The following is an analysis of a quote pulled from chapter six of The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is said by Basil Hallward upon being informed that Dorian is to marry Sybil.
“But think of Dorian’s birth, and position, and wealth. It would be absurd for him to marry so much beneath him.”
When Basil Hallward is informed that Dorian will wed Sybil, a “little actress”, he replies as such: “But think of Dorian’s birth, and position, and wealth. It would be absurd for him to marry so much beneath him.” Basil’s reply is an appeal to the reader’s logos as it was a social construct for individuals to marry another of the same social status. Basil’s response to Dorian’s engagement is logical because Dorian and Sybil’s romance is parallel to Dorian’s mother and father’s relationship. Pointedly, Dorian’s mother was high class and rich (like Dorian) while Dorian’s father was low class and poor (like Sybil). Due to this parallel, Basil’s argument is foreshadowing how society will not approve of their marriage and therefore decimate it – as was what had happened to Dorian’s parents.
Following this quote, Henry rebuttals by saying that Dorian would be a “wonderful study” if Dorian were to take a wife and mistress, this suggests that Henry makes a spectacle of Dorian’s life as if Dorian is Henry’s personal object. Despite not caring that Dorian is getting married, Henry does hold value to Sybil’s life but only as a pawn in Dorian’s life, as Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl is the first major casualty of the devotion to sensual pleasure inspired by Lord Henry in Dorian. This is agreeable for Lord Henry because he believes that through this engagement Dorian will be making a spectacle of himself, thus contributing to hedonistic values and lifestyle. When Basil’s argument is countered by Henry who believes that Dorian would be “a wonderful study” if he were to marry and take a mistress, reflects how Wilde is making an argument for and against aestheticism with Basil being against and Henry being for. In other words, Basil is in support of the societal norms displayed in the Victorian Era whilst Lord Henry is in support of a more hedonistic lifestyle.
Valuing artistic beauty above all else allows Dorian to confuse his love for Sibyl’s acting with a love for Sibyl herself, thus making Dorian believe that it is “normal” to marry Sibyl; however, it is – in reality – art that Dorian loves, not Sibyl. This in itself is foolish because it was Lord Henry who influenced Dorian to sway from social expectations in the first place and it was Lord Henry who showed Dorian art. Once Dorian arrives, despite the influence Henry has exerted on him, he seems very pragmatic about adhering to social expectations, which in society’s eyes is seen as wise rather than foolish, with the latter being what Henry believes to be true. In addition, Dorian’s high regards on artistic beauty is a way for him to escape reality, and when Sibyl became the real Sibyl and not art, he lost all feelings of infatuation because he could no longer escape “into” her, thus leading to an apparent theme of art being an ideal that isn’t aligned with reality.
The ending of Dorian and Sibyl’s relationship acts as the catalyst and turning point in Dorian’s life. Dorian, who was seemingly innocent prior to Lord Henry’s influence, completely embraces a hedonistic lifestyle, thus proving Basil’s quotation to be true – he does not end up marrying “so much beneath him”. However, this is only as a result of Sibyl’s incompetent acting, therefore, diservicing art in Dorian’s (Lord Henry’s) eyes. Basil’s quote comes true; however, it was not as a result of Dorian and Sibyl’s differeing social stratifications but rather the result of Lord Henry’s influence on Dorian. Along with her death, Sibyl takes parts of Dorian’s beauty to the grave because his soul’s beauty diminishs for the first time in his life – as seen in the portrait. Dorian’s soul is burdened with guilt after Sibyl’s death, but only for a brief period before Lord Henry and the Yellow Book push Dorian to an unfortunate lifestyle in ferocious porportions.
Basil is the physical manifestation of the Victorian status quo which leads him to believe that Dorian will not marry “beneath him”. However, the aforementiond idea is a fallacy because it was Lord Henry and his hedonistic influence on Dorian that breaks off the two lovers’ engagement. Lord Henry, is the physical manifestation of Hedonism and the Aestheticism, which causes Dorian to fall more in love with “art” than the artist – Sybil.
4 thoughts on “Dorian Gray and Sibyl Vane: The Artistic Beauty of the Damned”
To start off, I’m so so so happy to be in your family group because you are such an inspiration to me! I constantly look up to you whether or stage managing or analyzing a passage. I really enjoyed reading your blog because it gave a lot of insight into the three principal characters(Basil, Henry, and Dorian) as well as Sybil Vane. I also appreciated how organized your analysis was as well as concise and specific.
My advice for improvement is to include more matter into your analysis because I felt like it was a little too mean heavy, plus I felt that it was a little bit plot heavy too. I understand that you took a more rhetoric take on your analysis but I think a little more matter would really add to your argument. For example, try to delve more into the factors that make up these characters(Basil: Victorian England, Henry: Aestheticism/Hedonism) plus speaking to the human condition.
However, I really loved this perspective you took on. Never stop writing, Vic, you’re brilliant!
Thank you for your kind words! It truly means a lot to me <3 Thank you for your feedback – I will take another look at the piece.
All the love,
My attention was immediately captured when you started off your analysis with a quote from Basil and further connected it to a parallel of Dorian and Sybil to Dorian’s parents, which later lead to your point of social structure during that time period. You were very informative and knew the content of the novel well. I was especially intrigued by the concepts of Aestheticism and Hedonism as well as the contrast of Basil and Lord Henry.
I felt a bit all over the place because there were various mentions of different instances from the novel that didn’t need to necessarily be in the analysis- as Liza mentioned, it was plot heavy. I think that you could’ve done your analysis in the same excellent way with less of the extra information, it would also be more straightforward in regards to your topic. Lastly, as informed as I was and understood the links displayed between Dorian and the other characters, I wasn’t able to fully get why you were explaining all of this in the first place- there’s always a deeper meaning, and maybe comparing it to today’s world would give it more insight or maybe finding it’s roots within human nature?
Other than that, I was thoroughly engaged the entire time reading this and actually understood much more of the book because of it. 🙂
Thank you for your suggestions! I will most definitely look more into comparing and contrasting Dorian, Basil, and Lord Henry to today’s world and rooting it more in human nature, therefore, the matter.
All the love,