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THE USE OF SYMBOLS IN OSCAR WILDES THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY What is a symbol In the broadest sense of the word a symbol can be anything that signifies something else Peepre 58 Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussures dyadic theory of signs can well be applied when talking of literary symbols after all symbols are signs and vice versa Central concepts in Saussures theory are signifier and signified which together constitute the sign itself In The Picture of Dorian Gray Wilde is playing with these two concepts - signifier and signified - which acquire quite unexpected roles While it is not the only symbolic element in the novel the portrait of Dorian Gray is by far the most obvious and central symbol the theme around which the story revolves It is perhaps the symbol most suitable for closer analysis although this means having to give other potentially interesting symbols somewhat less attention Especially interesting of these would be a closer look at Basil Hallward Lord Henry and Dorian Gray as three different symbolic representations of Wildes personality - what he though he was what the world thought he was and what he would have wanted to be respectively as Terence Dawson suggests in his essay on the subject Dorian Gray as Symbolic Representation of Wildes Personality In a mad moment of vanity and narcissism Dorian Gray offers his soul in return for everlasting youth This is the moment the portrait abandons its static form to take a life of its own But is it still a reflection of Dorian Gray or is Dorian Gray in fact himself a reflection of the portrait Has the portrait ceased to be Dorians diary and turned things to the opposite From the moment Dorian sells his soul the portrait is no longer a reflection but in Wildes own words something fatal It has a life of its own The fact that the portrait knew of
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