Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Passive tense is often used in newspaper reports, in formal writing and technical writing.
The passive is formed by using tenses of be + past participle, or modal verb + b + past participle. Look at these examples:
1.      The koala will be saved from extinction. (Future Simple Passive)
2.      The water over there is called Moreton Bay. (Present Simple Passive)
3.      The sailboat was used by the people on the island. (Past Simple Passive)
4.      The silly tune can be whistled any time you feel sad. (Modal Passive)
5.      The tin whistle has been found in parts of South America. (Present Perfect Simple Passive)

The opposite of Passive is Active Tense

1.     Read the following article about the history of the mobile phone. Decide if the verbs need to be active or passive, then put them in the right form so they make sense in the sentence.
The first public telephone call on a portable radio-telephone (make) …………………………… on April 3rd, 1973 by Martin Cooper, one of a team of engineers in Motorola’s Communications Systems Division. Previously, people could only phone someone from a building or a car. Martin Cooper says, “As I (walk)…………………………….down the street talking on the phone, New Yorkers (look)………………………… amazed at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call.”
The phone that Cooper (use)……………………. looked like a large brick. In 1983 the 28-ounce ‘DynaTAC’ phone, the world’s first commercial handheld cellular phone (introduce)………………………………… by Motorola. Each phone (cost) …………………………… the consumer $3,500. Today there (be) ………………………………. more mobile subscribers than landline phone subscribers in the world, and mobiles (weigh)…………………………….. very little and (can buy) …………………………………. for as little as $35.
Mobile phones today (use) …………………………….. to send photos and receive e-mails, use the Internet, text message, as well as for making phone calls. In the future, who knows what else mobile phones (use) …………………………………………… for? Certainly, most people (not seem) ……………………………………….. able to leave home without one.

2.     Complete these sentences using the verb in brackets in the right form of the passive tense:

EXAMPLE: My phone (make) ……was made …in the USA.
1.      It (think)……………………………that more text messages (send) …………………………………….by girls than boys.
2.      Bill Gates (say) ………………………………….to be the richest man in the world today.
3.      One mobile phone (steal) ……………………………………………….every three minutes in the UK.
4.      Mobile phones (should/switch off) ……………………………………………….in the cinema.
5.      Yesterday, Helen (tell) ……………………..to switch her phone off during lectures.
6.      When mobile phones (first design) ………………………………………………, security was a big issue.
7.      Text messaging (often use) …………………………………………because it is cheaper than phoning.
8.      I (just call) …………………………………………by an old friend I haven’t seen for ages.
9.      Mobiles (carry) ……………………………………………..by virtually everyone in the near future.
10.   The photos (take) ……………………………………………….at the party last night using Alex’s mobile.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Correct the mistake in each sentence below, without adding any more words: 

  1. The amount of informations available nowadays is too much for any one person to learn.
  2. The population of different areas of the world are increasing dramatically.
  3. The goverment could increase the amount of cheap social housing constructed.
  4. Education is improving gradually, but situation is not happening fast enough.
  5. Television has had as much consequence on the way we live as the internet has. 
  6. People always spend too much times accessing the internet in their leisure time.
  7. More money needs to be invested in infrastructure, but it depends of the funds available.
  8. The government needs to increase funding to solve the traffic modern problems in major cities.
  9. Office accommodations sometimes makes the centre of cities and towns soulless.
  10. Music has a grand impact on people's lives, as it affects their mood.

  1. information (an uncountable noun, never add an 's'.)
  2. is ('population' is the subject, an uncountable  noun, so it is classed as singular, so needs a singular verb.)
  3. government (spelling)
  4. progress (wrong word)
  5. impact (wrong word)
  6. time (need the singular noun as 'people' is the subject which is classed as singular)
  7. on (wrong preposition)
  8. modern traffic problems (wrong order of phrase - 'modern' is the adjective, so goes before 'traffic' which describe the problems.)
  9. accommodation (an uncountable noun, no 's' EVER!)
  10. huge (wrong adjective.)

Friday, November 8, 2013


Vocabulary Study Sheet
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
(cover the right side of the sheet to quiz yourself)
alleviate the pain
to lessen something that is bad -- especially to lessen pain
She seemed an ideal candidate--attractive, amiable, intelligent and energetic.
friendly and kindly
It was an audacious act of piracy.
bold and daring (inclined to take risks) -- especially in violating social convention in a manner that could offend others
She praises and castigates without hesitation.
to criticize severely
contempt -- as in: feels contempt towards him
Familiarity breeds contempt.
lack of respect -- often accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike or disgust
a challenge that would daunt a lesser diplomat
to discourage or intimidate
Critics derided her as unprofessional.
laugh at or make fun of--while showing a lack of respect
Tax uncertainty deters investment.
try to prevent; or prevent
She tries to be polite, but cannot hide her disdain for authority.
a lack of respect -- often suggesting distaste and an undeserved sense of superiority


to reject as not good enough
The college wants a diverse student body.
varied (different) -- especially with regard to ideas or members of a population group
She was dubious about agreeing to come with us.
doubtful; or suspicious; or full of uncertainty
The home was built and then abandoned by an eccentricbillionaire.
unconventional or strange; or a person with such traits
It wasn`t just that she copied her older sister`s hairstyle. She tried to emulate her in every way.
imitate (copy)
futile effort doomed form the start
effort that is pointless because it is unproductive or unsuccessful
Hitler -- as in: Adolf Hitler
Hitler killed disabled children as his first action of "racial hygiene." He pretended to end the program when the public protested.
German Nazi dictator during World War II; murdered millions of Jews and others who were not of the Aryan race (1889-1945)
immutable laws of physics
not subject or susceptible to change
a child`s incessant questions
continuous -- often in an annoying way
indulgent parents risk spoiling their children
treat with extra kindness or tolerance


enjoy excessively
It is as inevitable as death and taxes.
certain to happen (even if one tried to prevent it)
She has an innate musical talent that cannot be taught.
of a quality: present at birth; or arising from within rather than having been learned or acquired
She made some innocuous comments while being careful not to hurt anyone`s feelings.
unlikely to harm or disturb
irony -- as in: situational irony
the irony of acting like the father he detested
when what happens is very different than what might be expected -- especially when amusing or an entertaining coincidence
irony -- as in: verbal irony
She was being ironic when she said she couldn`t wait to see you again.
saying or writing one thing, while meaning the opposite or something else -- usually as humor or sarcasm
Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
the oldest of the three major monotheistic religions -- having its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Torah and in the Talmud
She drank alone in the corner, looking morose.
unhappy -- often with a withdrawn personality
There are still racists who call themselves Nazis today.
a member of the National Socialist German Workers` Party -- typically in reference to the fanatical party during Adolph Hitler`s reign who thought they were superior to all others

or more rarely:

derogatory term for a person who is fanatical in their belief of superiority and their determination to control others
She was promoted to manager because she is so prudent.
sensible and careful
She scrutinized her reflection in the mirror.
careful examination of something
She suffered quietly, courageously, with a stoic acceptance of her illness.
seeming unaffected by pleasure, pain, or emotions
She began her first day at the new school with sometrepidation.
fear or anxiety about what will happen

Thursday, October 24, 2013


The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde's only novel (he's mostly famous for his plays, poetry, and short stories), but what a novel it is! In the century or so since its initial publication in 1890, the fate of poor Dorian Gray has taken hold of the popular imagination. Dorian's story plays upon the timeless theme of selling one's soul in exchange for earthly pleasures (see other classics like Goethe's Faust or the musical Damn Yankees), and the inevitable disaster that results. Wilde's version of this narrative is particularly notable for its embrace of the hedonistic lifestyle of the Decadents, a late nineteenth century artistic movement that prized beauty and aesthetic experience over everything else. Dorian Gray and its protagonist have become synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure, regardless of its moral consequences.

The novel raised quite a blizzard of scandal in its day, and had critics denouncing Wilde for what they perceived to be his own innate immorality – and as a result, he responded with the famous "Preface" to the novel (published in its second edition) that explained his artistic beliefs. (Check out more discussion of the Preface in "What's Up with the Epigraph?") Altogether, The Picture of Dorian Gray reveals Wilde's philosophy more than any of his other works; reading it is an essential key to understanding his artistic mission as a whole.
 Why Should We Care Today?
Botox, liposuction, lip plumping injections, silicone, hair plugs… If you think about it, we go to extraordinarily bizarre measures just to hang on to fading youth and beauty. Our society is so obsessed with youth that there's a multi-multi-million dollar industry simply devoted to making us look younger (or weirder, as the case may be). And why? Because we live in a culture where youth is idolized and age is the enemy of the people – the goal these days seems to be not just to stop aging, but to get younger.

We're not the first culture to embrace this cult of youth, though. As we see in The Picture of Dorian Gray, our predecessors in the nineteenth century also longed for undying youth and beauty. In fact, the quest for the Fountain of Youth is one of the oldest stories there is; apparently, humanity in general has had a hard time getting over the fact that we all grow old and die. For this reason,Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel never ceases to be relevant – until we finally discover the secret of real eternal youth, we'll always be interested in Dorian's quest for it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Midsummer Night’s Dream Study Guide


1.       What can you conclude about Egeus’ attitude towards his daughter Hermia’s ‘place’? Find examples from the play to support you answer.
2.       What has Hermia done for which she asks Thesus’ pardon? (Line 60)
3.       List the points made by Lysander (Lines 101 – 112) in defending his right to marry Hermia.
4.       What is the point of Helena’s first speech? Write one sentence. (Lines 184 – 197)
5.       Explain the ways Love is childlike and blind. Use Helena’s speech (Lines 232+) as your reference.


6.        Find references to support each point about the Mechanicals:
a.       Bottom misuses words (malapropisms)
b.      Bottom likes to be in charge
c.       Snug is well-suited to be the lion.
d.      Snug is concerned for the ladies’ sensibilities.
7.       Why must Thisbe be played by a man?
8.       What device does Shakespeare use to arrange for the Mechanicals and the lovers to be in the woods together?



9.       What are Oberon and Titania fighting about?
10.   What image does Puck use to show the Fairy how bad the feelings are between Oberon and Titania (Lines 29 – 32)
11.   List the ways Puck interacts with humans. (Lines 33 – 43)
12.   What is the tone of Demetrius’ first speech? Locate the pun.
13.   Who overhears the fight between Helena and Demetrius? What does he resolve to do about it? (227 – 249+)


14.   Compare Lysander’s first lines with those of Demitrius in Scene 1.
15.   What does Helena’s pun (Line 94) of the word fond mean?
16.   What feeling does Helena’s speech (Line 105 ish) convey to the audience?
17.   The lines of the lovers, whether in love, angry, hurt, or confused, all rhyme in couplets. Why did Shakespeare use this form to weave his plot of confusion? Why not use unrhymed verse?
18.   Why is it ironic that Lysander claims it is his reason that makes him love Helena?
19.   Read Lysander’s speech (142 – 151). In addition to love, what emotion has the magic generated? Look up the words – surfeit and heresy. How is Lysander applying these words to his ‘old love’ for Hermia?
20.   To what does the word ‘your’ refer to in line 150?
21.   What is the irony in Hermia’s last line in this scene? What ‘plot fact’ does it recall?
22.   How does the story of Hermia and Lysander parallel the story of Oberon and Titania?


Helena several times speaks of wanting to be like Hermia. Write a paragraph in which you tell about someone (real) who you would like to be more like. Describe this person, and tell why you admire him/her and how you might go about changing to be more like them. If you are very pleased about yourself as you are, write about what you like most about yourself. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013



A Midsummer Night's Dream is a classic example of Shakespearean comedy. Here is a checklist that details all the typical conventions and features of the genre:
Light, humorous tone: The play features fairy magic (like Oberon's love potion which goes wrong), silly pranks (like the transformation of a guy's head into that of a ass, cutsey enough for a fairy Queen to fall in love with -- with the help of a love potion), and the botched performance of a play-within-the-play by a bunch of craftsmen (The Mechanicals). 
Clever dialogue and witty banter: Shakespeare is a huge fan of puns and snappy wordplay, so naturally, his characters know how to get their witty repartee on. Shakespeare reserves some of the best dialogue for his warring lovers, especially Oberon and Titania -- ("How not nice to see you, Titania") and even the "rude mechanicals" manage to wow us with their clever banter at times.
Deception and disguise: Hard to find a Shakespearean play without disguise. Hermia and Lysander try to sneak away from Athens to elope (behind Hermia's father Egeus's back). Also, Titania and the young lovers have no idea they've been drugged by Oberon and his magic love juice. 
Mistaken identity: Sort of. In most of Shakespeare's other comedies, someone usually runs around in a disguise to mask his or her identity. (Sometimes, a lover is even tricked into sleeping with the wrong person by mistake.) This isn't necessarily the case in A Midsummer Night's Dream, unless we count the fact that the love juice causes Titania to fall head over heels in love with an "ass." In other words, Titania mistakes Nick Bottom for a creature who is worthy of her love and affection, much to the disgust of Oberon. The same can be said of the other lovers who are dosed with Oberon's magic love potion.
Multiple plots with twists and turns: There are several lines of action in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Shakespeare invites us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. The first plot involves Theseus and Hippolyta's upcoming wedding. The second plot line involves the young Athenian lovers who run around the wood in confusion. The third plot follows Oberon's tiff with his wife, Titania. As a fourth plot line, Shakespeare works in a bunch of craftsmen (the Mechanicals), who plan to perform a play at Theseus's big fancy wedding in Athens.
Love overcomes obstacles: From the play's very beginning, Shakespeare beats us over the head with this idea. Seriously. The only reason Theseus is even engaged to Hippolyta is because he conquered her people (the Amazons) and basically won her in battle. Just a few moments after we hear about Theseus and Hippolyta, we learn that Hermia and Lysander must also overcome a major obstacle if they want to be together because Hermia's dad wants her to marry someone else, Demitrius. Never mind the fact that we've got a bunch of mischievous fairies running around the wood sloshing magic love juice into the eyes of hapless humans, causing them to fall in and out of love with the first creature that comes into view. In the end, though, love wins out and Theseus and each of the four young lovers hooks up with a steady partner. Keep reading...
Marriage: This is important so pay attention. No matter what else happens, Shakespeare's comedies ALWAYS end with one or more marriages (or the promise of marriage). This is Shakespeare's way of restoring social order to the world of his plays (after turning order on its head for a few hours, disturbing that Great Chain of Being if you will). At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus finally gets to marry Hippolyta and spend the night with her (which he's been talking about since the play's opening lines). As for the four humans who have been chasing each other around the forest and falling in and out of love, they finally settle down and hook up with a steady partner: Hermia weds Lysander and Demetrius gets hitched to Helena.
Family drama: If you read the very first scene, you know that Hermia and her dad Egeus go toe-to-toe about who she should and shouldn't marry. Egeus is so worked up about his daughter's disobedience that he wants Duke Theseus to uphold the Athenian law that says daughters have to do what their fathers' say or else they get sentenced to death. Geesh. Hermia doesn't seem at all fazed by this, so she must have Dad wrapped around her little finger. It's a good thing A Midsummer Night's Dream isn't a tragedy, otherwise, this ugly little domestic dispute would end badly. How badly? Think Romeo and Juliet.
(Re)unification of families: Like we said earlier, Egeus would rather see his daughter dead than witness Hermia marry Lysander. Still, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy so Egeus eventually backs down and gives in to the idea that Hermia is going to marry for love. We should point out that Egeus only changes his mind after Duke Theseus orders him to back off (4.1), but still, Egeus sticks around for his daughter's wedding so we're counting that as a family reunion.

Thursday, September 12, 2013






(START WITH A DEFINITION OF THE CANON) e.g. The Western Canon of English literature is a compilation of literary excellence representative of the attitudes, *values and beliefs of an era. The canon contains literary works that answer human beings’ deepest fears and concerns. To be included in the canon, a novel’s literary value and themes must endure over time, thus still be of influence to contemporary readers. (NAME OF YOUR AUTHOR/TEXT TITLE) is valued as one the greatest novels in western culture, due to its enduring (THEMES/QUALITIES/VALUES) since its publication in (YEAR). (DESCRIBE YOUR NOVEL…BRIEF SUMMARY/RELATIONSHIP TO AUTHOR – WHY AUTHOR WROTE IT). Through this literary work, AUTHOR strived/attempted to (WHAT WAS HE TRYING TO DO?) RELATE WHAT AUTHOR ATTEMPTED TO CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY – YOUR THESIS/3 ARGUMENTS YOU WILL PROVE…
*values – are the qualities that make a text worthwhile to read.


·         WHAT VALUE/S DOES YOUR TEXT HAVE? – Make some notes…
o   Entertainment value?
o   Political value?
o   Artistic value?
o   Cultural value?
o   Historical value?
o   Philosophical value?
o   Moral value?
o   Ethical value?



"In a mirror that mirrors the soul":


In recent decades scholars have generally agreed that The Picture of Dorian Gray retains its position in the literary canon because of the "pre-modern" critical and aesthetic theories upon which the novel is based.1 The failure of Dorian, it has been noted, to achieve the aesthetic ideals of Wilde's generation clearly sounds the death knell of the Aesthetic Movement even as it heralds the ennui of the fin de siècle

As a carefully constructed novel, Dorian Gray has attracted only moderate interest, perhaps because the rather mechanical plot bears such an intriguing relationship to Wilde's own life. In fact, Wilde's damnation of his young aesthete is now usually adduced as evidence of an intense self-consciousness of Wilde's own fall, a quality that Arthur Symons, in his bellwether essay "The Decadent Movement in Literature," identifies as the most striking characteristic of the Yellow Nineties. 

No one can deny that the novel dramatizes the central aesthetic problem of its time, a problem that Wilde also struggles with in his essays. The tragedy of the artist depicted in Dorian Gray, however, is more artfully contrived than many critics seem willing to grant. Plot is not the only formal resource of the novel that Wilde uses to fashion his work. By placing what seems to be the most significant structural device--the notion of mirror images that reflect the masks of the characters--in the foreground, we can begin to appreciate that the novel's aesthetic design is far more subtle than having the plot damn the beautiful but fated protagonist.

Wilde himself tried to direct criticism away from the novel's outrageous innuendos and towards its aesthetic design. Attacked on all quarters, Wilde parried with the moralistic reviewers of the Lippincott's Monthly Magazine version by countering that the plot itself produced, & rather plain moral--though this, he conceded, was "the only error in the book.” 

Most of the public furor over the perversity of Dorian Grayshould no doubt be judged in light of the prevailing Victorian standard of moral earnestness as a mark of "sincerity," as Karl Beckson urges. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Wilde's carefully cultivated role as public sinner spoke louder than any protestations he made on behalf of his novel. Thus, despite his own best efforts in his defense, even a sympathetic critic like Walter Pater responded to topical interests rather than to the novel’s serious concerns :
Clever always, this book, however, seems to set forth anything but a homely philosophy of life for the middle-class--a kind of dainty Epicurean theory father--yet fails, to some degree, in this; and one can see why. A true Epicureanism aims at a complete though harmonious development of man's entire organism. To lose the moral sense therefore, for instance, the sense of sin and righteousness, as Mr. Wilde's heroes are bent on doing so speedily, as completely as they can, is to lose, or lower, organization, to become less complex, to pass from a higher to a lower degree of development.
Not even Pater seemed to recognize that Wilde's intention is to show the failure of the aesthetic ideal, not its triumph. One of the few who responded to the subtleties of Dorian Gray was Arthur Conan Doyle, to whom Wilde wrote in reply: 

"The newspapers seem to me to be written by the prurient for the Philistine. I cannot understand how they can treat Dorian Gray as immoral. My difficulty was to keep the inherent moral subordinate to the artistic and dramatic effect, and it still seems to me that the moral is too obvious" (Letters, p. 292). 

The "too obvious" moral refers of course to the main narrative sequence and the fate of Dorian. As concerned as Wilde was with the "artistic and dramatic effect," we ought to consider how other elements contribute to the form of the novel.

One consequence of neglecting the aesthetic form of Dorian Gray has been to undervalue the emblematic episode involving Sibyl Vane that creates basic expectations about life destroying art, expectations which the novel ultimately satisfies. Before he meets Sibyl, Dorian, who will become perhaps the greatest egotist of nineteenth-century literature, has an unrealized potential for good or evil. 

Dorian has done some work with Lady Agatha's East End philanthropy (p.39); and yet his petulance causes Basil a good deal of pain long before Lord Henry whispers his poisonous theories about sensation and pleasure (pp. 11-12). Complications arising from their relationship, however, force him to decide to escape the suffering of life by becoming a spectator to her tragedy.

Not only do the events involving Sibyl precipitate the crisis that results eventually in Dorian's failure as an artist, they also bring into sharp focus and give point to the most consistent pattern of imagery in the novel, the mirrored image. 

The metaphor of the mirror is used carefully in Wilde's critical essays to express the superiority of art to life, a point modern critics should remember when tempted to read Dorian Gray simply as autobiography. Good art is not a crude mirrored reflection; for the critical observer, art should be a veiled reflection in which the critic's moods and mask can be discerned. As Wilde writes in "The Critic as Artist," by looking within, the artist creates "a mirror that mirrors the soul," by which he means a subtle vehicle through which the critic can discover the chronicle of his own myriad impressions. In the novel the mirror imagery highlights the confusion between the imagined and the real, between mask and mirror, and as such it is a key to understanding why artists fail to achieve their ideals.

Dorian is attracted to Sibyl because of her extraordinary powers as an artist. In fact, she seems to be the perfect representative of the artist-hero Wilde celebrates in the essays he wrote in the early nineties. Like the artist described in "The Decay of Lying," Sibyl multiplies her personality through the medium of the stage. "'She is all the great heroines of the world in one,'" Dorian explains, and she is never Sibyl Vane. Her character is strongly reminiscent of Pater's often-quoted assessment of the vicarious experiences reflected in that quintessence of aestheticism La Gioconda: "All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there."

Sibyl, moreover, has a personality as magnetic as Dorian's and as capable of moving her age. Much as Dorian's personality had suggested to Basil "'an entirely new manner in Art, an entirely new mode of style . . . a school that is to have in it all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the perfection of the spirit that is Greek'" (p. 10), Sibyl also has the power to deeply affect her audience:
"When she acts you will forget everything. These common, rough people, with their coarse faces and brutal gestures, become quite different when she is on the stage. They sit silently and watch her. They weep and laugh as she wills them to do. She makes them as responsive as a violin. She spiritualizes them, and one feels that they are of the same flesh and blood as one’s self." (p. 81) 
The appearance of such personalities as Sibyl and Dorian is regarded as essential to inaugurate new eras in art. Basil explains this belief to Lord Henry in chapter 1 (pp. 1-10). The elaborate tale that Wilde concocts about Willie Hughes in "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." is also intended to demonstrate "that Shakespeare had been stirred by a spirit that so stirred his age" (Artist, p. 186). Thus Sibyl’s fate ought not to be overlooked.

Sibyl's importance as a character in the novel is further heightened by the fact that her life seems to imitate art, a jeu de mot Wilde takes delight in in his essay "The Decay of Lying." To explain his typically inverted epigram--"Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life"--Wilde argues that perception, which the artist helps to shape, is the key to knowledge:
Consider the matter from a scientific or a metaphysical point of view, and you will find that I am right. For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. (Artist, p. 312) 
If Wilde fashions Sibyl’s character with this epigram in mind, already we can detect a certain fatalism, for away from the stage her life reads like a bad Victorian play. When her mother tries to warn her of the dangers of an assignation with a gentleman, Sibyl drowns out these objections by feasting on impressions of her "Prince Charming." She contrives an absurdly melodramatic scenario for her brother’s adventures on the high seas, even imagining the waves as "humpbacked" (p. 65), just as they would appear on a canvas stage flat. She is very nearly as histrionic as her mother, who herself feasts on the dramatic intensity of the scene with her son as she relates her sordid past (pp. 71-72). The very tawdriness of Sibyl's life, though, can only be seen as Wilde's first indication that this artist--who clearly stands in symbolic relation to the age--can never achieve her ideals.

The relationship between life and art, which Sibyl’s life dramatizes, is an issue that occupied many in the nineteenth century. The reigning poet laureate gives imaginative treatment to it in a poem that became a favorite subject for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the precursors of the aesthetes of the eighties. "The Lady of Shalott" is generally read as a symbolic statement about life and art, and it has important parallels in Dorian Gray. Isolated from the world, the Lady only sees the world’s reflections in the mirror of her imagination; she weaves the reflections into art on her magic loom. When she turns to see Lancelot directly, however, her mirror cracks and her art is destroyed. Likewise, Sibyl lives in the isolated tower of the stage. Using her remarkable gifts as an artist, she "spiritualizes" her audience and transforms the stage at the shabby theater into the Forest of Arden or an orchard in Verona. When she kisses Dorian, though, she too loses her magical abilities.

Wilde invites an explicit comparison between Sibyl and the Lady of Shalott in the scenes at the theater following Sibyl's disastrous performance. As soon as she makes her appearance on stage, she steps back a few paces and her lips begin to tremble (p. 82). Formerly, she believed in the reality of this theatrical world--"'I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real'" (p. 85). But now she is repulsed by the hollowness of the empty pageant. Later, in her dressing room, Sibyl echoes the famous lines from Tennyson’s poem:
"You had brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a reflection. You had made me understand what love really is. My love! my love! Prince Charming! Prince of Life! I have grown sick of shadows. You are more to me than all art can ever be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play?" (p. 86, italics added) 
Just as with the Lady of Shalott, this glimpse of reality destroys Sibyl's ability to maintain the illusion--however superior that illusion may sometimes be—that constitutes art: "'I might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that burns me like fire'" (p. 86).

As an artist who turns from the mirror to touch reality, Sibyl has run counter to Wilde’s dictum about the superiority of art to nature. In "The Decay of Lying" Wilde uses this same metaphor in formulating his critical position: "Life imitates Art . . . Life in fact is the mirror, and Art the reality" (Artist, p. 307). 

The metaphor of the mirror is used quite consistently in Wilde’s critical essays, as we shall see, to describe the relationship between art, life, and the critic’s perceptions. The prominence of the mirrored reflection in Dorian Gray serves to link the novel very closely with Wilde's critical work. The allusion to "The Lady of Shalott" here is so obvious--and so melodramatic, especially with Dorian her "Prince Charming" as Lancelot—that mirrors and their reflections are brought into the foreground of the novel. What is more, Sibyl's failure to maintain the superiority of art to nature foreshadows the failure of the other characters to achieve their ideals. 

The episode with Sibyl--especially during the twenty-four hours following her performance--is the turning point in the emergence of Dorian’s decadent egotism. In the early stage of their courtship, Dorian is as naive about life mirroring art as she is. He can only conceive of their love in terms of a stage romance. He begs Lord Henry to "'tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad'" (p. 54). Sibyl’s bad acting and subsequent death teach him a painful lesson about the illusion of momentary aesthetic experience. His instinctive reaction to the wooden Juliet he watches on stage is an aesthetic one: he expects great art but only gets "'a third-rate actress with a pretty face'" (p. 87), and so he is bored. Inside, though, his heart is breaking because he is losing something he feels he has been looking for all his life (p. 75). A single kiss has marred the idyllic experience they had both created so imaginatively. 

Dorian's grief is more telling than he realizes. In forsaking her he is committed to a life of discontinuous sensations. Opposed to Sibyl's spiritualizing power is Lord Henry, who wants Dorian to be the type of the new Hedonism by always searching for new sensations (p. 22). This dream of aesthetic intensity, Charles Altieri argues, "is the longing for absolutely self-sufficient present moments. If every moment is self-sufficient, self-contained, then each moment is separate from another. Such discontinuity leads, as readers of the novel know, to the fragmentation and eventual disintegration of Dorian's personality. Sibyl offers an alternative to the headlong rush for new sensations. Perhaps it is the cathartic power of her art--for the narrator of "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." explains that "by finding perfect expression for a passion, I had exhausted the passion itself" (Artist, p. 212). Dorian, at any rate, recognizes that he is being tugged in different directions, as he tells Lord Henry:
"When I am with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch of Sibyl Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories." (p. 77) 
Just as Sibyl seems about to redeem Dorian, Wilde allows Lord Henry to arrive first at Dorian’s townhouse to shape his perceptions of "'one of the great romantic tragedies of the age'" (p. 109).

Wilde arranges the plot of Dorian Gray to demonstrate one of his frequently overlooked theories from Intentions: "we are never less free than when we try to act" (Artist, p. 383). Though his notion of heredity is a gallimaufry of genetic determinism and Nietzschean will, which Philip K. Cohen labels "confusion bordering On chaos," it is helpful in explaining aspects of the novel. Gilbert, the aesthetes’ spokesman in "The Critic as Artist," argues that genetics is the basis of all action:
By revealing to us the absolute mechanism of all action, and so freeing us from the self-imposed and trammelling burden of moral responsibility, the scientific principle of Heredity has become, as it were, the warrant for the contemplative life. It has shown us that we are never less free than when we try to act. (Artist, pp. 382-83) 
Heredity, he further argues, "has robbed energy of its freedom and activity of its choice" in the sphere of everyday life, thereby negating the importance of action. At the same time, heredity enriches the life of contemplation by endowing the soul with the imagination, which "is simply concentrated race-experience" (Artist, pp. 383-84). This quasi-scientific reasoning seems to be the foundation of Wilde's belief in the superiority of contemplation to action. As Lord Henry propounds in the opening chapters, the great challenge of life is to know thyself: "'The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly--that is what each of us is here for'" (p. 17). Dorian himself discovers that "man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and passion, and whose very flesh was tainted with the monstrous maladies of the dead" (p. 143). One's heritage is thus crucial in Wilde's estimation. To discover these "strange legacies," one can only look within--"in a mirror that mirrors the soul" (Artist, p. 383). Such a remarkable mechanism is precisely what Basil has created for Dorian.

Dorian is fascinated by his genetic and his literary ancestors. We learn of his tragic heritage soon after he meets Lord Henry, who goes immediately to an uncle for a clue to Dorian's character. Not surprisingly he finds that Dorian is the offspring of a romantic match between a beautiful, willful heiress and a subaltern later killed in a duel. Having learned the importance of heredity, Dorian spends hours strolling through the gallery at Selby Royal to "look at the various portraits of those whose blood flowed in his veins" (p. 143). Each of his ancestors, he feels, has bequeathed some complex sensation he himself must enact. Dorian discovers his progenitors in literature, where the imaginative record of civilization is transmitted, as well. Especially with the Roman emperor Domitian, Dorian feels sympathy; and in fact Domitian’s fate exactly presages Dorian’s: "as Domitian, [he] had wandered through a corridor lined with marble mirrors, looking round with haggard eyes for the reflection of the dagger that was to end his days, and sick with that ennui, that terrible taedium vitae, that comes on those to whom life denies nothing" (p. 145). Dorian is not the only character whose past seems to determine his future. Sibyl has nearly the same stormy parentage as Dorian, and she seems doomed to repeat the tragedy of her mother and grandmother.

The absence of free will is especially apparent in Wilde’s manipulation of the plot. A character’s resolve is frequently stymied by uncontrollable circumstances. In the opening chapter, for example, even as Basil--who has thus far managed to shelter Dorian from Lord Henry’s influences--decides that he will not allow the two to meet, his butler enters to announce that "'Mr. Dorian Gray is in the studio'" (p. 14). More importantly, though, Wilde contrives Lord Henry’s arrival at Dorian’s townhouse, instead of Basil’s, after the performance when Dorian is trying to resist temptation and is vowing to return to Sibyl. The news of her suicide unnerves Dorian because he realizes his peril: "'My God! my God! Harry, what shall I do? You don't know the danger I am in, and there is nothing to keep me straight. She would have done that for me'" (p. 99). Knowing that the turning point is at hand for Dorian, Lord Henry allows Dorian’s "unconscious egotism" (p. 100) to go unchecked in order to shape his perception of the event. He finds it easy to convince Dorian that Sibyl had never been other than a succession of romantic heroines for him; consequently, he must think of her death "'simply as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy. . . . The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died'" (p. 103). He thus becomes the spectator of his own life to escape its suffering. Dorian finally realizes that not only has Lord Henry explained him to himself, but has in fact made his decision for him:
He felt that the time had really come for making his choice. Or had his choice already been made? Yes, life had decided that for him-- life, and his own infinite curiosity about life. Eternal youth, infinite passion, pleasures subtle and secret, wild joys and wilder sins-- he was to have all these things. The portrait was to bear the burden of his shame: that was all. (p. 105
Dorian’s course set, he turns to the portrait--"the most magical of mirrors" (p. 106)--in which he can view the mirror that mirrors his soul.

The "most magical of mirrors" seems obviously to be the key to the failure of the artist, particularly Basil’s. The first clue that Basil has betrayed Wilde’s version of the aesthetic ideal can be found on the opening page of the novel where we read that "the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art." Though the narrator only casually introduces the notion of the mirrored reflection here, the language used clearly foreshadows what Basil, Dorian, and Sibyl will discover about art and illusion, using precisely the same metaphor that Wilde employs in Intentions to signal the confusion of art and life. Unlike Sibyl Vane or the Lady of Shalott, both of whom had lived in the shadowy world reflected by the imagination, Basil directly mirrors the comely form of Dorian in the life-size portrait. Making his creation a mirror violates a principal credo of Wilde’s aesthetics. The best art is for Wilde not the gross realism mirrored in the fiction of Zola; art should be "a veil, rather than a mirror" (Artist, p. 306). Basil accordingly is troubled with this latest portrait of Dorian, and already he has resolved never to show it publicly.

When Dorian’s extraordinary personality first suggests to Basil a new manner in art and a new style, Basil's work embodies the artistic ideals of his generation. Dorian is to him "'"A dream of form in days of thought"'" (p. 10). His early pictures of Dorian as Paris, Adonis, or Antinoüs--veiled, that is, in ancient myth--"'had all been what art should be, unconscious, ideal, and remote'" (p. 114). But, as Basil later confesses, in the life-size portrait he relinquishes control over form by painting Dorian as he really is, and as he really sees him, "'without mist or veil'" (p. 114). Wilde makes the nature of Basil's failure clear in an essay when he states that "The moment Art surrenders its imaginative medium it surrenders everything" (Artist, p. 319). Like Sibyl Vane, Basil prefers life to art, believing that "'Love is a more wonderful thing than Art'" (p. 84). Ironically, while Basil can see mirrored in the portrait his own love for Dorian, his "'curious artistic idolatry'" (p. 11l), Dorian can only see his monstrous vanity (pp. 24-25). For as Wilde opines in the Preface, "It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors" (p. xxxiv).

The portrait is thus flawed from the beginning. Paradoxically, it represents Basil’s failure to multiply personalities through his art, while at the same time it mirrors the multiple personalities of Dorian. Perhaps we are meant to regard the ethical dimension Basil’s idolatry adds to the portrait as a contributing factor to Dorian's decline since it fosters his vanity. Whatever else we make of the magical portrait, we must acknowledge its appropriateness to the critical theories set forth in the novel. Dorian is attempting to realize the ideal of self-development advocated by the aesthetes of the eighties by giving expression to every cultural and hereditary legacy he can detect within himself. As part of the novel’s Gothic donnée, the portrait becomes the "mirror that mirrors the soul," in which he can observe the spectacle of his life without suffering. As an art work, it reflects the gross decay of his life. Dorian, who sought to elaborate a new scheme of life by "the spiritualizing of the senses" (p.130), sadly discovers some eighteen years later that
Ugliness was the one reality. The coarse brawl, the loathsome den, the crude violence of disordered life, the very vileness of thief and outcast, were more vivid, in their intense actuality of impression, than all the gracious shapes of Art, the dreamy shadows of Song. (p. 186) 
Thus end the high hopes of the Aesthetic Movement as the novel draws to a close.

Dorian fails to achieve these ideals because he neglects the development of his soul. Though he always recalls Lord Henry’s epigram--"'Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul'" (p. 20) --he in fact devotes himself entirely to the senses, hoping to mask the sickness of his soul in the oblivion of opium. He is guilty of what Wilde accuses Bosie Douglas of in De Profundis: "The fact is that you were and are I suppose still, a typical sentimentalist. For a sentimentalist is simply one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it" (Letters, p. 501). Dorian’s development, to use Pater’s analysis, is incomplete because he neglects the "moral sense." As Wilde himself recognizes, even an experience like Reading Gaol can be turned to advantage:
The important thing, the thing that lies before me, the thing that I have to do, or be for the brief remainder of my days one maimed, marred, and incomplete, is to absorb into my nature all that has been done to me, to make it part of me, to accept it without complaint, fear, or reluctance. The supreme vice is shallowness. Whatever is realised is right. (Letters, p. 469) 
The real failure of Dorian Gray, as Wilde acknowledges about his own life, is the failure of the will to assert itself in the formation of one's character. Though Lord Henry still urges Dorian to believe at the end of the novel that "'Life is not governed by will or intention'" (pp. 216-17), this claim is as ironic as his envy of the "'exquisite life'" Dorian has led. Evidently Wilde’s notion of heredity and genetic determinism from his essays has been qualified in the novel. Though Wilde, as the creator of his characters, orchestrates the failure of will --for example, when a repentant Dorian is visited by Lord Henry instead of Basil-- his acutely self-conscious characters are painfully aware of their failures: like so many others at the fin de siècle. Dorian knows that his path is leading to perdition, yet he is powerless to resist.

Where Dorian fails as an artist whose life is his great work, he succeeds in some measure as a critic. For Wilde criticism "is in its way more creative than creation, as it has least reference to any standard external to itself" (Artist, p. 365). The critic is ever the observer who reconstructs a work according to his own impressions: "[He] will prefer to look into the silver mirror or through the woven veil, and will turn his eyes away from the chaos and clamour of actual existence, though the mirror be tarnished and the veil be torn. His sole aim is to chronicle his own impressions" (Artist, pp. 365-66). In this Dorian surely succeeds, as does Lord Henry who studies every nuance of Dorian's emerging consciousness quite scientifically. Lord Henry appropriately gives Dorian a silver mirror, adorned with Cupids--perhaps to suggest the mirror of Venus, a symbol of sensual preoccupation in traditional iconography. Dorian uses this gift to compare the changes mirrored in the picture with his features reflected in the glass. Apparently he always keeps the two mirrors together; and in the mind's eye the reader can perceive a montage of reflections within reflections as Dorian studies the chronicle of his life. Dorian's fate, however, undermines his "success" as a critic. Eventually he is called to account for his transgressions. His mentor does survive but only to the extent that any of the sufferers at Lady Narborough’s dinner party--so much afflicted by the new French esprit--can be said to survive. Theirs is a weary generation, one longing for the relief that a new century might bring.

Thus Dorian observes, "in a mirror that mirrors the soul," the fragmentation of his personality, which finally becomes too great a "burden" for him to bear (p. 205). He has worn many masks--"he would often adopt certain modes of thought that he knew to be really alien to his nature, abandon himself to their subtle influences" (p. 132)--and many "curious disguises" (p. 160). He has seen his image "dulled and distorted in the fly-blown mirrors" of the opium den (p. 187). All these extraordinary sensations, though, are but ashes upon his tongue. When he at last tries to adopt a different ideal by sparing Hetty Merton, he discovers that he cannot change. Observing himself in Lord Henry's silver mirror, he flings it to the floor, sadly recognizing that even "His beauty had been to him but a mask" (p. 220). Approaching what he desperately wants to believe is "an unjust mirror, this mirror of his soul," he realizes that he spared Hetty while hypocritically wearing "the mask of goodness" (p. 222). Only by destroying the portrait can he strip away the masks and discover that the monstrosity hanging in the shadows of the old schoolroom is actually what he is. The restoration of the portrait to its original splendor--mimetic though it may be--seems to represent the only triumph of art over life in the novel. But this bit of Wildean legerdemain to achieve an artistic triumph should fool no one. In his typically self-reflexive way, Wilde has already had Lord Henry tell us that "'the only things that one can use in fiction are the things that one has ceased to use in fact'" (p. 78).

 The metaphor of the mirror establishes, therefore, a key to the structure of the novel. As Masao Miyoshi writes, "for the writers of the nineties--as for the Romantics--introspection, mirror-gazing, is a sanctioned activity. For the world, wear your mask; for a true glimpse of yourself, consult your mirror. In Dorian Gray the mirror is not only the means whereby the characters--especially Dorian-- discover themselves, but the mirror imagery creates the verbal pattern by which the artists are to be judged. Focusing on the mirror as a structural device also helps us to see that Dorian Gray is not simply the story of one man's attempt at self-discovery. Sibyl, Dorian, Basil, and Lord Henry together seem to represent the failure of an entire generation to achieve its ideals. The theories Wilde proffers in Intentions, as seductive as they may be, finally seem too sublime for his characters, for himself, and for many of his contemporaries. Basil’s fatalism in the opening scene undoubtedly expresses Wilde's own: "'There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction. . . . Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are--my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks--we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly'" (p. 3). The ideal of the Aesthetic Movement remains an impossible dream in the novel. Wilde's self-consciousness told him that it was so; his decadent vision would not allow him to express it otherwise.