Dorian Gray is the beautiful object of two men’s attentions. He dominates the imagination of Basil Hallward and he is dominated in turn by the imagination of Lord Henry. He becomes the embodiment of Lord Henry’s ideas of the aesthetic life. When he is under the influence of Basil Hallward at the beginning of the novel, he falls in love with Sibyl Vane and is willing to sacrifice all social standing for her. He falls in love with the artfulness of her acting. When he tells Basil Hallward and Lord Henry of his passion, the two older men are alarmed, but Basil Hallward begins to think it is a good thing for Dorian Gray to devote himself to love. Instead, when his love loses her acting ability because of love, he rejects her cruelly and she commits suicide. It is in his reaction to her death that the reader recognizes the direction Dorian Gray will take, which of his two mentors he will follow. He follows Lord Henry’s amoral aestheticism, recasting the tragedy of her death as a beautiful work of art in life and therefore finding self-gratifying pleasure in her suicide. From that moment onwards, his course is set. Dorian Gray isn’t a well-rounded character. Like Basil Hallward and Lord Henry, he is a type. He represents an idea, the idea of art in life. Once he makes his prayer that he change places with his portrait, to live life without aging while the portrait bears the marks of age, he follows a fairly unwavering course. He goes from lover to lover, male and female, and ruins the reputation of each in turn. He has no allegiance to anyone he knows. He pursues pleasure dispassionately. He cares nothing for the morality of conventional society. He cares nothing for their censure of him. He is sure he will always be accepted in enough places to satisfy him. For Dorian Gray, sin is ugliness and therefore sin is horrible. He holds a morbid fascination with the portrait which grows older and uglier with each sin Dorian commits. He doesn’t have a developed...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document