Dorian Gray

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In Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, Lord Henry exercises great influence over Dorian. The very first interaction between the two characters marks the beginning of his grand impression on Dorian, who thenceforth hangs on Lord Henry’s every word. Lord Henry at times seems to relish this power over his protégé, greatly affecting his outlook on life, particularly his exaggerated emphasis on the importance of aesthetics and hedonistic morals. Lord Henry impacts Dorian particularly in the realms of the value of youth and beauty, the virtues of hedonism, and the superficial views of society.

In the Victorian era, the value of the aesthetic was already seen highly. However, Lord Henry places extreme emphases on the importance of beauty, and it is for this reason that he immediately is so drawn to Dorian Gray, whom he sees as being beautiful. In their first meeting in the novel in chapter two, when Lord Henry first begins to seduce Dorian’s mind with his superficial ideals, he says, “People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” (Wilde 17). In saying this, he opens the doors to new thoughts in Dorian’s head, telling him of the high worth of looks, with which he has been blessed, and inflating his ego. Lord Henry expresses his overall awe at pleasing aesthetics, and makes the paradoxical statement that “…only shallow people do not judge by appearances”. He puts such high value on appearance that he finds attractive people more intellectually stimulating than those who lack good looks. He also seems to be a believer in the distinctly Victorian idea that a person’s true personality is directly reflected in their appearance, for example, a person that appears ugly must have ugly morals to match. This concept is crucial to the premise of the...
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