Pleasure Found Within Allusion

Through the rhetorical device of allusion in the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde demonstrates the extent of which Dorian Gray’s value of pleasure overpowers his sense of reality as well as the inevitable consequences that ensue from it. The tale of Narcissus is a notable allusion that is referred to numerous times in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and will be the central topic of this analysis.

A main theme that is expressed in the book is narcissism, Dorian Gray is so enamored by his own appearance that he cannot properly experience the world around him. At the beginning of the novel, Dorian is a white narcissus, in a sense that he is exquisite and untainted, but is unaware of the power his beauty holds. Later on in the novel there is an actual mention of a white narcissus, “She trembled all over and shook like a white narcissus.” (Wilde Chapter 6), where Dorian describes his lover Sibyl; and although he is no longer that stainless flower, Sibyl represents innocence and purity which pertain to the connotations associated with the colour white. The first mention and foreshadowing of Dorian’s development into a vain character is when Lord Henry speaks his opinion on him to Basil Hallward,  “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 Greek Mythology, Narcissus becomes so captivated with the reflection of himself 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). There are many parallels between the two characters as they are both pleasure seekers that are too self absorbed to love anyone else but themselves, are young and handsome, and have both dismissed the people that cared for them. It can also be inferred that Echo, a nymph who was rejected by Narcissus and later died of grief (because of her immense love for him), is very much alike to Sibyl, who takes her own life when Dorian breaks her heart by saying he no longer wants to see her, alongside other hurtful words. Ultimately, the cause of the downfall for Dorian and Narcissus is due to themselves. There are different versions explaining how Narcissus ended up dying, but it is commonly known that a flower that bears the same name as him had bloomed at the spot where he had died. Dorian, on the other hand, dies because he attempts to stab his portrait in hopes of getting away with destroying the evidence of his sins that persisted to haunt him. The narcissus flower and the portrait of Dorian are symbols that represent their immortal, unchanging, and unrealistic beauty.

When true love fails to overcome what is foreseen in the beginning, likewise to Narcissus, Dorian is unable to snap back into actuality, and solely seeks satisfaction within the pleasure his appearance gives off. Their misguided love and will to live is based around self-indulgence (hedonism), alongside that, their attributes of excessive pride and self-worship lead to their demise- loving too much of anything seems to not only result in tragedy (shown through Sibyl and Echo as well), but also result in turning a blind eye to what truth and reality have to offer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 thoughts on “Pleasure Found Within Allusion

  1. Dearest Faith,

    First off, I would like to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my family group. Your insights are so unique and thorough;in addition, you always keep me on check in class when I start to not make sense-haha. I loved hearing this analysis coming from you because I know that you really loved working on allusions during out rhetoric analysis essay, so seeing this with a bit more detail is amazing! I find your style of writing really coherent and easy to read because you have amazing diction and clarity when analyzing. As someone who struggles with clarity, I’m really humbled by your ability to be so concise with your analysis.

    Something that you can consider for improvement is to not be afraid to go outside the box a bit. What I mean by that is to sometimes go outside your comfort zone when it comes to blogs like these, so you’re able to deliver a perspective on The Picture of Dorian Gray(or the novel topic at the time) that inspires you personally. Another thing I would suggest is to try to give more examples when speaking of reality v.s. appearance. For example, you mentioned at the end how Dorian, likewise to Narcissus, turns a blind eye to what reality and truth have to offer, my suggestion is to introduce that counter aspect that you brought forward. Explain what reality and truth had to offer to Dorian and/or Narcissus because it’s important to exemplify all parts of characters and their motivations, also it gives your analysis more depth.

    Otherwise, I incredibly enjoyed reading your blog and I absolutely adore having you in my family group. Never stop writing, Faith, you’re brilliant!



    1. Dear Liza,

      I’m so grateful and blessed to be in your family group too! In these past two months, I have already learned an abundance of knowledge just by being around and communicating with you. 🙂

      I have taken note of all the things you mentioned so I can further improve my writing, as well as realize what my writing style is composed of. You were ON POINT when you mentioned my comfort zone because I almost never add in my own personal say or outlook when writing (at least I think that’s what you meant by taking on a perspective), so thank you for that advice- I never really thought of it that much until now!


  2. Dearest Faith,

    Having you in my family group has been a true blessing. You offer a fresh look at everything that we analyze and you are always encouraging us to do our best. Thank you for that. <3

    I appreciate how you decided to write on allusions because I know that it was something that you truly enjoyed analyzing during our rhetorical analysis. I especially admire this because it is representative of who you are – you see something that you enjoy and you just want to keep on doing it: this is a gift because more often than not, a lot of people would've gotten bored of analyzing the same topic.

    In particular, I like how throughout this piece you wove in certain diploma themes such as appearances vs. reality or innocence and purity. Throughout this piece you were able to effectively communicate your ideas through your analysis, which is nice to see because sometimes in class you're scared to share your ideas! I just want you to know that everything you have shared in class is excellent and even if you don't see that Liza and I do!

    In terms of improvement, I would offer that you split your second paragraph up because it is reading like a "big wall of words". Like Liza, I would also say that this piece needs a bit more "oomph" in terms of matter.

    Besides the fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Never stop writing!

    All the love,


    1. Dear Vic,

      You’ve played a huge part in getting me to be active regarding the class, and I’m grateful to have obtained your wonderful support and insight when I needed it the most. I’ve always struggled with matter, but your advice alongside Liza’s has pushed me to explore my writing more and ask questions if I am feeling lost. Thank you so much for the encouragement!


  3. Faith,
    I remember you mentioning in your presentation that you feel as if you don’t believe that you belong in this class. However, after reading this I have to say that I have absolutely no idea where you got that idea because this is an absolutely brilliant analysis, and I’m sure you have much more to offer. It’s honestly a shame that you joined our class only for grade twelve, I would have loved to see your thoughts on books we’ve done in the past such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Frankenstein.
    Like I said earlier, this analysis of yours is incredibly well done. It is quite difficult for even the best of writers to explain the plotline of something such as a novel or myth while analyzing it at the same time, as often times they end up focusing more on retell than actually presenting their thoughts on the meaning behind the text. However, you managed to perfectly weave your analysis of Dorian and Narcissus with the retell of the myths, and I must say that I’m highly impressed by that.
    Your syntax and word choice were absolutely impeccable. I couldn’t find any grammatical errors within your piece, which shows that you must have put a lot of time and effort into writing this. Though it might seem like a small thing for me to point out, I was genuinely impressed that you managed to properly reference lines from the book, as that is something that many students in our grade, and even our AP class that can’t properly reference quotes from books. Although I know this is a tiny detail for me to mention, I think that it shows how diligent and intelligent you are as a writer.
    In order to make this piece of yours even better, I would offer that you expand a little on your introductory and conclusion paragraphs. They felt incredibly short in comparison to your body paragraph, so I would say that in order to balance that out, that you add more substance to your introduction and conclusion. Otherwise, there isn’t much else to critique with this piece, and I’m genuinely impressed with what you have to say.
    I look forward to reading more of your writing!
    – Genevieve

    1. Dear Genevive,

      I am sorry for only replying to your comment just now, but I cannot express how much I appreciate this comment! You are so kind in your feedback, and I feel humbled and blessed to have a classmate like you. My writing (as well as my self-confidence) has grown thanks to people like you and I am extremely grateful that you took the time to write this. ILAG<3


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *