Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/10612
This essay compares and contrasts some relevant autobiographical aspects of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe in order to demonstrate how and why Wilde’s narrative style and thematic development in The Picture of Dorian Gray is similar to that of Poe in “William Wilson.” The first part of the essay briefly outlines how Wilde discovered Poe through the writings of Charles Baudelaire, and how Wilde subsequently identified with Poe’s literary style and his controversial social position. Their narrative styles are then examined by application of narratological models to The Picture of Dorian Gray and “William Wilson,” revealing the motif of the double as a central component. What is established is Wilde’s discovery in the work of Poe of means to create and enhance his style and argument on aesthetics in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The second half of this essay is devoted to a close analysis of the protagonist of each story, which reveals how the respective stories embody the shape and direction of the author’s arguments. As a result, the primary focus of The Picture of Dorian Gray is revealed to be an examination of artistic and social complexities, rendering The Picture of Dorian Gray as both a theoretical and a fictional exploration of the inevitable separation between the artist, the subject, the audience, and the work of art. “William Wilson” is, on the other hand, directly engaged with the psychological effects of a split identity. Both Wilde and Poe were, in other words, interested in exploring the often ill-defined separation between art or fiction and reality. The Picture of Dorian Gray and “William Wilson” reveal strong thematic and aesthetic similarities between the two authors; the inherent fragmentation of identity under the pressure of society is an overarching theme in both narratives.
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