Society throughout history has influenced people and behavior, in the novel "The Picture of Dorian Grey," by Oscar Wilde we find this most prevalent. As the novel follows the main character, Dorian Grey, we are able to see society's impact on him and his actions through character and settings. In the preface, Wilde explains how beauty negates that art serves a moral and political purpose, he even says, "All art is quite useless" (Wilde 4). Duggan explains in his journal, "Here, aestheticism advocated whatever behavior was likely to maximize the beauty and happiness in one's life, in the tradition of hedonism. To the aesthete, the ideal life mimics art; it is beautiful, but quite useless beyond its beauty, concerned only with the individual living it" (Duggan, The Conflict Between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray). In his preface, Wilde captures the principles of the Aesthetic Movement, indirectly referencing how real art does not take part in molding society or moral identities of society. For the aesthete they believe that the ideal life mimics art; it is beautiful, but quite useless beyond its beauty, that is only concerned with the individual living in it. Duggan also explains, "Rather than an advocate for pure aestheticism, then, Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale in which Wilde illustrates the dangers of the aesthetic philosophy when not practiced with prudence (Duggan, The Conflict Between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray)." .
The novel is about a man who starts out innocent and pure, and through influence of other people and society, is corrupted into thinking beauty is the only thing that matters in this world. After his portrait is completed, he becomes so enthralled with the youthfulness and the beauty of the portrait. Through the influence of Lord Henry warning Dorian about the advancement of age, they cause Dorian to curses himself by saying, "If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day--mock me horribly!, (Wilde 29)" thus selling his soul to be eternally beautiful and youthful.