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The narrator prefaces the anecdote regarding Liza as one of the few instances in which he ventured to leave the underground which emphasizes the magnitude of his encounter with her. Moreover, his encounter with her is so dramatic and draining, that they abruptly end his notes from the underground. The following quotation proves this fact. Of his encounter with Liza the narrator recalls "Even now, so many years later, all this is somehow a very evil memory. I have many evil memories now, but ... hadn't I better end my "Notes" here? I believe I made a mistake in writing them (Dostoevsky). The power of merely recalling the narrator's noxious treatment of Liza implies how corrupt a person he is. His corruption is largely attributed to that of society in general, of which he is just a representative. The narrator functions as a microcosm of the larger macrocosm of society, which is the principle them of this work. Thus, the reader can see how great of an effect Liza has in revealing this facet of the narrator's character, and of the iniquities of society in general.
Gray's encounter with Vane is no less impactful; after she kills herself because he has rescinded his love for her, he begins in earnest his life of debauchery. Moreover, it is this first death at his hands (so to speak) that initially maligns his once beautiful portrait -- showing the power of its enchantment. The principle motif of Wilde's work is about the inherent circumscriptions of art, but this concept is definitely developed within the larger social implications of such an idea. A number of the characters in this work, particularly Lord Henry, spend a great deal of time pontificating about the decline of what was at the time of the writing contemporary society in England (in which the work is set), Europe, and even in the United States. Yet Gray himself ultimately defines the sort of superficiality and vulgarity which is at the heart of this novel. He is all looks and style, and has very little substance. He is easily manipulated by Lord Henry into becoming corrupt. As such, the culmination of his evil doingss that began with the suicidal death of Sybil Vane end with his willing murder of Basil Hallward, which the following quotation shows. "He rushed at him, and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear…stabbing him again and again" (Wilde 166). This passage is indicative of the fact that Gray's encounter with Sybil functioned as a gateway into his doing more nefarious deeds. Had he not had that initial experience in which he demonstrated his vanity and selfish behavior with her, he would not have given himself over to compulsions and evil that resulted in his killing of his friend. Therefore, the reader sees that Gray is the most insidious character of the book, which merely attests to how bad society as a whole is since he is considered to be gentry.
In summary, each author uses a female character to show the depths of evil and vanity that the protagonists go to in their respective tales. These depths merely mimic that of society as a whole, which is the central theme of each work. As previously denoted, the encounters with the women symbolize the turning point for each of the protagonists. The death of Sibyl Vane functions as a watershed in which Gray's journey into self-destruction -- culminating in his inadvertent suicide at the novel's conclusion -- spawns. In Dostoevsky's work, the narrator's encounter with Liza assists him in reinforcing the theme of the novel, that society is inherently base, which is why the narrator has chosen to remain isolated in what is known as 'the underground'. Both Vane and Liza were unwilling sacrifices to show the depths of the ills of the protagonists, which reflect the depths of the ills of society in both books.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Mahwah: Watermill Press. 1983. Print.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodr. Notes for the Underground. www.etextvirginia.edu. 1864. Web. http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=DosNote.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all[continue]
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