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The Picture of Dorian Gray and Henry David Thoreau's Economy: Comparison and Contrast - Essay Example

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The novel Picture of Dorian Gray and the thesis “Economy,” from Henry David Thoreau's Walden have completely different ways of presenting the same thesis – that materialism is generally bad, and leads to a shallow and unfulfilling life…
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The Picture of Dorian Gray and Henry David Thoreaus Economy: Comparison and Contrast
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Download file to see previous pages The way that Dorian presents this basic theme is through, essentially, satire. After all, in this novel there is the famous quote that “nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” (Wilde, 28). Dorian, himself, leads a casual life that is completely unfulfilling to himself, even though he has extreme beauty and wealth, and his beauty was such that it literally would never fade. He has all the material goods that a man could want, and the world at his feet, yet Dorian is extremely unhappy. This unhappiness is shown through his casual cruelty, such as his cruelty to Sybil Vane and his apparent cruelty to many others, although this cruelty is not explained thoroughly. There is the indication, however, that Dorian had made himself quite infamous in society, a point that was driven home by Hallwell, when Hallwell paid Dorian a visit because he was concerned about him. Dorian also was fascinated by cruelty and hypocrisy, reading endlessly about wealthy people throughout history who used their power for evil deeds, and were not apparently happy, even though they were given much in the way of material wealth. Therefore, it seems as if Wilde is making the point that, to put it in cliched terms, money does not buy happiness. Dorian was miserable, and Lord Henry didn't seem much happier, even though the two men were wealthy beyond measure and would be considered one of the “beautiful people” in today's society. Wilde portrayed the desperate inner lives of the idle rich by showing this desperation through the eyes of Dorian Gray. As noted below, Wilde also portrayed this desperation of the rich by Lord Henry, who made the point that society is like Dorian – society is what knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, and this is what makes society susceptible to Dorian's charms, while also being a corruptive influence on young Dorian Gray. Henry David Thoreau makes the same claim in “Economy,” but makes it in a totally different way. While Wilde recognizes the corruptive influence of materialism and wealth on society, and points it out through potent satire, Thoreau also recognizes that materialism and wealth is corruptive upon society, but made his point not by portraying a person in the throes of excess consumption, but by going into the woods and living a life that is completely different from a life that is dictated by materialism. Thoreau demonstrated that spiritual bankruptcy of a life dictated by possessions when he decided to live in the woods by himself and to try to make a life there that is simplified. Thoreau recognized that when people want material goods, and they feel the need to acquire, they must sacrifice parts of themselves – namely they must take on worry and constraint by taking a job that they may hate, simply to keep up with the Joneses. Financial worry is also something that would dog these people – that could be seen in modern times by the people who have overextended themselves in credit card debt so that they can have the latest big ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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