The main character in Oscar Wilde
's Picture of Dorian Gray
Dorian Gray is described as an extremely handsome individual who’s innocence and good looks are the definition of his personality. Lord Henry Wotton’s thoughts of Dorian as he first lays eyes on him are described on page 19: “…he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world.”
On page 16 Basil begs Lord Henry not to see Dorian, and says: “He has a simple and beautiful nature.” Providing a perfect description of the way Dorian Gray was at the beginning of the novel.
Until Dorian meets Lord Henry, Dorian does not think much about anything, especially his own life and his good looks. Lord Henry convinces him that Dorian’s looks are his most important virtue and at the same time Lord Henry reminds him that his looks will disappear as he grows older. Dorian takes this conversation very seriously and becomes aware and extremely worried about the fact that his youth is not eternal.
One of the most important sentences in the entire novel is the one Dorian says when he sees the finished portrait Basil Hallward paints of him. “…I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June.... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that--for that--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” (pg. 31) By saying that Dorian sells his soul, much like Doctor Faust in Goethe’s famous play Faust. His wish later becomes real and the picture does, indeed, age instead of him.
After that day, Dorian’s character starts changing drastically, all because of his relationship with Lord Henry. He is fully changed on the night he tells Sybil Vane, an actress with whom he is in love, that his love for her died only due to her bad performance as Juliet at that night.
Chapter 11 reveals a series of incidents describing Dorian’s corruption, the death of his innocence and his new life as a pleasure seeker like Lord Henry. During that chapter, Dorian completely transforms himself into a different person and his personality changes. When Basil sees him, he cannot believe that it is the same Dorian he used to paint.
Dorian becomes fully corrupt when he murders Basil Hallward who was only trying to help him save himself. After that night Dorian kills all hope to be saved and chooses to continue the lifestyle he chose.
Although Dorian does not age and his sins are not apparent on his face (it is Oscar Wilde’s belief that the face of a person directly reflects his personality), they all exist on the face of the picture Basil Hallward painted. This makes Dorian aware of how terrible his life really is but does not allow others to know any of his secrets.
At the very end of the novel, Dorian Gray realizes how wrong he was by following the path Lord Henry set for him. On page 200 he says to Lord Henry: “Harry, I have done too many dreadful things in my life. I am not going to do any more.” Dorian tries to change his lifestyle but it is too late after all the terrible deeds he has done. His attempts at reforming only made the picture more hideous due to the fact that his only motive for doing them was to cure his soul.
At the end Dorian decides to kill his sins and his past by destroying the picture, but by doing so he kills himself instead. He is found dead by the portrait, described by the last sentence in the novel (page 213) “When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.”
(the page numbers are those of the Penguin Books edition of year 2000)