Note: this is not a critical essay (I’ve used ‘I’s and ‘I think’, and my lack of 2 out of 5 paragraphs), but rather me trying to better understand the psychology of the author through the story that he had created. Of course I can always add more and make it a proper polished critical essay. However if I may request something of the reader who wishes to comment it is this: I’d like for you to tell me how I did on that ‘matter’ section of things, ‘significance of it all’, because that is something I find that we all struggle with the most is explaining the human condition and which aspects of it writers are explaining and developing in their literary works. And feel free to point out any and every mistake I’ve made.
Dorian Gray had started out as a rather innocent and a naive character, who became the subject of every other person’s admiration and ideologies, but himself. Being a man of little to no ambition or interest, it is easy to see why and how Dorian was enslaved the way he was by those around him. He became a canvas on which others painted their wishes and desires on that they themselves could not live with because they were either too old, or hypocrites that would not dare live the way they spoke. However what had bothered me most in the book was Dorian’s inability to redeem himself; and I understand the purpose of Wilde choosing not to have a redemption arc with this character; it would be too easy and many other authors have incorporated redemption arcs in their stories; the concept that good over triumphs over evil is the basis of all human entertainment to general audiences. Instead of having Dorian chose to walk the path of righteousness, Oscar Wilde had created a fork in the road for this character; while he had dangled the concept and the possibility for a fully realized Dorian like a lure he had snatched it away quickly, and the only option for character development left for Dorian Gray would be that of those who belong in tragedy.
Oscar Wilde characterized the teachings of the two main influences of Dorian according to two senses; Basil was willing to teach Dorian how to see through darkness, while Lord Henry had taught Dorian to touch and feel his way though. In Basil’s method of influence on Dorian, the artist had attempted to teach Dorian to see with his mind’s eye and develop wisdom so that he may develop into a man of character and strong moral, leading the life of a gentleman; which would have changed the outcome of the story as Dorian would have developed into a much more empathetic individual who would have sought to become more than a pleasure seeker. Under Henry’s influence, he had taught Dorian how to forsake his morals and live in moments in life, to enjoy every sensation and touch and think not about the consequences of his actions of the lives of the people he has rolled over, he had taught Dorian to seek momentary pleasure over everlasting happiness. Lord Henry had held Dorian’s head offer his own reflecting pool, and while the boy was captivated in his own image he had not realized that he was about to be drowned. It is precisely Dorian’s lack of an independent personality for the majority of the novel is what had led lord henry to develop his personality for him, because innocence at times can be taken for ignorance, and an individual’s naivety is an excellent weakness to corrupt them on.
And I would argue that this is exactly why Dorian become a sort of monster by the end of the story; a lack of wisdom and foresight that all mature characters possess. Dorian was set up as a character that could have achieved much greatness in his life for he had a charm that followed him everywhere that would simply provide him with the opportunity, but with an opportunity to succeed comes always an opportunity to fail; and Dorian had fallen in the latter category. This is a recurring cycle in literature when it comes to powerful or central character that is innocent, they become conduits for perpetrators who seek to secure their own ambitions and do not see the extent of their second-hand damage until all is lost and a knife has been placed in their back. Dorian Gray wore his innocence like strings, and his apparent ignorance that he could not pick them up only led for the wrong person to pick them up for him and control him, but no one sees the puppeteer, only the subject of their manipulation. It is the innocence of a character, especially of one who is either very, or not at all ambitious that becomes the most corrupt and immoral to the end, if not protected. Their lack of foresight and wisdom guide them down a path that essentially inhibits better judgement; allowing them to fully embrace immoral ideals to the highest extent allowing for a full and total corruption of their very bring to occur; in Dorian’s case it was the portrait devolving into a more hideous and grotesque form of himself. This idea would serve to illustrate why exactly Oscar Wilde chose to develop Dorian as a tragic character rather than a character who would undergo a positive metamorphosis; to show the audience that at sometimes there is no room for redemption, even if the mind has seen its mistakes seeks rectification the soul can never be erased of them, and that innocence when taken too far is dangerous, because it may be used as a tool for one’s own self destruction.