How Time Periods Affect Society In the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, society was all supposed to be the same. Individuality was not a lifestyle, or a way of life. The unique characters were looked down upon. In this time, people married and had relationships for social status and not for love.
The relationships were strictly business, and if someone married below their social status they were looked down upon. This time was called the Victorian Period and existed between 1837 and 1901. (Lombardi) This period of time all revolved around the political career of Queen Victoria. Writers like Oscar Wilde spent time in custody for being unique.
He was openly homosexual and strongly believed in individuality. Oscar Wilde and his writings affected few people in his time period, but readers can look back today and see how important individuality actually is. After reading a biography on Oscar Wilde's life, one would realize that his life began and continued to compare to those of the upper classes. He had an easy life growing up and going through school, but once he started to differ from society, his life became arduous. After Oscar received a great education from oxford, he set out to be a writer.
After a slow start, he gradually was noticed. After his great success, his son turned his back on his father, Oscar, and that started his downfall. The downfall was due to England's strict penal code. Oscar's son, Lord Alfred Douglas, referred to Wilde as a homosexual in public.
This sentenced Wilde to be in jail for two years. He wrote as he was in jail, but lost interest, love, and respect from most readers, family, and friends. (Ell mann 1). This biography showed that unique people such as homosexuals were strongly looked down upon and often punished. During this time period, few authors and artists tried to get readers and observers to look deeper into their works of art.
Some believed that books and arts can be compared to people, due to the fact that one can judge by the cover, or you can judge by who or what they are, what they believe in, and what they have accomplished. Oscar Wilde was on of those unique people that looked and judged art by the surface and on what is inside of the covers. "All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their own peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their own peril", (Gray preface).
This quote by Dorian struck one as being very true. For example, if one is reading without thinking and without enthusiasm, they will miss a lot if not most of the story. Symbols are hidden within the text and requires to be searched for. People make this decision as soon as they open the book.
In the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, there was talk of homosexuality between Dorian and a few other characters. One can think that Dorian was symbolic of Oscar Wilde due to the fact of his homosexual tendencies, and his way of life. Most gays in this time period were ashamed of it. They would often hide their feelings because if they show them they would be punished or taken into custody. A character we know of having many past intimate times with Dorian was a character known as Alan Campbell. This character was now ashamed of it.
He knows vital information about Dorian but could not tell, because Dorian would tell about their encounters. "They had been great friends once, five years before-almost inseparable, indeed. Then the intimacy had come suddenly to an end. When they met in society now, it was only Dorian Gray that smiled: Alan Campbell never did", (Gray 143). This quote above was just stating that Alan was afraid to show his feelings in public. Another thing that many people had mixed feelings of in society was marriage.
Marriage was not as it is today. People would marry to gain land, power or social status in the Victorian Period. Now most of the marriages are for love and happiness. In the past people would marry and go off and live many different lives. For example, they would go off and have other relationships with other men and or women and would not feel guilty or would not be looked down upon. Often times married couples would laugh and joke about their other relationships with each other.
The majority of people in this time would do so. "Dorian Gray falls in love with a beautiful girl who acts Juliet, and proposes to marry her. Why not? If he wedded Messalina he would be none the less interesting. You know I am not a champion of marriage. The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish.
And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their egotism, and add to it many other egos.
They are forced to have more than one life. They become more highly organized, and to be highly organized is, I should fancy, the object to mans existence. Besides, every experience is of value, and, whatever one may say against marriage, it is certainly inexperience. I hope that Dorian Gray will make this girl his wife, passionately adore her for six months, and then suddenly become fascinated with someone else. He would be a wonderful study", (Gray 66). The above quote was showing Lord Henry's view on marriage.
This showed what he and other high class people think in this period. This also showed that marriage makes people live secret lives and makes them not always be aware of the consequences beforehand. As a conclusion to this paper, one will stand by their opinions of this as from the beginning. Uniqueness is often credited today and not in the past. Marriages were not for love like they are today. The few people that had suffered in this before us, are greatly thanked now and if not for them, we still may live like they had.
Instead of looking down upon our lifestyles nowadays, we would be looking down upon the lifestyles of the Victorian Period. Without people like Oscar Wilde, we may have never changed our ways of life..