The Picture of Social Power: A Study of the Infectious Influence of Ideology in The Picture of Dorian Gray
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When The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 in Lippcott’s Monthly Magazine, the immediate reaction to Wilde’s sensational, sensual story was controversial. Through his shocking storytelling, Wilde attacked the moralistic principles of Victorian society. In response, his work was deemed a scandal, contemporary critics reviewing the novel as being a “mawkish and nauseous story”, and constantly hinting at “disgusting sins and abominable crimes” (Wilde, Appendix H). Following the trend of moral criticism, even modern scholars regard The Picture of Dorian Gray with an emphasis on studies of sexuality and a critical analysis of material decadence in the Victorian era. In my thesis, however, I focus on the struggle of power dynamics, influence, and objectification of people as essential themes throughout the novel. This thesis focuses on an analysis of how power relations are constructed in society, and how commodification maintains control over people. The study examines the themes of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray concerning power through influence and manipulation, the process of identity formation, and the effects of commodification and control. In this paper, I analyze the impact of the rhetorical techniques in the spread of ideological beliefs reflected in characters’ relationships. I then discuss the process of identity formation and explore strategies of using ideological influence to objectify marginalized people in order to maintain power dynamics. Finally, I examine the concept of looking towards a process of identity reclamation. I intend to convey that the concerns of rhetorical influence and the commodification of people as objects on display in order to silence individual voice and maintain power are recurring themes reflected in Wilde’s fin-de-siècle novel. In the context of historical power hierarchies and oppression, and a work of fiction written during an era of anxiety about the end of a century, I seek to provide an understanding of the implications of identity formation amidst the dynamics of a power struggle. I also examine the process of identity reclamation, questioning the means of effectively taking back one’s identity.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Fayard, Kimberly Marie (2017). The Picture of Social Power: A Study of the Infectious Influence of Ideology in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from