Symbolism In Dorian Gray Essay

1205 words - 5 pages

Symbolism in The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, is a classic tale of good verses evil. The main character of the novel is Dorian Gray. At first, Dorian is a young, handsome, sweet, and gentle boy. He meets Basil Hallward, a painter, who becomes infatuated with him. Basil is the good, symbolically Christ-like figure in the story. He is in love with Dorian's beauty and good nature. It is Basil who makes the mistake of introducing Dorian to Lord Henry Wotton, the devil-like tempter.Wotton is a bit of a troublemaker. He wants to be an amoral member of society, but he has not the courage to do it himself. He sees in Dorian something similar to what Basil saw in Dorian and that is a canvas with which to work on. When Basil paints a wonderful picture of Dorian, Lord Henry decides that he will mold Dorian into someone who cares only about pleasure and beauty. He tells Dorian that, "Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!" (Wilde 28). Lord Henry is symbolic of evil or the devil. It is Lord Henry that puts the seed of vanity into Dorian. Lord Henry is the one who causes Dorian to only care about himself and to realize that although the painting of him would never age, he himself would. It is also, Lord Henry who trivializes Dorian's role in Sibyl's death. When Dorian first hears of Sibyl's death he feels responsible for it (at least indirectly). When Lord Henry gets through talking about the situation, Dorian begins to believe that he had nothing to do with it. Dorian becomes indifferent to his part. This is the beginning ofthe downfall of Dorian Gray. By this time, Basil realizes that once Dorian and Lord Henry start spending more and more time together the farther Dorian moves from him (like the closer one moves to the devil the farther one moves from God). The painting that Basil painted symbolizes Dorian's soul. When Basil painted it he said that he had put a lot of himself into it. Going back to Basil's Christ-like symbolism it would seem that, perhaps, Basil's creation of the painting would be like God's creation of Adam. So in a sense, Basil created Dorian's soul. In keeping with this train of thought, it would then be logical to assume that Lord Henry's temptation of Dorian would be symbolic of Satan's temptation of Eve. Sheldon Liebman statesthat, "The opposition between Basil and Henry has been seriously oversimplified by most critics, reduced as it usually is to a battle between ethics and aesthetics." (Liebman 2). That is a very true statement.If Basil is like Christ, then his murder would be like Christ's crucifixion. Basil does not want to believe all of the awful things that people say that Dorian has done. He tells Dorian that the only way that he would know the truth would be to see Dorian's soul Dorian replies that, "I shall show you my soul. You shall see the thing that you fancy only God can see." (Wilde 168). As someone who loves Dorian immensely, Basil does not want to...

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