Of The ShadowsDuring one’s life, one must step out into the real world and experience all of what the world has to offer. In order to attain a well-balanced life both mentally and socially, one may seek any way possible to live life to the fullest. We were put on this earth to live- not just simply by breathing in and out everyday, and making life the best it can possibly be. It has been said that you have not really died if you have lived. This theory has been applied to several pieces of literature. In the book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and “The Lady of Shallot” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, two characters have not lived their life to the fullest extent. In the aforementioned literature, the characters of Sibyl Vane and the Lady of Shallot lived their lives through the invulnerability of constant security.
Sibyl Vane is an actress who is greatly devoted to her acting career. She is so consumed by her realm of acting that she does not experience the many other aspects and joys that life has to offer. All her heart, soul, and mind is put into her hobby, as it envelops her entire existence. Sibyl solely depends on this mindset to carry her throughout her life.
Leading a life similar to that of Sibyl Vane’s is the Lady of Shallot. In this poem, she is condemned to weaving and forbidden to ever look out of her window down to the wonderful city of Camelot. If she should look down, a terrible curse shall be laid upon her. Both Sibyl Vane and the Lady of Shallot are artists who lead very sheltered lives and have an unfortunate fate ahead of them. Before the story beings, Oscar Wilde describes the effects that art has on a person. He states, “All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbols do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors (Wilde 3).”
These sheltered lives allow the women to remain in their safe little worlds, apart from what other ways of life the world has to offer. In order for them to lead a less “curtained” life, they needed to take more chances in hopes of more goodness and reality to welcome into their lives. When speaking to Dorian Gray, Sibyl’s lover, Sibyl admits that her life was consumed by the theatre. She confesses:
Before I knew you, acting was the one reality of my life. It was only in the theatre that I lived. I believed in everything. The common people who acted with me seemed to me to be godlike. The painted scenes were my world. I knew nothing but shadows, and I thought them real. Prince Charming! I have grown sick of shadows (66).”
Sibyl repeatedly hides away from having to be a part of life because she has been in a world of unreality. When she loves Dorian she has the courage to step out of the shadows. She has stepped out into the world and the world his her life, depriving her of the shadows. When she finally steps out of her shadows and into her reality, fate comes into play. When Dorian tells her the he does not love her anymore, she cannot take the reality and in return commits suicide.
Also bored of these “shadows” of life is the Lady of Shallot. She is fed up with seeing beautiful sights in her mirror and not being able to take part in them. She proclaims, “I am half sick of shadows (Tennyson 71).” In the Lady’s case, her shadow is the mirror. She lives for the shadows because she needs them to experience life. However, she wants to experience the world first-hand, without the mirror, or her shadow. When she heads toward Camelot, she leaps out of the shadows. Comparable to that of Sibyl Vane, when she is separated from her shadows, her unfortunate fate is met.
Perhaps their fate could have been changed if these women had learned to step into reality at an earlier stage in life. Opposite of their own sheltered worlds, Sibyl Vane and the Lady of Shallot should have both experienced life through something that is not concrete. Both of their fates are determined by these shadows.
Fortunately, there are lessons that we can learn from these women. First, we should not be forced to make hard decisions or be placed in an unnecessary situation. The more conflict that can be avoided, the more beneficial life’s outcome can be. Also, if one lives life to the fullest from the very beginning, he or she is less likely to be trapped, much like that of Sibyl Vane and the Lady of Shallot. Since their lives were dull, monotonous trances from the beginning, they were not able to experience all the joys and freedoms than many unsheltered individuals do.
Life is a variety of experiences, lessons, and hardships to overcome. Dealing with these aspects of life can only make one’s integrity stronger. What these characters did not do was try out different ways of life. Sibyl created her life through the theatre, whereas the Lady of Shallot created hers through her weaving. If they had strayed from their mundane task, then their fate would not have been so catastrophic. If they had just taken chances on life’s little mysteries, their fatal outcomes would quite possibly not have been what they were. Experience in dealing with the outside world would have strengthened them to be more independent, stronger people.
Furthermore, a broader lesson of these works of literature would be to just get out there and live. Step off the stage, step out of the tower, and hide the mirror. Perhaps take a chance once in a while. Do not just go through the motions of life, and live it to the fullest extent. One can lead a more happy, fearless life if he or she can really go out and experience it.
In conclusion, the writings The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and “The Lady of Shallot” by Alfred Lord Tennyson convey certain lessons of life. The characters of Sibyl Vane and the Lady of Shallot lived their lives through the sanctity of constant security, and died as a direct result of their shadows. During one’s life, one must step out into the real world and out of the shadows. In order to be balanced both mentally and socially, an individual may pursue any way possible to live life to one’s high expectations. Do not get caught up in life’s shadows. Step out of the darkness and into the light, hoping to not be consumed by the invulnerability