The Picture of Dorian Gray is a rich story which can be viewed through many literary and cultural lenses. Oscar Wilde himself purposefully filled his novel with a great many direct and indirect allusions to the literary culture of his times, so it seems appropriate to look back at his story – both the novel and the 1945 film version – in this way.
In many ways, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a retelling of the Faust story. A temptation is placed before Dorian, as with Faust, and he falls for it–offering up his soul to get it. In fact, one of Faust’s principal wishes is also to remain young. Faust and Dorian also each seduce a young woman, then lead her to her death, as well as leading the woman’s brother (Valentine in Faust and James Vale in Dorian Gray to die in attempting revenge for his sister.
It is also a Doppelganger story, like Adelbert Chamisso’s “Peter Schlemihl” (in which Peter foolishly sells his shadow) and even more like Edgar A. Poe’s “William Wilson” (in which the narrator is tormented by a schoolchum who looks and sounds exactly like him, and which ends much like Dorian Gray, with its more sinister overtones.
Dorian Gray has a theme of eternal youth, bought at the price of one’s soul, and continued through the destruction of others, in common with vampires as well. And, of course, Dorian Gray has to be run in the mind’s eye against the backdrop of Oscar Wilde’s life, particularly his affair with the young aristocrat, Lord Alfred Douglas, which eventually landed Wilde in jail for sodomy, and pretty much ended his career.
Along these lines, the life of Oscar Wilde and his novel, Dorian Gray can also be compared to that of rock star Freddy Mercury of Queen and their song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Here we have Oscar Wilde, fun-loving, witty, cynical, decadent kind of guy, undone by his homosexual liaison with Lord Alfred Douglas, languishing in jail for sodomy. A few years previous to this sad turn of events, he writes The Picture of Dorian Gray–about a decadent, immoral murderer, who also has homosexual relations (with various young men who die, become drug addicts, commit suicide, etc.), and who dies a horrible and disfiguring death due to his evil ways. Now, we also have Freddy Mercury, who lived a flamboyant and decadent lifestyle as a sexually ambiguous rock star.
Analysis of Aristotle’s The Politics
An Analysis of Aristotle’s The Politics
In “The Politics”, Aristotle would have us believe that man by nature is a political animal. In other words, Aristotle seems to feel that the most natural thing for men to do is to come together in some form of political association. He then contends that this political association is essential to the pursuit of the good life. Finally he attempts to distinguish what forms of political association are most suitable to the pursuit of this good life. In formulating a critique of “The Politics”, we shall first examine his claims as to what is natural to man and whether the criterion of the natural is sufficient to demonstrate virtue. We shall then examine what it is about political association that is essential to the pursuit of the good life. In conclusion, we shall see whether Aristotle’s recommended mix of oligarchy and democracy is really suited to the practice of the good life.
It seems to me that there is indeed something more natural to man than politics. While it is true that wherever you find men you tend to find political associations, it is also true that not all human associations are political. Aristotle rightly points out the family is a basic form of association that is mostly apolitical. Religion brings people together, as does the economic desire to trade and pursue economic activity. None of these spheres of human activity can be said to necessitate politics. These spheres of human action however, are seemingly found wherever human beings can be found, hence they are more natural in the sense that they automatically arise. Aristotle’s account of the formation of the state is pure historical rationalization. He says that the state is natural because it arises out of mor…
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…r to preserve virtue in the face of rampant vice than in times where individual virtue abounds in order to maintain stability and justice. The nature of politics is power over material things however, not virtue. Justice and virtue may be the professed functions and goals of politics, but this does not define what politics in fact are. A perplexing question however, is that of how the ideal constitution will be brought about when the virtuous have no interest in bringing it about precisely because virtue is defined by disinterestedness.
Barnes, Jonathan, ed. The Complete Works of Aristotle. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984
Lord, Carnes. Aristotle: The Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984
Nehamas, Alexander. Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Aristotle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999