The Picture of Dorian Gray
The impressionable young Dorian proves to be as interesting a thing to analyze in his youthful nature as any other social bemusement for Lord Henry. He begins to offer advice and sharing his hedonistic ideals with the lad along with a lesson on realizing thy self’s interests, “To be good is to be in harmony with one's self…Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One's own life—that is the important thing.” (Wilde 88). As Gray looks to this as his chance to embrace life more than anything else, even in the face of love, he adopts it as a standard to live by. Lord Henry convinces him that the true path to happiness is being true to what is his own souls’ desire. This puts it in Dorian Gray’s fragile heart that it is more important to attend to his aspirations and reputation than even Sibyl Vanes’ needs, who he believes he holds endearingly; though it is the art he sees her portray that is so relative to his love. Through Wilde’s representation of simple moralistic people and those who lack judgment through their ignorance like Henry, it is apparent that Dorian is being pushed off the path of his own righteousness and identity.
Another application of Henry’s influence over Dorian’s search for his happiness and identity is his connection of the body’s feelings to the state of the soul. As Dorian travels to the opium dens in search of a way of forgetting his sins and atoning his soul he recollects, “To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul!" How the words rang in his ears! His soul, certainly, was sick to death… but though forgiveness was impossible, forgetfulness was possible still” (Wilde 210). This depression setting in is only the result of years spent trying to live happily by excusing his evil and now feeling repercussions by the reproached nature of his dying ugly soul. The author shows that no matter how happy Dorian Gray believed he was in satisfying his physical human desires, his soul is truly connected still and therefore it will suffer duly in that light. In this sense Wilde also reflects the views on his center belief in the, “highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self” (Wilde 22). Dorian is a counter example of the same ideal he believes he is living out.
Dorian Gray portrays the failed attempt of a man developing from within because he operates at the whims of his outer wants, starting with destroying sibyl and continuing through his life. As his sense of morality seems to degrade and yet produce no remorse to his love of his own beauty, he has a false sense of satisfaction. Dorian not only proves to, at will, provoke every desire in his body, but also be a slave to those same desires. “There are moments, psychologists tell us, when the passion for sin, or what the world calls sin, so dominates a nature that every fibre of the body, every cell of the brain, seems to be instinct with fearful impulses… Men and women at such moments lose the freedom of their will…Choice is taken from them” (174). Dorian is at the same will of the passion for sin, but unknowingly without a choice to turn from it. Oscar Wilde uses these insights thoroughly in the book to reflect how hedonistic ideals meant to give freedom to the individual rather take the chance of discovery of one self. This discovery occurs through love and discretion through ones morals, both of which Dorian confuses with his passion for beauty and art. As Dorian states to Sibyl when he becomes discontent with love for just her, rather than her artistic acting form, “How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art! Without your art you are nothing!” (Wilde 98). Wilde shows so clearly in Dorian’s naïve confusion of love and art that he misses what truly matters in humanity, the value of developing an identity through real love and being true to one self.
As Dorian Gray grows accustomed to his own sinful nature, it is evident that he grows further from the true nature of his soul by depleting his sense of humanity. If a man does not take up the task of being individual he will not realize fully, and from within, his own identity. Oscar Wilde show’s us this moral through Dorian’s hedonistic nature and lack of control from the point he gives up the one thing that could have turned him back to love and his true youth. Youth, as a worshipped art, prevents the most important discovery of the individual. Rather, as Oscar Wilde stated, "all art is quite useless".