Analysis of the Women in the Picture of Dorian Gray

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Sibyl falls head over heels in love with Dorian Gray, willing to commit her life to him after only two weeks. Lady Henry hardly knows her husband, to whom she has been married for some time. Because neither woman is in a stable and comfortable situation, both eventually take drastic measures to move on. Therefore, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, both Sibyl Vane and Lady Henry are weak, flighty, and naive.

The weakness of women is found in various forms throughout the text. Henry refers to women as "a decorative sex" and that "they never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly." (Wilde 43) Nowhere is this better supported than during Lady Henry's conversation with Dorian Gray. Speaking blatantly about nothing in particular, the young woman rambles from her husband's views to parties and flowers. Without even so much as a pause to breathe, the young woman continues to talk down herself, probably not consciously, explaining that though she loves music, she is afraid of how it makes her feel, as if it is a crime to enjoy and feel passion for the arts. She then stumbles into admitting her love for the musicians themselves, leading to question how much she actually enjoys music. It is as if she meets or learns of a stunning new artist and then chooses her fascination with the sound. Following her rant on musicians, Lady Henry finds herself on the topic of foreigners. She uses this opportunity to point out that her husband's guest has not attended any of her parties.

It is during this conversation with Dorian, that Lady Henry's character is completely revealed. She admits to Dorian that she "always hear[s] Harry's views from his friends." (42) Not only does Lady Henry act as a naive wife, but also a submissive one. She tells Dorian how much she worships pianists, "sometimes two at a time, Harry tells me." (42) Therefore, the woman has now admitted that she can not think for herself. It does not appear to disturb her, though, that she lacks knowledge of her husband's views and does not have a mind of her own.

Lady Henry, unfathomly dull and stupid, later files for divorce from her husband, putting her family in a scandalous situation. A smarter woman would not have risked so much to leave her only means of support. In addition, a scandal in Victorian times meant that Lady Henry would have lost all her friends and perhaps her family as well.

Lady Henry is not the only shallow character in the text. Dorian Gray falls in love with a young girl named Sibyl Vane, who he describes as being "hardly seventeen years of age, with a little flower-like face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark brown hair, [and] eyes that were violet wells of passion." (46) He does not continue on to describe her personality, just more about her features, her voice, and her acting. He gets to a point at the end of his description where he proclaims, "She is everything to me in life." (47) Everything to Dorian must have been nothing because Sibyl plays her role well. Whatever it may be that has caused her to be flighty and naive, be it poverty, immaturity, or ignorance, that was who she was.

Young Sibyl in her innocent passion, believes that Dorian "look[s] more like a prince." (49) Rather than call him by his real name, she declares, "I must call you Prince Charming." (49) She based this characterization on his looks, not on his being prince-like. There is no mention of him sweeping her off of her feet and rescuing her from her horrid life, until after she dubs this name upon him. Prince Charming was supposed to have been the fairy tale character who rescues princesses. Sibyl likens herself to a princess in need of the services of a young prince. Therefore, she lives the life of a child, uneducated and not too bright.

The young girl speaks of Dorian to her family like he is her savior with whom she has fallen madly in love. She is not even fazed when her mother asks her "What do you even know of this...
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