Influence & Detachment in the Picture of Dorian Gray

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In Oscar Wilde’s only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, many influences are at play throughout the book. The relationships between the characters are all about the influence they have on each other’s life. However, out of them all, one of the characters stands out as a more detached figure who has mastered the art of influencing without being influenced by others himself: Lord Henry Wotton. To study the different forms of influences in the book, we shall first focus on the link between art and influence before turning to the study of the influence of Lord Henry and Basil on Dorian, to finally discuss the effect of all the influences on Dorian and debate over whether Dorian can be considered as an evil character at the end of the book.

The first character who embodies the link between art and influence is Sybil. From the start, Sybil is a character that is only depicted through her art. She is an actress and all her life is devoted to acting to the point that the frontier between her life and her act is not always very clear to her and to the reader. She even makes her story with Dorian sounds like a fairy tale depicting him as a prince, “Prince Charming”, coming to rescue them from Mr. Isaacs to whom they owe money: “We don’t want him any more, Mother. Prince Charming rules life for us now.” Just like Dorian, Sybil is a sort of creation which accounts for her suggestibility. She is what her mother and Mr. Isaacs made her. Her mother does not want her to “think of anything but [her] acting” and because she ignores everything about real life, she lives the roles she plays as real life which is precisely what makes her such a great actress. And it is her talent as an actress that arouses Dorian’s interest. Yet, by enabling Sybil to discover the vanity of acting through her discovery of real love, Dorian ruins Sybil’s talent. And by ruining her talent he ruins his interest in her which leads him to despise her and leave her.

Clearly, Dorian’s influence on...
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