The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Analysis

Beauty and the preservation of both beauty and youth are two of the most prominent human desires. They have not been suppressed, people have become more obsessed with this idea in modern society. This concept of human vanity is explored in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. The protagonist, Dorian Gray, is a handsome, and young aristocrat. But under the influence of Lord Henry, he is attracted to the beauty in the portrait, and eventually becomes self-obsessed. Consumed by the fear of his fading beauty, he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve his goal, even at the expense of his virtuoso, and moral soul.

Human’s obsession with ywithth and beauty compels the most sinister actions in the interest of preserving them, and can ultimately lead to their self-damnation.

Dorian, at the beginning of the book, is far too young and innocent to possess a vulgar soul, but his growing awareness of the beauty and vanity of nature point to his eventual development of a dark soul.

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According to Basil, the artist, Dorian Gray has “a simple and a beautiful nature”. Indeed, Dorian, at the beginning of the book, is a naive and beautiful young man, knowing nothing about the evil life. Dorian is born as an artist, his beauty and purity attract Basil to get close to him. Yet, Lord Henry turns out to be a bad influencer, pulling Dorian’s strings. He believes that only “shallow people who do not judge by appearances”. By diminishing the true value and importance of a kind soul, he proclaims that Dorian has only a few years to “live, perfectly, and fully!”.

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Dorian is easily persuaded by Lord Henry. The more time the two spend together, the more Dorian is influenced by Lord Henry’s striking belief and is gradually transformed until barely anything remains of his personality. He now is willing to exchange “ [his] soul” to “be young forever”. Dorian fears the slow emergence of age and the recession of beauty. He resolves to forever preserve his losing beauty, and in the process, relinquishes his kindness and goodness.

Coming under Lord Henry’s rather devious influence, Dorian’s personality transforms, and his evil nature starts to emerge. He becomes emotionless, ignorant of others’ feelings and emotions. When Dorian goes to the theater, he pursues Sibyl from first sight and is infatuated with her beauty, and soon they are engaged. The truth is, Dorian is only in love with Sibyl because she “[gives] shape and substance to the shadows of art” ( ). He is not attracted to Sibyl’s personality, but rather her enthralling performance and stunning appearance. With this realization, when Sibyl acts dull and lifeless, Dorian rejects her by stating that she doesn’t “stir [his] imagination” and “curiosity” and claims her of being “shallow and stupid” ( ). Sibyl, being heartbroken, commits suicide. Dorian, unaware of Sibyl’s death, looks at the portrait and finds a cruel face staring back at him. Indeed, Dorian germinates his evil, so with the decadence of his soul and the growing of his evil desire, the portrait becomes more ugly and older. His cruelty towards Sibyl is reflected in the portrait, reminding him of his sins. When Dorian is informed by Lord Henry of Sibyl’s death, he is stunned, unable to believe such a tragedy. Lord Henry convinces Dorian that Sibyl’s death is a perfect example of undying love, and thus strengthens Dorian’s desirability. Dorian has now fully embraced Lord Henry’s philosophy. He has transformed, he now has “eternal youth, infinite passion”, yet “the portrait [is] to bear the burden of his shame”. His portrait is the visible reflection of the falling soul. Although he looks beautiful, his conscience is ugly and evil, and this portrait bears all these things, acting as his ugly inner externalization.

Finally, Dorian becomes eviler and eviler, committing sins that result in more corruption of the portrait and his soul. In eighteen years, Dorian encounters Basil, who warns him about the horrible rumors regarding his conduct. Basil disregards these rumors as he still sees the ethical soul in his subject of art. He thinks that sin “cannot be concealed” as it “writes itself across a man’s face”. Indeed, Dorian’s sinful acts are not portrayed on his face, as he uses his portrait as concealment for all of his immoral deeds. Dorian, tired of Basil’s righteousness, shows Basil his portrait, or his soul. Basil, bewildered by such a hideous portrait begs Dorian to repent. “An uncontrollable hatred for Basil” comes over Dorian, as if the portrait suggests it, “whisper[ing] into his ear by those grinning lips”. In a fit of rage, Dorian stabs Basil, killing him, and committing another sin. He has lost all the mercy and other qualities in his soul, completely turning into a merciless man with a black soul. He has committed murder, allowing the portrait to further absorb the sin, thus becoming more and more hideous.

Updated: Feb 26, 2024
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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Analysis. (2024, Feb 26). Retrieved from

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