Choosing a DISCUSSION / WRITING TOPIC that was provided to you regarding The Picture of Dorian Gray (a couple are listed below here too), and write a response below under comments.  Be sure to specify which topic you are referring to and if you are responding to another student, please specify.

  • Oscar Wilde alludes to the Faust legend, in which a man sells his soul to the devil in order to obtain what he desires, despite the fact that the devil does not actually appear in Wilde’s novel. In the various incarnations of the Faust story, that for which the protagonist sells his soul is indicative of the values of the age, or at least those of the author. For what is Dorian Gray willing to sell his soul? What does this tell you about the values of Oscar Wilde and his circle of friends, the so-called aesthetes? Describe those values using specific quotations from the novel.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray contains many epigrams, most of which are spoken by Lord Henry Wotton. Interestingly, a number of these epigrams reappear in the author’s best-known play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which was written four years later. Choose three epigrams and analyze their contexts in the novel and what is the significance of the epigrams you’ve chosen in regards to the novel as a whole?
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  1. I am responding to the first topic: “For what is Dorian Gray willing to sell his soul? What does this tell you about the values of Oscar Wilde and his circle of friends, the so-called aesthetes? Describe those values using specific quotations from the novel.”

    I would like to start off with a quotation, “As they entered they saw Dorian Gray. He was seated at the piano, with his back to them, turning over the pages of a volume of Schumann’s ‘Forest Scenes’.” (Wilde 23). An interesting allusion presented in this passage is of the famous German composer, Schumann, who was so in love with his art that he became insane and had to be institutionalized. Ironically, this allusion foreshadows the obsession that Dorian Gray had with his own painting. Now, the portrait was what drove Dorian Gray to the edge of madness, through the progression of his character, it is obvious that for a simple painting (symbolism for a desire to stay young and beautiful), Dorian was willing to sell his soul. In addition, Gautier (a prominent French writer) who believed that “Art is for art’s sake” as later brought up in the book, “it was Gautier’s ‘Emaux et Camees’… and passed on till he came to those lovely stanza upon Venice…” (Wilde 138), was a inspiration for Wilde’s own philosophy; that art should have no inner meaning. In relation, Gautier embodies the reasoning behind the movement of aestheticism which Oscar Wilde describes and promotes throughout the novel.

  2. Dear Judy,

    Brilliant points! One of my favorite things about this book is how Oscar Wilde refers to so many allusions to literature as well as historical figures who support a hedonistic lifestyle. For example in Chapter 11(page 132) Dorian says, ” For he was too ready to accept the position that was almost immediately offered to him on his coming of age, and found, indeed a subtle pleasure in the thought that he might really become to the London of his own day what to imperial Neronian Rome the author of the “Satyricon” once been…” Dorian is relating himself to Petronius who was the supposed author of the Satryicon. This is an important allusion because in Neronian Rome, Petronious was denounced as being amoral and a hedonist. The story is that he became the Arbiter of Elegance(Nero’s adviser to all things luxurious and fashionable. However, Petronius fell from the favor of the emperor and was forced to commit suicide. See the parallel?

    There are also quite a few subtle references to Darwinism within the novel such as on page 78 in Chapter 6 when Lord Henry says, ” To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self…Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.” This outlook relies on Darwinism, which was a fashionable theory at the time since it encouraged Individuality. The theory asserts that an organism’s development would be marred or impaired if it were made to adjust to the standards of another organism. This theory can also be tied into how Dorian’s portrait was spoiled due to it adjusting to the standards of Dorian’s soul. The portrait was designed to represent only one part of Dorian and that’s beauty. As soon as it started to illustrate his soul it began to degenerate, hence why when Dorian died, the portrait went back to it’s original state since it was free from Dorian’s influence.

  3. Dear Liza and Judy,

    I admire how both of you picked out allusions within the novel and I would like to offer an allusion I found while reading. “He felt as if he had come to look for Miranda and had been met by Caliban.” (Wilde Chapter 7). This quote comes as Dorian is taking Lord Henry and Basil to see his fiancee Sibyl Vane perform.

    A little back story to Miranda and Caliban: in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” Caliban is forced into a life of servitude after his daughter (Miranda) and Prospero take over Caliban’s island. Caliban is referred to as a mooncalf which is a deformed half human creature who is negatively influenced by the “evil” moon whilst in the womb. To reinforce Caliban’s evilness, he attempts to rape his daughter Miranda. On the other hand, Miranda is openly compassionate and unaware of the evils of the world. Much like Dorian – at the beginning of the novel – Miranda is innocent and naive.

    Dorian, on the night of Sibyl’s disastrous performance, is naive because he expects perfection but isn’t satisfied, thus bringing in the idea of ideals vs. reality. Furthermore, instead of Dorian’s ideal, he was greeted by the harsh reality of life. Much like the symbolism behind the painting, Dorian expects to remain innocent and perfect but is actually tainted by Lord Henry and his harsh (sinful) reality and influence, thus creating an ugly painting, much like how Caliban was made evil by the influences of the moon. In simple terms, Oscar Wilde’s allusion to “The Tempest” reveals Dorian’s innocent and naive disposition (like Miranda) and how Lord Henry has tainted Dorian through immorality (like how Caliban was negatively influenced by the evil moon).

    Thanks for reading!

    1. Dear Vic,

      An allusion I’d like to mention is somewhat similar to your explanation of what type of character Dorian is at the beginning of the novel, but something I’d like to add is that I was wondering if Miranda could have a relation to Sybil in a way that she also has a youthful innocence, naivete, and sense of wonder/admiration in her character.

      Moving on to the allusion, “Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you- well, of course you have an intellectual expression and all that.” (Wilde Chapter 1) in which Lord Henry refers to Dorian as Narcissus and foreshadows his fate. In Greek mythology, Narcissus is a character that becomes so enamoured with the reflection of his beauty in a pool of water that he cannot leave it. Narcissus’ obsession with his reflection is similar to Dorian’s obsession with his portrait, “Once, in boyish mockery of Narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those painted lips that now smiled so cruelly at him.” (Wilde Chapter 8) and as a result, their self-obsessions lead to their downfall. It can also be inferred that Echo, a nymph who was rejected by Narcissus and later died of grief (while still in love with him) is similar to Sybil because she takes her life when Dorian breaks her heart and says he no longer wants to see her.

  4. Dear Faith,

    Thank you for your insight! I would like to add on to your analysis that Sybil was Dorian’s Echo to his Narcissus through the allusion Wilde has made to “Tannhäuser,” an opera written by Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

    The bulk of chapter 11 is dedicated to demonstrating Dorian’s embrace of Hedonism via the yellow book, and follows his indulgence of pleasures when he is not reading the yellow book, as shown through the following quote, “Yet, after some time, he wearied of them, and would sit in his box at the opera, whether alone or with Lord Henry, listening in rapt pleasure to “Tannhäuser” and seeing the prelude to that great work of art as a presentation of the tragedy of his own soul.” (134 – 135)

    “Tannhäuser” follows the story of a Tannhäuser, a knight and singer, whose art is so beautiful that Venus, the Goddess of love/lust, falls in love with him and offers him eternal life in Venesberg – a “forbidden place.” Tannhäuser eventually returns back to reality, and is informed that his lover, Elisabeth has been waiting for him. It is not publically revealed that Tannhäuser has visited the “forbidden place” until Act II, and is subsequently forced to visit the pope for his sin. When Elisabeth goes to visit Tannhäuser, but does not find him amongst the pilgrims in Rome, she “decides to go to heaven.” However, when Tannhäuser does return from Rome, he confides that his penitence was refused, and he attempts to go back to Venus, until he is confronted and convinced otherwise. He then learns of Elisabeth’s death, and dies.

    “Tannhäuser” is regarded as one of the main symbols of the decadent movement (followed an aesthetic ideology), and it is evident that Dorian is drawn to it through his “rapt pleasure” and how it is a “presentation of the tragedy of his own soul,” however there is much more depth to its significance as you have pointed out in bringing in the significance of Echo and Sybil within Narcissus. It is interesting to note that Wilde specifically mentions the prelude, as it was a “notorious response to evil and eroticism,” but is also showcases the parallels between Tannhäuser and Dorian himself. Tannhäuser mirrors Dorian, while Venus acts as temptation and the highest pleasure, while Elisabeth acts as Sybil. Both stories revolve around art as the harbinger of sin and ultimate downfall – Tannhäuser in his singing which seduces Venus, Dorian in his obsession with art/pleasure, and Sybil in her acting. Love was only found in fascination and the highest of pleasures, as seen through Dorian and Tannhäuser (likened to Narcissus), while those who failed to meet those expectations after experiencing such heightening pleasures died (Sybil and Elisabeth, likened to Echo). A main difference, although, is that Tannhäuser is granted salvation after his death, while Dorian is not.

    Thank you for reading.

  5. Dear Judy, Liza, Victoria and Faith,

    Really interesting points! Keeping with the theme of allusions, I did some digging and found this connection with Plato’s Republic. Here’s an important excerpt:

    “That those who practice it [justice], practice it constrained by want of power to act unjustly, we might better perceive if we do the following in thought : granting each one of them both, the just and the unjust, license to do as he wishes, let us then follow them closely to observe whither his desire will lead each. We should then catch the just man in the act of following the same path as the unjust man on account of the advantage that every nature is led by its very nature to pursue as good, being diverted only by force of law toward the esteem of the equal. The license I am talking about would be supremely such if they were given the very same power as is said to have been given in the past to the ancestor of Gyges the Lydian. (1)
    For he was a shepherd laboring for the then ruler of Lydia and some part of the earth was shattered by a violent thunderstorm developing along with an earthquake and a chasm appeared at the place where he was pasturing. Seeing this and wondering, he went down and the fable says that he saw, among other wonders, a hollow bronze horse having openings, through which, peeping in, he saw that there was a corpse inside, as it seemed, greater than is usual for men, and wearing nothing else but a golden ring at his hand, that he took off before leaving. When time came for the shepherds to hold their customary assembly in order to prepare their monthly report to the king about the state of the flocks, he came too, wearing this ring. While he was sitting with the others, it chanced that he moved the collet of the ring around toward himself into the inside of his hand ; having done this, he disappeared from the sight of those who were sitting beside him, and they discussed of him as of someone who had left. And he wondered and once again feeling for the ring, he turned the collet outwards and, by turning it, reappeared. Reflecting upon this, he put the ring to the test to see if it indeed had such power, and he came to this conclusion that, by turning the collet inwards, he became invisible, outwards, visible. Having perceived this, he at once managed for himself to become one of the envoys to the king ; upon arrival, having seduced his wife, with her help, he laid a hand on the king, murdered him and took hold of the leadership.” (Republic, II, 359b-360b)

    In short, Gyges, a shepherd, finds a ring that can turn the wearer invisible, and uses it for his own gain. Glaucon (who is the speaker, and is attempting to defend the position that men will only act just out of fear of the consequences if they do not) is posing the question of why one should act in a just manner if they came into possession of such a ring – and Socrates response was that even if one’s body is invisible, their soul is corrupted by the evils one commits – leading to an imbalanced soul (Socrates’ view being that a balanced and just soul, was the most beautiful). A corrupted soul is undesirable because of this, and the corruption of the soul outweighs any advantages gained from acting immorally.

    In connection to Dorian, the first time his soul is corrupted is when he exclaims that he envies the long-lasting beauty of his own portrait (envy being on of the negative emotions that causes imbalance). His unnatural beauty acts as the ring which turns him “invisible”; it prevents his crimes from being shown on his body, allowing him to act indulgently and immorally without true consequence. The portrait, therefore, is the physical representation of Dorian’s soul. Instead of providing him with incentive to act morally like Socrates suggests, however, Dorian takes pleasure in seeing the corruption of his own soul through the changes to the painting, which is reminiscent of the satisfaction that Lord Henry gets out of corrupting Dorian. This is also connected to the Faust legend and the idea of a secret life/duality behind “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.

    The ending, then, seems to stay true to Socrates’ belief that attempting to get ahead in life at the expense of one’s own soul is not a bargain worth taking. This also brings up the question of why Wilde would want to be like Dorian – if even his own novel shows the dangers of corruption, then was it Wilde’s dedication to aestheticism that would make the loss of his soul worthwhile?

  6. I am responding to the fourth topic about the psychological perspective for the underlying reasons of Dorian’s immaturity. Which phase is he stuck in and why? What are Dorian’s symptoms that indicate his developmental delay? I have read a summary about Erik Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Man,” in which the author analyzes the stages of life an individual goes though, dividing it into 8 different categories.

    The 8 categories are (from 1 to 8), Trust vs. Mistrust (age 0-1 and a half), where an infant develops the trait of hope (if successful),
    Autonomy vs. Shame (age 1 and a half to 3), where a child develops the trait of will (if successful),
    Initiative vs. Guilt (age 3-5) where a child develops a sense of purpose (if successful), Industry vs. Inferiority (age 5-12), where a child develops a feeling of competency (if successful),
    Identity vs. Role Confusion (age 12-18) where an adolescent develops a feeling of fidelity (if successful),
    Intimacy vs. Isolation (age 18-40), where a young adult develops the feeling of love (if successful),
    Generativity vs. Stagnation (age 40-65), where adults develop a sense of care, and the last stage,
    Integrity vs. Despair (age 65+), where seniors develop wisdom.

    By just reading the surface level of the 8 Stages of Man, I would say that Dorian is stuck in between stages 5 and 6; ages 12-40, where an individual develops a sense of fidelity and love. In stage 5, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an exploration of personal values, beliefs and goals. In the beginning of the novel, Dorian is untouched by influence. However, when he met Lord Henry, he was at the stage where it was easy to influence, which is why Dorian very quickly accepted and admired Lord Henry’s way of life. This stage of life was unsuccessful in the way that Dorian didn’t discover his own set of morals, but borrowed Lord Henry’s instead.

    For the sixth stage, where one should develop the feeling of love, Dorian did not succeed in this stage either. By using the example of Dorian’s encounter with Sibyl, one could conclude that Dorian did not love Sibyl at all, but rather her ability to act. Dorian loved her ability to act because that was what made Sibyl attractive and beautiful in his eyes. This led to the downfall of their relationship when Sibyl became unable to act, and Dorian easily cast her aside because of the lack of him developing this own morals and feelings of real love.

    Link for Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Man”:

  7. I will be responding to the prompt about names (No.5)

    What’s in a name?

    Dorian Gray? Grey as in the one in the middle? between the innocence of white and the sinister black?

    Sybil Vane? as in her death was in vain?

    Nick caraway? care away?

    Daisy? as in the day’s eye, the thing Icarus reached for that melted his wings?

    When a name is chosen, it is usually done with a symbolic purpose for the individual. My ow name (Dey Nilave) means: to give, that which exists among the blue sky and for the most part that has shaped who I think I am.

    A name has the power to shape the purpose and develop the story. Though it is not necessarily the most creative way to develop a story it certainly is a powerful one, it gives the reader insight and allows them to gain a deeper understanding of a character by having been offered a simple piece of one’s identity. In Dorian Gray’s case, he is caught in the constant push and pull of Basil and Henry, who beseech him to make crucial decisions that may break or make his future; this is much like our own guilty conscience that sets the iron that guides our moral compass. Lord Henry is representative of the devil that sits on the left; he is the one that exposes Dorian to the immoral and the corrupt and lets his indulgence run wild, while Basil is the angel on the right; his wishes for Dorian are good and wholesome; he encourages Dorian to reflect upon his actions and believes in the god in the boy.

    Oscar Wilde’s use these specific archetypes, the actions of the characters that he has created are also symbolic; Dorian only becomes the monster that Lord Henry made him to be when he kills the angel and with him, whatever was left of his humanity. Then on he rolls on the lives of others without the slightest regard for consequences that he would have had to face. This technique proved extremely effective because it signified Dorian’s point of no return, the point where a painter could do absolutely nothing to cover his mistake; because an artist (I’m talking from personal experience here) never erases a painting, either they paint over until the picture turns out the way they want or better, or they kill it all together and start a new project.

    ps I’m writing this when I’m rather sleepy if it does not make sense feel free to let me know, and if you disagree comment your rebuttal, I’m interested to learn more.


  8. I am responding to the second prompt. I love me some epigrams!

    “Genius lasts longer than beauty.”

    Lord Henry, page 29

    At this point in the novel, Lord Henry tells Basil that, while Basil might tire before Dorian, it is genius that always lasts longer than beauty. Here, of course, genius is attributed to Basil and beauty to Dorian. Ironically, Dorian barters away his soul to the portrait in the hopes of attaining eternal beauty. However, since the portrait is inevitably tethered to Dorian’s being, Dorian is killed when he destroys the portrait. Then, of course, the portray reverts from its horrendous, deteriorated state back to the initial beauty it had once possessed. As a result, one might argue that the portrait, which is a product of Basil’s artistic talent, and therefore his genius, outlived Dorian, who was revered for his beauty. Therefore, in this instance, genius lasted longer than beauty. However, the portrait was also a portrayal of Dorian’s beauty, which also outlived Basil—the artistic genius himself—who was murdered by Dorian. Thus, some might also argue that it is actually beauty that lasts longer than genius. Or is beauty simply a form of genius?—This is something Lord Henry had also mentioned at one point in the novel. (“Beauty is a form of genius—is higher indeed than genius.) This also contradicts his earlier statements–that genius lasts longer than beuaty. What do you all think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! This is something I find to be incredibly interesting.

    “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”

    While this particular epigram is from Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Ernest, however, it is also incredibly relevant to the novel itself. The portrait, for instance, is a reflection of who Dorian really is as a person—it is a reflection of the TRUE condition of his soul. Since the portrait carries the “burden of his passions and sins” it exists it exists in an ugly, and decrepit state, which is representative of the corruption of his own soul. Dorian, of course, often hides this corruption behind a facade—behind the purity that is associated with both his beauty and his youth. The portrait, of course—the truth—is not pure, nor is it simple; Dorian hides behind the shallowness of his appearance (simplicity) in order to hide a greater and complex truth—the perversion of his own soul.

    “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearance.”
    Lord Henry, page 39

    Henry says this to Dorian in order to convince him that youth and beauty are necessary commodities when it comes to living a joyful and fulfilling life—a life of grandeur and aestheticism, a life based primarily upon appearance. This is, without a doubt, one of Henry’s many persuasions that kindle the fire of Dorian’s passion, indulgence, and hedonism. That being said, the term fulfilling often refers to satisfying something, usually something that is currently lacking. In relation to this, the word shallow refers to something of “little depth”—something that IS lacking. Perhaps, then, this is why Henry believes people who are incapable of making their judgments based on appearances(on the beautiful pleasures of life), that they lack the depth—the intelligence and the appreciation—necessary to accept and practice a life based upon aestheticism.

    “Conscience and cowardice are really the same thing.”
    Lord Henry, page 24

    Lord Henry believes that when one is hesitant to indulge in his own pleasures, to approach life hedonistically, it is because he is afraid of compromising his morals. Because this fear is inspired by an individual’s wish to abide by a general sense of morality, it comes from that individual’s conscience–their sense of what is right and what is wrong. That is why, in Henry’s opinion, he believes those who abide by their conscience are cowards—that they lack the boldness necessary to live a beautiful and pleasurable life. That is why Lord Henry seems to approach life with an audacious immorality, something he also persuades Dorian to do.

  9. Dear Nilave,

    I would like to say that your thoughts on Basil being the angel and Lord Henry being the devil on Dorian’s shoulders (in effect, acting as his conscience) are similar to how I viewed the two most influential characters in Dorian’s life. However, I thought of them in a slightly different way, as I viewed the book as an allegory of the Biblical account of Creation. I am particularly answering the twenty-fourth question (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray contains numerous biblical allusions. Choose three of these and discuss the way the author uses them). However, instead of taking explicit Biblical passages from the novel, I want to offer insight into how the story of Dorian Gray parallels the Biblical account of Creation using excerpts that, while not strictly from the Bible, mirrors the actions of the principal characters, namely Basil as God, Lord Henry as the Devil, and Dorian as Adam.

    First, as you said, Basil’s wishes for Dorian are good and wholesome, which mirrors the Judeo-Christian belief that God is perfect goodness and always encourages his people to stay away from evil influences. Basil attempts to do this by discouraging Lord Henry from spreading his controversial ideas, saying, “Don’t spoil him. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad” (Chapter 1). Basil’s role as God is further suggested when he states that he cannot exhibit his painting of Dorian Gray, reasoning, “I have put too much of myself into it” (Chapter 1). This echoes the Biblical passage in the Book of Genesis that states “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen 1:27). Lastly, evidence that points to Basil serving as a symbol of God comes from his pleadings with Dorian when he tries to persuade him to repent from his sins just moments before his death, saying, “‘Pray, Dorian, pray…”Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins. Wash away our iniquities” Let us say that together…The prayer of your repentance will be answered…Isn’t there a verse somewhere, “Though your sins be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow”?'” (Chapter 13). In this passage, Basil not only encourages Dorian to pray, but also quotes the Bible, thereby serving as a reminder of God’s words on forgiveness and telling Dorian that to be forgiven, he need only ask. Basil’s eventual death represents not only Dorian’s (or Adam’s) rejection of God’s mercy but also the eventual disregard for God’s commands as shown through Adam’s descendants in the later books of the Bible.

    Lord Henry as a representative of the Devil, or Satan, is most clearly supported by his manipulation of the young Dorian. He encourages Dorian to be selfish, saying, “People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self” (Chapter 2). This blatantly contradicts Jesus’s (who is God made manifest among mankind, according to traditional Christian theology) words, in which he says, “‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself'” (Mt 22:37-39). Lord Henry continues, “Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked…The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion – these are the two things that govern us…The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful” (Chapter 2). Here, Lord Henry shares his cynical views on the Church and how its “monstrous laws” are based on “terror of God,” thereby suggesting that the Church is simply manipulating the people, using the concept of religion, in order to prevent them from getting what they desire. His comments on how to get rid of temptation also contradicts Basil’s prayer of “Lead us not into temptation” (Chapter 13), which presents Basil and Lord Henry as two opposing forces. Lord Henry’s role as the Devil is further supported by descriptions of the Devil himself: “For all sins, as theologians weary not of reminding us, are sins of disobedience. When that high spirit, that morning-star of evil, fell from heaven, it was as a rebel that he fell” (Chapter 16). The morning-star of evil is none other than Satan, also known as Lucifer, one of God’s closest angels who rebels against Him and is, as a result, thrown from Heaven. Likewise, Lord Henry, one of Basil’s closest friends, eventually corrupts Dorian with his immoral influence, much against the Basil’s wishes and in spite of Basil’s trust in him.

    Lastly, Dorian’s symbolic portrayal of Adam reflects his creation, as well as his fall from grace. According to the Bible, Adam, as the first man on Earth, was God’s finest creation: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26). In this passage, God gives Adam dominion over all of creation, which establishes mankind’s superior position in regards to God’s other “works of art.” Likewise, Basil’s painting of Dorian is his greatest masterpiece, as supported by Lord Henry, “It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done” (Chapter 1). As stated earlier, Dorian’s painting is also greatly influenced by the inclusion of Basil’s soul; in the same vein, Adam was created from God’s likeness. As for Adam’s relationship with the Devil, the Devil is the one who convinces Eve (Adam’s wife and the first woman) to bite from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which God forbade), saying that “in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). When Eve then convinces Adam to bite from the fruit, they realize the sin of disobedience they have committed against God and as a result, they are banished from the Garden of Eden, where they lived. This parallels Lord Henry’s actions towards Dorian in Basil Hallward’s garden on the first day they met. It is in this garden that Dorian is first corrupted, and where Lord Henry begins to plant seeds of pride and vanity within Dorian, saying, “‘The moment I met you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are, of what you really might be.’…Dorian Gray listened, open-eyed and wondering” (Chapter 2). In effect, Lord Henry’s comments “open” Dorian’s eyes to realize who he really is, thereby triggering a fear of losing his youth and beauty, a fear which then leads to the events that unfold as the story progresses.

    The relationship between the three principal characters of Oscar Wilde’s novel mirror the relationship between God, the Devil, and Adam. Like Dorian, Adam (and by extension, all of humanity) feels the pull and push between good and evil, a man over which the battle between Heaven and Hell is fought. Adam’s eventual decision to choose evil results in his downfall, just as Dorian’s rejection of Basil’s call to mercy and his embrace of Lord Henry’s hedonistic pleasures lead to his.

  10. I will be responding to prompt #24, on Oscar Wilde’s biblical allusions in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

    One way in which Wilde delivers the allusion to readers is through the connections between Lord Henry and the Devil himself. One thing to consider is how the name carries such presence with just the words of his name. This could be reflected in how Lord Henry’s silver-tongued insight and cynicism is enough to corrupt Dorian, as Henry never does see the painting himself. Such a character that can simply ruin individuals by them “sinning” fits Lord Henry’s dynamic rather well.

    However, more evidence is supplied to the comparison between Satan and Lord Henry with the allusion to the Garden of Eden. Remember how Basil reflects on Dorian in the opening scene with such awe, which is only heightened by his completed creation of the painting. Sound familiar? Maybe like a certain God character who creates “man” in a so-called paradise? In this sense, Adam and Eve are encapsulated in Dorian’s character, as he is the creation and product of Basil’s infatuation. However, when Dorian leaves the studio with Lord Henry into Basil’s garden, Lord Henry sows the seeds of corruption into Dorian’s character. The knowledge and insight Harry shares is the Apple of Eden. Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. Lord Henry is the very same snake that taunted Eve into eating the apple and soiling God’s kingdom. Lord Henry is the serpent that corrupts and ruins man, and in-turn, ruins Basil’s creation.

    Finally, and this is just a theory of mine, I believe that Dorian sold his soul to Lord Henry, the Devil, for his immortality. In the opening scenes of the book, Lord Henry says something that sparked my interest: “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” I believe this was the temptation of the Devil luring in Dorian into a contract. By indulging into his senses after agreeing to what Harry said, Dorian’s soul is forfeit. Of course, being the Devil, the deal has unforeseen consequences, this being the painting becoming possessed by the ever tormented soul of Dorian Gray.

  11. I’m responding to prompt #18 regarding Wilde’s letter to his lover from prison and its parallels to PDG (prophetic vs. autobiographical).

    It is incredible how Wilde’s reflection on himself mirrors his reflection on Dorian. No doubt, the feelings and desires that led Wilde to his affair existed long before the affair actually occurred. Perhaps then, years earlier, through Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil, he was telling an account of his own repressed desires. If we look at the book that way, it becomes a window into Wilde’s mind in days of apparent inner turmoil. He must have written this book at a time when he could no longer hide from his desires. In the victorian era, the suppression of desire, particularly sexual desires, was an ironclad contract with society. As a public figure, Wilde must have felt immense pressure to conform to these standards which so contradicted his own. At the time in which he wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is clear he was bringing his feelings to light, which marked the start of his path to the affair.

    There are endless comparisons to be drawn between Wilde and his characters, but I’d like to focus on Basil and Dorian. These two best represent the dichotomy between society’s morals and Wilde’s actions. Basil’s death in the book coincided with his ceasing to be an artist (by Wilde’s definition) and with Dorian ceasing to be “the captain of his soul”. In the novel, Basil serves as a realist and a moralist, who Lord Henry accuses of being “a true Englishman” (7). He is ashamed of his feelings for Dorian and is terrified his portrait will betray them to the world. In this way, Basil reflects traditional Victorian values. By killing Basil, Wilde may be shutting out the social voice that had him suppressing his desires, in effect, surrendering to a Dorian-like lifestyle.

    There are several points I find very interesting about how Wilde’s life parallels and contrasts his book. For one, Basil’s claim that he had “put too much of himself” into Dorian’s portrait shows that he a) felt compromised by his work and b) believed in the aesthetic idea of art separate from artist. Wilde, an aesthete himself, must have believed in this to some extent. However, because of the congruency between Dorian’s life and Wilde’s of the next five years, it is impossible that Wilde had not infused the book, his own art, with his own thoughts, feelings, and desires. I believe this book was an autobiography of his soul, whether consciously or subconsciously written to be so.

    This brings up a question: If Wilde wrote a detailed account on the consequences of becoming a slave to desire, why did he not take his own advice? In his letter, he admits, “I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and I did not know it.” How did he not know this if he had previously written a detailed examination on the effects of such a life? It doesn’t make sense. Wilde was very intelligent and self-aware. I believe he knew exactly how his actions would end. He saw Dorian as a tragic character, one who was doomed to his fate by beauty, as Wilde was by his desires. He writes about this through Basil in chapter one, “… Dorian Gray’s good looks – we shall all suffer for what the Gods have given us, suffer terribly.” (3) In Wilde’s era, it was impossible for the lifestyle he sought to end in anything but tragedy due to the social conditions. Of course he knew this, yet he had a homosexual affair. Perhaps he felt social disgrace was, for him, as inevitable as Dorian’s demise, and reasoned it was the only outcome. With this logic, what did he have to lose? Why deprive oneself of another sensation for longer than necessary?

    I do find it interesting how, in his letter, he had seemingly regained his ‘Basil’, saying, “ I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has to cry aloud on the housetops.” Was Wilde truly resigned to his tragic fate or was this yet another sensation to him? After years of “forgetting”, had his time in prison changed his outlook on life so completely? What do y’all think?

    In conclusion, I do not believe this book was prophetic in the sense that Wilde was unaware of a looming, inevitable future. I believe it was a means to organise the chaos of impossible wishes, almost as if he were testing the waters before he became ‘Dorian’ through his pursuit of desire. He wanted his life to be his art, yet another impossible wish in a harsh, relentless world. Art can be a beautiful escape, but never, never reality.

  12. Hello,

    I will be responding to the first prompt listed, “Oscar Wilde alludes to the Faust legend, in which a man sells his soul to the devil in order to obtain what he desires, despite the fact that the devil does not actually appear in Wilde’s novel. In the various incarnations of the Faust story, that for which the protagonist sells his soul is indicative of the values of the age, or at least those of the author. For what is Dorian Gray willing to sell his soul? What does this tell you about the values of Oscar Wilde and his circle of friends, the so-called aesthetes? Describe those values using specific quotations from the novel.”

    To address the first question it is evident that Dorian is willing to sell his soul to the portrait, replacing Mephastophilis or Lucifer in the Faust Legend (I have yet to decide), in order to gain beauty and youth as through out the entirety of the piece he is discomforted by any sort of fall from beauty. This tragic time line is contrasted by that of Faust due primarily to their endings. At the end of A Picture of Dorian Gray Dorian regrets his passionate pursuit of beauty which is clear when it is stated, “His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery.” (Wilde, 230) Further, his desire to, in a sense, revoke his actions and revert to purity and naivety is outlined when it written, “He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood – his rose-white boyhood…” (Wilde, 230)I found this to be significant as it greatly supports the notion that an individual’s desires being met wholly ultimately will result in their dissatisfaction as one’s ambitions distorts one’s sense of reality. Moreover, the I found the end of Dorian’s character arch to be a wonderful contrast to the end of Faust’s as they both begin to plead to be saved and desire to revert to times of naivety when the reality of the consequences attached to their lifestyle are revealed. This

    To connect to the second question a tad bit more, the idealization aspect of this theme is frequently supported by Lord Henry who is treated as an extension of Wilde’s mindset throughout the novel. Wilde, along with many of his fellow aesthetes, put youth and beauty, at time interchangeably, to a great esteem and this is very evident when Lord Henry said, “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. Youth! there is nothing like it…” (Wilde, 226) Lord Henry’s unquestionable passion and desire to restore his beauty relates greatly to the aesthetic movement of the late 1800s as Lord Henry, as well as Oscar Wilde, were pursuing youth – and its accompanying beauty – simply for the sake of being beautiful. They did not seek the vitality of youth, made terribly clear when Lord Henry states he is willing to do “anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early or be respectable.”

    Thus, seeing at the slogan for aestheticism is ‘art for art’s sake’ it is evident that Oscar wild and his fellow aesthetes, through the voice of Lord Henry, valued youth in order simply to be beautiful which depicts how dearly he and his companions held the meaning of the aesthetic lifestyle.

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