"The Color Of Innocence" About "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" By Oscar Wilde. Examines The Color White Motif In The Novel And The Way It's Meaning Evolves.

1324 words - 5 pages

The Color of InnocenceIn the context of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," one of the most noticeable and important motifs is that of the color white and its variants, including, but not limited to, pale and listless. The meaning of this color evolves as the novel progresses, changing in relation to Dorian's character. While the motif may never physically alter in appearance, it succeeds in reversing meaning completely, signifying the great contrast in Dorian's soul between the beginning of the novel and the end.In the very beginning of the novel, as Basil speaks of his first encounter with Mr. Gray, he notes that when their "eyes met, I [Basil] felt that I was growing pale" (9). The motif comes to signify a sort of timid transparency; as if Dorian's purity softens everything around he comes into contact with. Similarly, Lord Henry employs the motif when describing Dorian's youth, labeling it as his "rose-white boyhood" (21). Shortly after, Dorian is described as possessing "the white purity of boyhood" (37). In both of these passages, the motif represents its most basic connotation, that of innocence, particularly, the innocence of youth. White gives Dorian's appearance a sense of vivacity. Lord Henry describes Dorian's soul as having "turned to this white girl [Sibyl Vane] and bowed in worship before her" (57). The motif denotes a youthful purity or vitality in Sibyl Vane's soul, most likely one that is shared by Dorian Gray. Her innocence soon grows to incorporate innocent affection for Dorian, as after kissing him, "She trembled all over, and shook like a white narcissus" (74). The motif has not reversed its meaning at this point; rather, it incorporates a virtue similar to youth and innocence, that of love. Furthermore, as Sibyl Vane performs onstage, Dorian tells how "Her hair clustered round her face like dark leaves around a pale rose" (74). The complexion in Sibyl's face suggests a pure exquisiteness that embodies everything desirable to Dorian. He has employed the motif in describing Sibyl's youth, innocence, passion, and beauty, all of which seems to mirror Dorian's face and soul, as is evident in Basil's description of him. The motif's meaning has reached the climax of goodness here, signifying qualities Oscar Wilde holds in highest esteem. However, it does not occupy this position for long, as the ensuing events begin an extensive bastardization of the color's significance.As Sibyl Vane performs as Juliet in front of Basil and Lord Henry, "The curves of her throat were the curves of a white lily...yet she was curiously listless" (81). In this performance Sibyl retains her physical beauty, yet her vitality has escaped her. In a single sentence the motif revolves to a negative connotation, coming to suggest a vapid emptiness where there had previously been such fervent life. Sibyl, whose apparent perfection and talent once embodied the motif, has become to Dorian "A third-rate actress with a pretty face" (85). Her disappointing showing, an...

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