ure Khadijah Wiley Boswell British Literature 12-5-10 The Picture of Dorian Gray Social classes are very evident in The Picture of Dorian Gray; they are represented through some of the main characters. The goal of this analysis is to identify the factors, which influence people’s ideals about social classes. The theme of social classes in The Picture of Dorian Gray is effectively revealed through the main characters Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil. In opposition, social classes are seen as possible supplement to beauty, wealth and intelligence.
The proponents of vanity would say that it is the reoccurring factor in the book, being that all of Dorian’s actions revolved around a gorgeous portrait painted by Basil. Dorian’s portrait had changed his behavior tremendously making it seem as though he was overcome by his own beauty that he could not judge his actions accurately. “People have cognitive bias. They assume that if someone is attractive, she possesses other positive traits, such as kindness and intelligence,” says behavioral psychologist Stephen Josephson, Ph. D. , of Weill Cornell Medical College (Landman par. ). The actions of Dorian Gray are mainly due to the influence of the high-class society. The upper class in modern capitalist societies is often distinguished by the possession of largely inherited wealth. (Characteristics of the Principal Classes par. 2). The influence of the high class had tremendous effect on Dorian. The people associated with the upper class influenced his behavior to become detrimental to his overall mental health; along with that the pressure to be the best and to be on the throne of society eventually lead to Dorian’s demise.
The fact that his picture was changing with his actions shows that he clearly had a conscious and knew that the actions he was displaying were inhumane. The dominant class, according to Marx, controls not only material production but also the production of ideas…(Karl Marx’s Social Theory of Class par. 1) Therefore, social classes can be seen as corrupt influences that dangerously affect a human’s behavior, through Dorian’s struggle with himself. Lord Henry had so much power in society that he lost track of what really was important.
Lord Henry played a big part in Dorian’s demise, he told him many times that intelligence, wealth, and beauty, is the only way to succeed in life. Dorian took these words to heart and did everything possible to be known in the high classes. He had become obsessed with being known for his money and his social standpoint, and lost sight of what was important in his life. “Geniuses… are always talking about themselves, when I want them to be thinking about me. ”(Wilde, An Ideal Husband).
Lord Henry was divorced from his estranged wife who probably could not take his insistent lectures about what it means to be high class. His lectures on social class and power heavily influence Dorian. Basil believed in the power of social classes, and he revealed it through his portrait of Dorian. Basil was very fond of Dorian and his looks. He called his painting by far the prettiest he has ever created. (Wilde, pg 15). Basil painted Dorian picture because he thought he was handsome, intelligent, and wealth, that intern he felt that he was high on the social chain.
Basil felt that Dorian could take him places in his career. Basil also was influenced by the high-class life; this is partly the reason that he became an artist. He wanted to be known with the big names of society, and he wanted to become one of the great artists of all time. The need to be known contributed to his death. As he tried to change Dorian’s behavior, Dorian became enraged and murdered Basil in cold blood. Even though he tried to change his viewpoint on life, it was too late, and there was no going back.
In conclusion, vanity is a relevant theme in the novel but; social classes play a bigger part. The theme of social classes is clearly represented through each of the main characters in different ways. Dorian was overcome by his own reflection that his behavior was dangerously affected in a negative way, which eventually lead to his suicide. Lord Henry was so focused on his intelligence and social standpoint that he lost everything that was valuable to him.
Basil was trying to be successful, but went about it in the wrong way, which eventually lead to his murder. All these things play a part not only in a novel, but in life as well. “Never speak disrespectfully of society. Only people who can’t get into it do that. ” says Oscar Wilde in an interview. Works Cited "Characteristics of the Principle Classes. " Encyclop? dia Britannica Online School Edition. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://school. eb. com>. "Karl Marx's Social Theory of Class. " Encyclop? dia Britannica Online School Edition.
Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://school. eb. com>. Landman, Beth. "Why Looks Matter. " EBSCO Publishing Service Selection Page. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://web. ebscohost. com>. Wilde, Oscar, and Alvin Redman. "Genius. " The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde. New York: Dover Publications, 1959. Print. Wilde, Oscar, and Alvin Redman. "Society. " The Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde. New York: Dover Publications, 1959. Print. Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Modern Library, 1992. Print.