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 fast. 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.