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The Impossible Synthesis Between Hellenism and Hebraism in 'the Picture of Dorian Gray'

The Impossible Synthesis Between Hellenism and Hebraism in 'the Picture of Dorian Gray'

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Published by: Roxana Mihaela on May 07, 2012
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Buca 1 Roxana Mihaela Buca Professor Ioana Zirra Victorian Literature 13.01.


The Picture of Dorian Gray
Demonstration about the Impossible Synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism Hellenism and Hebraism are two philosophical perspectives on the question of how human beings can be perfected. Hellenism means seeing things as they really are in their essence as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve, in their beauty, getting rid of ignorance, thinking clearly. It’s defined by the spontaneity of consciousness, figuring things out spontaneously and its aim is man’s evolution. “The best man is he who most tries to perfect himself and the happiest man is he who most feels that he is perfecting himself.”(Socrates) Hellenists think that people can be perfected through an understanding of reality, through a search for the truth. Also, the Greeks’ quarrel with the body and its desires is that it gets in the way of right thinking. In contrast to Hellenism, Hebraism is based on conduct and obedience, on the strictness of conscience, differentiating between good and evil, self-conquest, self-devotion, following the will of God. It speaks of becoming conscious of sin, of awakening to a sense of sin. Its aim is man’s salvation and it also says that one should give oneself up to the will of God, be conscious of one’s sinfulness, and follow what God has said people should do. The Hebrews’ quarrel with the body and its desires is that it gets in the way of right acting.

It also has another meaning – it's linked etymologically to "gold" and "golden" (think El Dorado). Dorian proves that Henry fulfilled his aim. as Henry’s personality has on him. in opposition to the Hellenistic period. His name is linking him to ancient Greek culture. Greek art in general was very much interested in portraying human figure as an object of beauty. It also means "of Doris. who were among the principal ancient Greek tribes. which is in opposition to the concept of Hebraism of believing without seeing. just like Greek statues." from Greek Doris.Buca 2 “The Picture of Dorian Gray” shows clearly the difference between Hellenism and Hebraism and is more Hellenic than Hebraic. idolising the male body was taboo. literature. The main idea of Greek art is that the naked male body was idolised and the statues were models of perfection. whose name is probably related to doron "gift." Dorians swept away the last of the declining Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations of southern Greece and plunged the region into a dark age out of which the Greek city-states began to emerge almost three centuries later. "Gray" . so in Wilde's novel the praise of beauty and youth holds a prominent position. By telling Henry that he has a great passion for sensations – that is. Dorian Gray is a fascinating personality that could draw you in itself. His name has also its etymology in reference to the mode of ancient Greek music. In every moment he is described. that of influencing Dorian completely. He also says that he likes beautiful things that can be touched or handled. but in Wilde’s time. traditionally named for Doros. Finally. which Lord Henry upholds as the high point of human civilization. he has the characteristics of Greek sculptures. district in central Greece. Dorian’s name might be derived from The Dorians. things that one can feel which is a pure Hellenic concept. the legendary ancestor of the Dorians. like Dorian's appearance. His personality has the same force of influence on Basil. In ancient Greece boys were seen as desirable mostly when they were young and beautiful.

in which people see things as they really are.Buca 3 is a more obvious one – Dorian occupies a morally gray area. He is also relating to Hellenism by saying “the Gods have been good to you”(Wilde 21). ‘strictness of conscience’. By telling Dorian not to give his life to the ignorant people. his name meaning "possessed" with a more general significance of "spiritually excited". “If there are such things as sins” (Wilde 18) – another proof that Lord Henry is not a Hebraism adept and that he agrees with the fact that the purpose of our existence is man’s evolution. he says he chooses his friends for how they look. “wide in wisdom”. and he calls them ‘all the maladies of medievalism’”(Murray 7) Henry is devoted to the senses. Henry agrees again with Hellenism by getting rid of ignorance. just as the Hellenists and the Hedonists. considered the supreme god of Germanic and Norse mythology. “Henry despises self-denial. “greybeard” – older than the one whom he influences. all the elements that Matthew Arnold called Hebraism. “shaker” – could be interpreted as the shaker of Dorian’s beliefs) is a devoted fan of Hellenism – he never says moral things. he follows exactly the rules of Hellenism. to reality. Henry Wotton (his name is of Germanic origin and it means house owner. As one can notice when reading the novel. the presence of Hellenism is absolutely striking and can be found on almost every page of the book Lord Henry also mentions that “one should sympathize with the colour. the beauty. ideas of sin. the joy . expression to every thought and reality to every dream. man’s perfection. conscience. for their character and for what they know and he chooses his enemies for their intelligence – that is. Henry also would like people to be returning to the Hellenic ideal by giving form to every feeling. guilt feelings. lord of the manor and is also related to Wotan/Odin. and his transformation from good to evil mostly takes place in limbo.

which means ivy-draped. seen and not seen. and we can't help but be repelled by it. Hebraism (all of these being mentioned directly or indirectly in the novel).Buca 4 of life”(Wilde 38) that is. just like age and sin. the Hellenic concept of seeing things in their essence and beauty as a grand and precious feat for man to achieve. She is also an adept of following God’s will. man’s life is destroyed. one can find Hellenic mentions like: “Bacchante” . wearing. wine-inspired female priestess of Bacchus. Lord Henry indirectly says that if one shows off in front of others with one’s moral notions.the lazy. one might fancy. Puritanism and hedonism are antonyms. known to the Greeks as Dionysus and also “Silenus” . Sibyl Vane's name meaning is. obvious. and mocked the slow Silenus for being sober”(Wilde 42-43). Wotton believes that man’s evolution and perfection would be blocked if one accepts a certain faith or a system and he also thinks that. of course. Hellenism vs. being a puritan. hence being proved once again that Henry is a complete Hellenist. the Roman god of wine. Another thing one can clearly see in the novel is that Henry Wotton is a misogynist and misogyny implicitly relates to the homoeroticism of the Greek. it means that one is a supporter of Hebraism. given the fact that he’s also a hedonist. if man doesn’t go through evolution. danced like a Bacchante over the hills of life. In the fragment “philosophy herself became young. and catching the mad music of pleasure.. realism and romanticism. debauched foster father of Dionysus. for example when she tells her brother that God will help him lead a good life. her wine-stained robe and wreath of ivy. She has (a blind) belief in God and she puts all her hopes in him. . Her vanity is apparent in all of her words and thoughts. therefore a Hebraism adept.

. Basil (a name used mostly in English and German. understanding reality. Basil tries to convince Dorian to pray to an entity for his sins to be forgiven and his soul cleaned of all evil. Basil. Basil means royal. he accuses Dorian of blasphemy. Its origin and use are also present in the Arabic language. Dorian represents Hellenism and Sybil represents Hebraism. Basil wants Dorian to tell him that what everyone talks about Dorian is not true and Basil will believe him if he says so. Dorian was “one for whom the visible world existed” this excerpt agreeing with the Hellenic concept of “seeing things as they really are. like Hellenism and Hebraism exactly. As Gautier says “my whole worth consists in my being a man for whom the visible world exists”. searching for the truth”. they never get to an agreement. The meaning here is valiant. this could be a part of the demonstration that there’s an impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism. kingly. Also. but when Dorian told him that he will show him his soul and that he would show him what he thinks that only God could see. proving us that he. of Old Greek origin. Another proof of the impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism is represented by the relation between Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton – two completely different people. follows the notions of Hebraism. Given the fact that they don’t end up together and that she commits suicide because she could no longer live in a world in which he existed. another reason to regard Basil as a Hebraic for believing in what it is said and not proved. with different concepts on life and even though they are friends. brave) – therefore believed that only God could see our souls.Buca 5 In a different approach. an excerpt in opposition with the Hebraic notions of believing blindly in what is said to you (like in Christian religion) without ever wanting a visible proof.

It may also be interpreted as the artist. the subject.Buca 6 Basil is trying to hide his true self “Charmides Self”. Lord Henry and Basil do have one thing in common – they both view Dorian as an artistic inspiration. When asked which character most reflected himself. Lord Henry and Dorian suggest the three sides of oneself: id. is not realized largely because they project onto the young man their own unbalanced and fragmentary images. Basil. In the end. paternalistic society”(Baker and Nadel 142). ego and superego.” (Wilde 202) “The central irony of The Picture of Dorian Gray is that the Hellenic ideal of "the harmony of soul and body" pursued by Basil and Henry alike. . Ironically. a hiding motivated by “narcissistic selflove . Dorian being the id. Dorian is influenced by Hebraic thoughts – “There was purification in punishment. be it physically or spiritually. Dorian’s both body and soul become separated.” (Summers. At the end of the novel. Not ‘Forgive us our sins’ but ‘Smite us for our iniquities’ should be the prayer of man to a most just God. as Hellenism and Hebraism do – their aims are the good of man. the novel kills off both artist and subject. then Basil Hallward is God's. Wilde replied: „Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be--in other ages. projected in terms of homosexual passion for Dorian – behavior (sic) not to be tolerated by his puritanical conscience or his Hebraic.“ If Lord Henry is the Devil's advocate. in the goodness of mankind and in morals. He believes in redemption. only the critic survives. perhaps. the critic. and localized in their separate visions of Dorian. even though they try reaching these aims through completely opposite methods. 5) This proves us the impossible synthesis between Hellenism and Hebraism. Henry the ego and Basil the superego.

and facing an increasingly hostile press and public. increasingly uneasy about the way in which his heroes invariably were extricated from their sinful pasts. 146) . willing to allow romance to be killed by reality – a principle he habitually associated with the Hebraic spirit which plagued Victorian England and which begat the naturalistic novel?” (Baker and Nadel.Buca 7 “Was the author of Dorian Gray.

fr/Bookworms/doriangray.pdf . Claude J.html .html . Bisexual.com/definition/Odin#Etymology .free.org/authors/arnold/writings/4. Oscar .html .com : An Encyclopedia of Gay.Buca 8 Works cited http://doigtsbleus. . Oscar . www. by Isobel Murray.com/topic/The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray#Characters http://www.etymology of names Wilde.etymonline.etymology of names http://www.com/index. 2004 Dowling. and Queer Culture. Lesbian. William and Nadel.wordiq. Transgender.Arnold. 1994 http://www.Wilde.php?term=Dorian . Oxford World’s Classics.victorianweb.com/picture-dorian-gray/characterization.Hellenism and Hebraism Baker. Matthew .The Picture of Dorian Gray – An Introduction.Redefining the modern – Essays on literature and society in honor of Joseph Wiesenfarth. 1998 Summers.shmoop. 2002 . Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford.parentsconnect.com/meaning_of_Dorian.glbtq.enotes. – Oscar Wilde. Linda.The Picture of Dorian Gray http://www.etymology of names http://www. Ira B.etymology of names http://babynamesworld. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

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