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An Archetypal Analysis of the Picture of Dorian Gray

Author ZuoZuo
Tutor LiuGuoZhi
School Hubei University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Archetypal theory theme characters Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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The Picture of Dorian Gray first came out in1890. As the only novel written by Oscar Wilde, it attracts a lot attention from the critics all around the world. It has been analyzed from many different perspectives by scholars from diverse literary critical schools, including aesthetic, cultural, post-modern, psychological and paradox critical schools for centuries.The main purpose of the present paper is to analyze Oscar Wilde’s most impressive masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Gray from the viewpoint of archetype, a systematic literary criticism proposed by Canadian literary critic, Northrop Frye. The paper consist of five partsThe first part is the introduction part, composed of a brief introduction of the life of Oscar Wilde, the main idea of The Picture of Dorian Gray, literature review in both domestic and overseas area.The second part is concerned about the relevant theory applied by the paper, Archetypal theory in literary field. It contains the definition of Archetypal theory, development of the theory from Frazer’s anthropology field to Jung’s psychological connotation to Frye’s literary interpretation. Archetypal criticism is an important literary critic school in the west in20th century. Frye’s Archetypal theory aims to connect different literary works by the recurring pattern to reveal the deep meaning under the surface meaning.The third part is the application of Frye’s Archetypal theory by comparing The Picture of Dorian Gray with the Bible from the view of the theme and the formation of the main characters. The theme of the both two works is the fall of the protagonist and the lost of the ideal world for the pursuit of satisfying their desire under the negative influence of the evil. Taking Wilde’s unusual personality into consideration, the archetype for the leading character, Dorian Gray, can be seen as Eve in the Bible. The reason is that Dorian possesses many female characteristics, which can be proved by the description of Dorian in the novel. Besides, the life experience of Dorian and the depravation of the soul in Dorian have a lot in common with Eve, which will be deeply discussed in the third part. Apart from Dorian, Henry’s archetype turns out to be the serpent in the Bible, who seduces Eve to act against the God and to give in to her own desire in the price of being expelled by the God to suffer various kinds of pains in her later life. Meanwhile, Basil in the novel refers to Adam in the Bible. In the Bible, Adam is the innocent victim of Eve’s rebellion against the God. In the novel, the upright painter Basil is killed by Dorian merely because Basil tries to persuade Dorian into quitting his hideous behaviors. Furthermore, Basil’s ardent admiration for Dorian is similar to that of Adam to Eve. Accordingly, from careful analysis, the paper declares that the archetype for Dorian is Eve in the Bible, the archetype for Basil is Adam while Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray can be seen the displacement of the serpent in the Bible.The forth part is also the application of Frye’s Archetypal criticism but the focus is put on the comparison between The Picture of Dorian Gray and other legends circulated in the Europe, including Goethe’s Faust and Greek myth Narcissus. The life experience and the depravation of the soul of Faust are exactly the same to that of Dorian. Both of them are seduced by the devil to quit their pure soul so as to achieve their own desire. In the process of pursuiting their own goal, they hurt their lovers deeply and even destroy the lives of their lovers merely because of their selfishness. Narcissus’ deep and desperate fascination for himself is similar to that of Dorian. They love their own fabulous appearance so deeply that they wish to possess it forever. Finally, both of them pay a great price for that wish and both of them are killed by themselves. The further study of the comparison reveals that archetypes can be found in myth from other culture to explain the reasonable existence of Frye’s Archetypal theory.The final part is the summary part. After the careful analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the paper manages to apply Frye’s Archetypal theory to analyze The Picture of Dorian Gray to find out the recurring theme and characters in it. Another significance of the paper is to provide a new perspective for critics to analyze The Picture of Dorian Gray. There exists a certain pattern of theme in the three works. The recurring pattern is that the innocent protagonist is seduced by the devil who takes advantage of the protagonist to act out the the devil’s desire to rebel against the authorities. The pure soul of the protagonist becomes dark and falls into the dell in the end. The pattern can be found and will be found in many literary works.

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