‘Each Man Sees His Own Sin in Dorian Gray’ - to What Extent Can Alex in a Clockwork Orange and Dorian in the Picture of Dorian Gray Be Seen as Transgressive Everymen?

‘Each man sees his own sin in Dorian Gray’ - To what extent can Alex in A Clockwork Orange and Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray be seen as transgressive everymen?

If creating an identifiable protagonist is central to an engaging novel then anti-heroes within socially challenging novels can become problematic. As their significance involves not only the questioning of political, social or moral issues, the character often becomes more complex and unpleasant, meaning that the reader may cease to identify with them. Transgressive, arguably relatable figures are fundamental to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, the infamous dystopian novella which tells the story of juvenile criminal Alex, who harbours a love for ‘ultra-violence’, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar WIlde’s controversial Victorian novel, which combines gothic romance, horror and tragedy to tell a thought-provoking tale of debauchery and immorality. Whilst we could see these characters as thoroughly evil, their heinous crimes eliciting only contemptuous disgust, a more compelling reading may be that these delinquent leading characters are ‘transgressive everymen’, that both repel and and attract the reader by mirroring humanity’s shortcomings, such as Alex’s youthful attraction to destruction and Dorian’s crippling narcissism. Among the common theme of these novels are rebellion, debauchery and human transgression. Although the both seem to deal with the physical representation of immorality, they perhaps begin to differ when it comes to how this manifests and shapes the lives of the respective protagonists, Both appear to warn of youth’s transgression, however, whereas ACO envisages a society overrun with criminal how delight in violence, rape and anarchy, DG explores the effects of society’s obsession with superficiality upon a young man’s soul.

Perhaps suggesting that he intended his protagonist to represent a ‘transgressive everyman’ , Wilde once said in defence of his novel that...