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The Contrast Between Inner And Outer Beauty

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1772 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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The contrast of inner and outer beauty is seen throughout the book. “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.” (pg.17). This quote from the preface is saying that people that can only find the bad out a good thing are the type of people that don’t have inner beauty because they are crooked and don’t have allure. Being crooked and lacking allure are things that are considered an error in these people. Then there are those people who can see the beauty in beautiful things and those people are considered cultured. These people are seen with optimism in them.

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Also a character who constantly talks about beauty is Lord Henry Wotton. He is seen throughout the book bringing up inner and outer beauty. He tells the artist Basil Hallward that Dorian Gray is an extremely handsome young man and that he is so beautiful because he isn’t an intellectual. He is just a pretty face. “Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you-well, of course you have an intellectual expression and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face” and “Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.” (pg.21). Lord Henry also tells Basil that most intellectuals or successful people are ugly because of the way their faces look when they think. “The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are!” (pg.21) He also uses this so called theory of his to “shut down” or shame Basil when he briefly compares himself to Dorian Gray. “”I know you will laugh at me,” he replied, “but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it.” Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed. “Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same.” “Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn’t know you were so vain; and I really can’t see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves.”(pg.20) “Don’t flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him” (pg.20-21)

Another way Lord Henry shows that when it comes to the contrast between inner and outer beauty, he chooses inner beauty instead outer beauty is the way he chooses the people in and out his life. “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain” (pg.26). You can see from the previously stated quote that Lord Henry knows he is vain and he doesn’t care because in his eyes, that is the most important thing to consider when making any choices.

The reader can also refer to other pieces of literature and use them to find other examples of the contrast of inner and outer beauty. A book one can use as a reference material is Cheever Shady Hill: A Suburban Sequence. This book talks about different struggles the characters have to deal with internally while having a normal and easy outer appearance. This is similar to Dorian Gray who seemed to have an easy life as a beautiful and young man but had inner demons that made him ugly on the inside. The characters in this book also relate to Dorian Gray because they go through situations that show that the effect of a situation can internal and never show externally. Just like when Dorian Gray commits the murder of Basil Hallward, the artist, the effects of is action are not seen externally on his face but internally through the picture Basil Hallward painted of Dorian Gray.

Another reference material one can use is The Pre-Raphaelite Body: Fear and Desire in Painting, Poetism, and Criticism by J.B. Bullen. Just like how Bullen is discussing the views of the inner world being about you while the outer world is more materialistic, these views are like those of some of the people in the book The Picture of Dorian Gray. Most of the people in the art gallery are those who use views of the outer world which are like things pertaining to wealth and high social status. Another reference available is Are and Beauty by Max Schoen in which he discusses that being concerned with outer beauty can mess up your inner beauty or at least distort it a little. Just like how Dorian Gray concerns himself with outer beauty so much that he messes up his inner beauty, which is displayed on the painting.

Beauty and Evolution. International Journal of Humanities and Peace by William Burke is another reference material. This piece brings up that inner beauty is all about the respect of yourself and other and peace to all while outer beauty can be seen as basically skin deep. One is supposed to focus on a person’s inner beauty more than their outer beauty which is what Lord Henry when he first saw and met Dorian Gray. Instead he focused on Dorian’s good looks which led to Dorian’s downfall in the end.

Basil Hallward feels that artists should never show their inner feelings or thoughts through a painting. “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.” (pg.29). He says that basically the world can’t see his true feelings for Dorian Gray. They will only see what he allows them to see. He wants all painters to not teat their paintings like an autobiography because they should keep their personal views to themselves. This is similar to Lord Henry thinking that people shouldn’t show their inner beauty to others because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the person’s outer appearance.

Also Lord Henry is again comparing intellect with beauty which is his way of comparing inner beauty with outer beauty. He tells Basil that basically we as people fill our heads with knowledge only to make an impression on people and make like a name for ourselves. “…there is no doubt that genius lasts longer than beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.” (pg. 29)

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In the book, one can see how Lord Henry influences Dorian Gray. At first, he is thinking for himself about things, especially about his love for Sibyl Vane. He doesn’t want her anymore because she is not the same girl he fell in love with. She lost her passion for acting and that was something that attracted him to her. “You have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were marvelous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid.” (pg.102)

In contrast to what is previously stated, Dorian is now getting under the influence of Lord Henry because he seems to not want Sibyl Vane anymore also because he feels she is nothing without acting. He feels she has no life anymore. He sees her as a simple low class actress trying to make it big. “Without your art, you are nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face.” (pg.102) He is sort of degrading her to just because she isn’t important anymore. Just like Lord Henry, Dorian Gray becomes concerned with outer beauty and forgets all about inner beauty.

Also when Dorian Gray first notices the painting’s facial change, this is the first sign of a real contrast of inner beauty and outer beauty with Dorian Gray. He just broke Sibyl Vane’s heart and even though his face doesn’t have a cruel look, his painting does. After he had taken the button-hole out of his coat, he seemed to hesitate. Finally, he came back, went over to the picture, and examined it. In the dim arrested light that struggled through the cream-coloured silk blinds, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The expression looked different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was certainly strange”

After awhile, Dorian Gray remembers the wish he made in Basil Hallward’s studio about not wanting to get old, for him to remain young. Even now he is in a way foreshadowing the different contrasts of inner beauty and outer beauty to come. “Yes, he remembered it perfectly. He had uttered a mad wish that he himself might remain young, and the portrait grow old; that his own beauty might be untarnished, and that the face on the canvas bear the burden of his passions and his sins; that painted image might be seared with the lines of suffering and though, and that he might keep all the delicate bloom and loveliness of his then just conscious boyhood.” (pg.105)

In closing, throughout this whole book, the reader can find examples of the contrast between inner and outer beauty. From the characters such as Lord Henry Wotton and Dorian Gray to the different reference materials that can be used to find other stuff or even start a discussion on the contrasts. One can also see how Lord Henry’s influence will start to take effect on Dorian Gray and how he goes from actually looking at a person internally to looking as someone through their outer appearance.


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