Sibyl Vane plays a symbolic role in The Picture of Dorian Gray; moreover, she plays a symbolic role in Dorian Gray’s life. This essay will explore how Sybil’s character initially influences Dorian in a positive way, giving him the motive to turn away from decadence but subsequently brings about his downfall. Recurring themes will be discussed such as the aesthetic and references will be given to show examples of Sybil’s symbolic role in his life. A summary will follow, giving a brief synopsis concluding the essays arguments.
Wilde describes the younger Dorian Gray as a stunningly handsome young man, pure inside, untouched by corrupt influences and unaware of his own beauty. Dorian comes from a privileged background. He is hugely influenced by Lord Henry and by a book that Henry gives him. He views a self-portrait, which his friend Basil has painted, Dorian becomes acutely aware of his own transient youth and beauty. He wishes he could swap places with the picture; determining to lead a life of decadence, embracing all the excesses of life, moral or immoral.
Sybil Vane is exquisitely beautiful, young and innocent and comes from a working class family. A talented actress in one of the lesser known theatres in London; she falls in love with Dorian. In describing her to Lord Henry, Dorian says ‘imagine a girl, hardly seventeen years of age, with a little flower-like face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion, lips that were like the petals of a rose. She was the loveliest things I had ever seen in my life’. ( p.45)
Sybil’s youth, beauty and innocence enchant Dorian and is the catalyst which alters and transforms him from an amoral to a devoted character. Initially he is influenced by Lord Henry into leading a life of decadence but on meeting Sybil he sees this new relationship as a lifeline into living a...