Marble Arch

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The Marble Arch was put in place in 1851, after standing outside Buckingham Palace (Historical Eye).  It is a large gateway structure constructed out of Marble.  According to the Old Bailey Online, a wide variety of crimes occurred in the region ranging from the relatively benign treason and larceny to manslaughter and infanticide.  Despite the beauty and the luxury that the Marble Arch may represent, the neighborhood itself was relatively rough.  Despite the varieties of crimes taking place in the area, most residents living near the Marble Arch were upper middle class and wealthy citizens, which is fitting for such a luxurious landmark (Charles Booth Online Archive).

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In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the Marble Arch is referenced in a brief anecdote by Lord Henry.  He talks about “a little crowd of shabby-looking people listening to some vulgar street-preacher” (Wilde).  The preacher is a Christian ranting and raving about the consequences of the soul.  Henry considers making a snide remark to the preacher, but assuming the preacher will not understand, he does not.  This opens up a conversation between Henry and Dorian about the soul and the price of it.  Henry listens to Dorian and tells him not to grow old, ironically.


Wilde tries to echo the whiteness of the Marble Arch with the faces in the crowd, which he has Henry describe as a very pale white.  Wilde also uses this location to show a great degree of contrast.  Like the violent crimes occurring in a relatively wealthy neighborhood, Wilde places Lord Henry, a somewhat dilettante atheist, walking past a group of people listening to a lower class, dramatic Christian preacher.  It is placing two extremes side by side.  Also, Wilde describes the weather as relatively grey and rainy, typical ugly London weather, but he places this beautiful monument in it.  Similar to how Dorian’s soul has been placed into a grotesque painting.  The portrait and the actual Dorian are the greater context that London’s weather and the Marble Arch mirror.


Works Cited


Booth, Charles. “Booth Poverty Map (Charles Booth Online Archive).” Charles Booth Online Archive. Charles Booth Online Archive. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

“Marble Arch and Kensington Gardens.” The Historical Eye. The Historical Eye. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

“The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.” Old Bailey Online. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Wilde, Oscar. A Preface to “Dorian Gray” London: [Chapman & Hall], 1891. Print.

One thought on “Marble Arch

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