Baker and Nadel, 146)

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Works cited
http://doigtsbleus.free.fr/Bookworms/doriangray.pdf - Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/arnold/writings/4.html - Arnold, Matthew - Hellenism and Hebraism Baker, William and Nadel, Ira B. - Redefining the modern Essays on literature and society in honor of Joseph Wiesenfarth, 2004 Dowling, Linda. Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994 http://www.enotes.com/topic/The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray#Characters http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Odin#Etymology - etymology of names http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Dorian - etymology of names http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning_of_Dorian.html - etymology of names http://www.shmoop.com/picture-dorian-gray/characterization.html - etymology of names Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray An Introduction, by Isobel Murray, Oxford Worlds Classics, 1998 Summers, Claude J. Oscar Wilde, www.glbtq.com : An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture, 2002