A Picture Of Dorian Gray


By Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, author of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", makes
Basil's life change drastically by having him paint a
portrait of Dorian Gray and express too much of himself in
it, which, in Wilde's mind, is a troublesome obstacle to
circumvent. Wilde believes that the artist should not
portray any of himself in his work, so when Basil does
this, it is he who creates his own downfall, not Dorian.
Wilde introduces Basil to Dorian when Basil begins to
notice Dorian staring at him at a party. Basil "suddenly
became conscious that someone was looking at [him]. [He]
turned halfway around and saw Dorian Gray for the first
time" (Wilde 24). Basil immediately notices him, however
Basil is afraid to talk to him. His reason for this is that
he does "not want any external influence in [his] life"
(Wilde 24). This is almost a paradox in that it is
eventually his own internal influence that destroys him.
Wilde does this many times throughout the book. He loved
using paradoxes and that is why Lord Henry, the character
most similar to Wilde, is quoted as being called "Price
Paradox." Although Dorian and Basil end up hating each
other, they do enjoy meeting each other for the first time.
Basil finds something different about Dorian. He sees him
in a different way than he sees other men. Dorian is not
only beautiful to Basil, but he is also gentle and kind.
This is when Basil falls in love with him and begins to
paint the picture.
Basil begins painting the picture, but does not tell anyone
about it, including Dorian, because he knows that there is
too much of himself in it. Lord Henry discovers the
painting and asks Basil why he will not display it. Lord
Henry thinks that it is so beautiful it should be displayed
in a museum. Basil argues that the reason he will not
display the painting is because he is "afraid that [he] has
shown in it the secret of his soul" (Wilde 23). This is
another paradox because he has not only shown the secret of
his soul, but the painting eventually comes to show the
secret of Dorian's soul also. In the preface to The Picture
of Dorian Gray, Wilde explains that "to reveal art and
conceal the artist is art's aim" (Wilde 17). Basil realizes
that he has not concealed himself in the painting and
therefore feels the painting is not worth anything. After
Lord Henry sees the painting, he asks to meet Dorian. Basil
says that would not be good because his "influence would be
bad" (Wilde 31). Basil is correct in saying this because
Lord Henry is the main person who helps Dorian to destroy
himself. Lord Henry disregards Basil's request and meets
Dorian anyway. This is the beginning of the end for both
Dorian and Basil because Lord Henry's influence pollutes
Dorian. Lord Henry taunts Dorian and continues to remind
him of all the sin that are building up and that even
though his body is not aging, his soul is deteriorating
When Basil notices that Dorian has not changed physically
in many years, he is curious to know how Dorian stayed
beautiful and youthful, but also wants to know why Dorian
has changed so much emotionally. When Dorian visits him one
day, he and Basil start talking about feelings and
emotions. At one point, Basil asks, "I wonder do I know
you? Before I could answer that, I should have to see your
soul." (Wilde 216) Basil feels that if he looked at
Dorian's portrait which he painted years ago, he would be
able to "see his soul". Dorian goes into a rage and Basil
takes him upstairs to look at the painting. Basil does not
have the painting on display, but rather keeps it in the
attic. When Basil sees the painting which is bloody and
atrocious looking, he cannot believe that it is the same
painting. Dorian, however, recognizes that the painting is
of himself and realizes that it no longer is just a
portrait or an image but that it has assumed the ability to
reveal Dorian's inner self, his soul. He is horrified to
see in that painting all of his hate, fear, and sadness
reduced onto a canvass. When Dorian sees the picture, he
blames Basil for his shortcomings. In his rage, he picks
up a knife lying on a nearby table and stabs Basil. He then
takes the knife and stabs the painting in the heart,
killing his soul, and returning the painting to its
original form. 
Wilde constructs this in an interesting way because after
Dorian stabs the picture, which is a representation of his
soul, Wilde shows Dorian lying on the ground, wrinkled and
disgusting, with a knife in his heart. Wilde did this to
show that when Dorian stabbed the painting, he was actually
stabbing himself.
Oscar Wilde first portrays Dorian Gray as a sweet,
sensitive man whom everyone admires. When Basil, however,
began admiring Dorian and painted his portrait, he changed.
 Dorian was able to conceal his morbid soul within the
painting and continue living as beautiful as he ever was,
physically. Wilde creates an animal out of the seemingly
perfect man and has him destroy himself and his friends.
All of this happened because of the picture of Dorian Gray. 


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