According to the nurture theory of the evolution of human behavior, when a child is first brought into the world it has no basis or idea of how to perceive things. The child is pure and innocent. It is naive to its surroundings, depending on the guidance of those around it to show it the way. When a child is born, most are accompanied by loving nurses, doctors, and parents. The moment this child encounters these other beings, the influences upon the individual begins. Their parents and peers influence their personas and ultimately who they become. They instill in them the values and morals necessary to survive in society. They teach them self-control, cleanliness, repression of anger and respect for elders and property. It is these morals and values which society has come to accept as standards. However, if a person is taught morals and values that stray from these standards they are considered to be corrupt. Society has developed methods of alleviating this unwanted behavior. In the tamest cases, people are ostracized and shun in society due to their lack of conformity to societies principles. Others endure strict penalties such as paying fines or jail time. But in extreme cases the penalty is death. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde uses the influence of Lord Henry Wotton as well as the portrait of Dorian Gray to represent this corruption and its consequences.
Wilde emphasizes Dorian’s beauty and youth in order to signify his innocent nature. Dorian is described as handsome, good looking, and beautiful throughout the novel. Lord Henry even calls Dorian an Adonis (in Greek mythology a youth who fell in love with his own image reflected in water), when he first views his portrait. Along with these youthful good looks comes the assumption that he is incapable of wronging others, also known as the halo-effect. This is revealed by Wilde, who sates that Dorian possesses “something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candor of youth was there, as well as youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted form the world.”(11-12; ch. 2).
This purity and innocence allows the audience to perceive Dorian as a “blank slate” or a “human canvas”. Although he is in fact in his late twenties, he is still portrayed as naïve and innocent. He is said to have a “simple and beautiful nature”(10; ch. 1), a comment that would be used today to describe a young child. The “human canvas” motif is first portrayed to the audience through Basil Hallward, an artist who becomes infatuated with Dorian. Basil remarks “He is all art to me now” and “Dorian Gray is to me simply a motive in art”(7-8; ch 1), suggesting that Dorian should be seen as a work of art. Lord Henry also remarks he “looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves”. These statements further the notion that Dorian is open for an artist’s impressions, a position assumed by Lord Henry Wotton.
Lord Henry’s presence around Dorian is in...