Monday, April 18, 2016

Clare's Take on Dorian Grey

(Every once in a while, I copy and paste something from Clare's locked blog. I'm especially proud of her notice of the lack of conversation between Dorian and his grandfather during his formative years.)

Dorian Grey

Mum said I post too many H.P. things, so she suggested I publish this essay I wrote about Dorian Grey.

I have just finished The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde for literature, and throughout the whole book, one thing seemed to strike me as a recurring theme: Dorian Grey's absurdly weak will
coupled with his insatiable curiosity—and why that's a dangerous combination. Every time he makes a plan to do something good, he allows himself to be talked out of it.

The story starts out with Dorian Grey as a rich young man, ready to go out into the world and be a philanthropist. At the art studio of his friend Basil Halward, he meets Lord Henry, a middle aged
man with a very immoral view of the world, telling Dorian things like, 'Conscience is just a polite word  for cowardice. No civilized man regrets a pleasure.' Dorian was raised by his reclusive grandfather and never had anyone to talk to deeply about such issues. Therefore, Lord Henry was the first person he had ever met who explored the three-dimensional meanings of religion and art, and the curious young Dorian snapped up his ideas greedily.

There is a life-size portrait of Dorian Grey at his english manor, and as the young man slowly sinks into an evil life (encouraged by the ever-present Lord Henry), he suddenly notices that, while his
body stays young and his visage pure, the painting grows old and become a mirror of his wretched
soul. He is horrified by this realization and resolves to change and marry Sybil Vance, the girl he loves. But right after he privately pledges this to himself, Lord Henry shows up. He tells Dorian that Sybil is dead and that marriage is 'just a habit, and a bad one at that.' Without giving Henry's words any thought, Dorian agrees with him and keeps following his way of life, like a little puppy that can't fend for itself without its master. This a good example of his weak will.

This happens over and over again, until Dorian is known all over London as a bad, immoral man. The last straw is when, for heinous reasons, he murders the only good person who ever really loved him. After that he becomes completely unhinged, and any scrap of goodness left in him is obliterated. He blackmails a chemist to help him destroy the body, he lies about regular matters that don't even call for lying, and he continues to visit the corrupting Lord Henry. In the end, he stabs the portrait in an attempt to destroy the last bit of evidence of the murder. But in doing so, he ends up killing himself because he and the painting are one.

Dorian Grey's story loosely reminded me of Pinocchio's. The little wooden boy also had a weak
will and kept letting Honest John and other questionable characters lead him astray. And although he doesn't actually appear in the story (he is just discussed), I think that Dorian's grandfather also played a big part in his grandson's corruption, as I briefly touched upon earlier. Maybe if he had spent more time with Dorian when he was younger and taught him the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, etc., he may have been able to put his foot down and tune out Lord Henry's blasphemy.

This is a famous depiction of The Portrait from a museum