Representation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray follows the protagonist, Dorian Gray, as he lives his life youthfully. Throughout the novel, Dorian leads an obsessive and reckless life in an effort to maintain his youth and beauty. As a result, a painting done by Basil Hallward takes on Dorian Gray’s aging. Dorian becomes obsessed with his eternal youth and displays a narcissistic personality. This aspect of Dorian’s personality is prominent throughout the novel. It can be argued that Dorian’s personality is similar to that of Oscar Wilde. Throughout the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, there is the main belief that Dorian Gray is a narcissist. Subconsciously, it can be debated that Oscar Wilde reveals his very own Narcissistic Personality Disorder as he wrote Dorian Gray’s character. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, also known as Narcissism, is characterized by patterns of strong grandiosity. “Grandiosity produces a sense of unlimited power and intelligence and the feeling that only successful, high-status persons are worthwhile as friends and associates” (Prerost 1265).
This reveals a strong tendency to overestimate one’s abilities and accomplishments, producing an “exaggerated sense of self-importance” while constantly bragging and speaking of themselves (Prerost 1265). According to the American Psychiatric Association, this destructive disorder has been known to begin “by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts,” (669).
Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder does not have a definitive source to causation, it is believe to be caused by genetics, the environment, or neurobiology. Genetics entails inherited characteristics while neurobiology has to deal with the connection between the brain, behavior, and thinking. The environment involves either excessive or lacking adoration between child and parent (Mayo Clinic staff). People with this disorder tend to expect others to allot them their undivided attention and admiration. Narcissists believe they are entitled to power, beauty, unlimited success, and more regardless of their actions (Prerost 1264).
Although one who may exhibiting symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is very confident, they are secretly withholding a fragile self-esteem. According to the Mayo Clinic, Narcissists “have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism” (Mayo Clinic Staff). This low self-esteem can result in shame, insecurity, humiliation at even the slightest criticism, or if they feel that they have not reached perfection. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can easily feel slighted and have difficulty controlling their behaviors and emotions. Those affected may show signs of impatience and/or anger when they do not receive special treatment. In the event of someone else making themselves out to be superior, Narcissists tend to respond with rage or contempt, wanting to belittle that person (Mayo Clinic Staff). According to the American Psychiatric Association, all diagnosed with this disorder, “fifty to seventy-five percent are male” (671).
These guiding characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can, in fact, be seen in the life of Oscar Wilde. On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland to Anglo-Irish Protestants. Wilde’s flamboyance “of his name was a portent of things to come” (Theunissen). His father, William, was a surgeon while his mother, Jane, involved herself with poetry and Irish Nationalism (Roden 80). William had been involved in numerous love affairs during the course of his marriage. This resulted in numerous scandals as he fathered several illegitimate children. In 1871, Oscar Wilde left is home life after having won a scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin (Theunissen).
After his time at Trinity College, Oscar Wilde won another scholarship to attend Oxford University. During Wilde’s time at Oxford, Oscar began to explore his own ideas on poetry and aestheticism. Wilde would expand “his own theories on art and life” (Roden 81). During Wilde’s time at Oxford University, he was known to have expensive tastes. Oscar would fill his room with Lilies and use his father’s money to upgrade his room to his liking. Wilde had done this so much so because he believed, “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china” (Theunissen). Wilde’s extravagant lifestyle was further impacted in April of 1876 when his father died. Despite this, Oscar was able to gift himself with impressive vacations around Europe. In order to comfort his worried mother about the family’s finances and his expensive spending, Oscar assured her that “we have genius – that is something attorneys can’t take away” (Theunissen).
Still, in financial debt, Wilde traveled to America for a series of lecture tours in order to create an income (Theunissen). After returning home, he took advantage of the attention he received by becoming an essayist and editor (Roden 81). Despite these successes, Oscar still faced financial crisis. Wilde found that marriage could possibly solve his worries. After a year-long courtship to Constance Lloyd, the daughter of a prosperous lawyer, they married in May of 1884. After acquiring his wife’s money, the couple bought a four-story home in London. This resulted in immediate debt after remodeling the home. After fathering two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan, Wilde left on a British Lecture Tour (Theunissen). Although he was married with sons, he was rumored to have been a homosexual. During his absence from home, Wilde “began exploring relationships with men, as London offered a homosexual world in which Wilde could further push the limits of sensual experience” (Roden 81). Out of Wilde’s numerous relations, his liaison with Lord Alfred Douglas, or “Boise”, is one that is perhaps most notably known. Their relationship was not approved of in the slightest by Bosie’s father, The Marquis of Queensbury. Bosie’s father was “determined to bring down Wilde” after finding that his son had turned away from his studies at Oxford (Theunissen). After verbal threats and accusations such as a “posing sodomite”, Wilde confidently went to the police station in Marlborough to obtain a warrant for the arrest of Bosie’s father on account of libel (Theunissen). This led to a public trial in which Wilde was charged with “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison (Roden 81).
A few years following his release from prison, Wilde had died of “acute, inoperable cerebral meningitis” (Theunissen). While familiarizing oneself with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the life of Oscar Wilde, one can seen that Wilde had suffered from the disorder. No matter any disorder, there must be an event or factor of one’s life that set the disorder into motion. For Wilde being a male, he was more likely to have the disorder since fifty to seventy-five percent of those diagnosed are males (American Psychiatric Association 671). His childhood could most likely have been the causation of the disorder. Because his father was never home and there was, Wilde most likely experienced a “disturbed parent-child attachment” (Prerost 1264).
This failure of attachment could have been the leading cause because the relationship lacked a healthy and proper foundation. As Wilde grew older, his symptoms were first seen in how he lived his life and became clear indicators of the disorder. Due to his feelings of entitlement, he obtained and lived a grandiose lifestyle. By constantly revising his room in college and upgrading his home, he believed he deserved the best. He constantly felt the need to live up to the expensive items, such as his “blue china”, he held in possession (Theunissen). Even when his father passed away, Wilde still managed to find a way to treat himself and uphold his lavish lifestyle. After Wilde was married to Constance, it didn’t take long for him to fall into further debt due to his remodeling of their new home. A very profound aspect of his personality that reveals his Narcissism would be his confidence of character. When praising and posing himself as a genius, Wilde was portraying a common symptom of the disorder. His behavior of “self-references and bragging” is what brought him to become the center of attention along with his work (Prerost 1264).
Wilde informed a New York customs officer upon arrival during one of his tours, “I have nothing to declare but my genius” (Theunissen). Wilde’s praising of his own genius is one of the very main defining characteristics of the disorder. Also, when Wilde was accused of sodomy by Bosie’s father, he was very quick to charge The Marquis of Queensbury with support from Boise himself (Theunissen). Wilde was so confident in himself that believed he would win the case. Even when faced with the severity of the case, Wilde “chose to wield his celebrated wit as his main defensive tool… He was often funny, but the implicit superiority in his position was also damaging” (Theunissen). Wilde clearly overestimated his ability to walk away from the case clear of any charges made against him even though he was facing serious sentencing. These instances in the life of Oscar Wilde clearly meet the criteria for one who is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Oscar Wilde’s character, Dorian Gray, had the same defining disorder as Wilde himself. The character is indicative of Wilde’s own personality. Just as Dorian Gray was obsessed with his intelligence and looks, so was Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde lived an extravagant and grandiose life similar to that as his own character. Wilde most likely wrote Narcissistic Personality Disorder into Dorian Gray’s character through his subconscious, meaning that he unknowingly wrote it in. This disorder left Wilde “as the victim rather than the offender” (Roden 81).
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