Set in the late 19th Century, Oscar Wilde wrote his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is a story about debauchery and corruption of innocence and well known as a "Gothic melodrama." Violent twists and a sneaky plot make this novel a distinct reflection of human pride and corrupt nature.
Before we examine the quality of the error that Dorian Gray commits, we should first examine his friends and their relation to him because Dorian falls into this error with a little help from his friends.
1. The relationship between Dorian Gray and Basil Hallward
Though Wilde wrote in the preface to this book that " To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim", we can still trace the shadow of the author himself in all of the three major characters.
Basil Hallward, the artist who had painted the picture of Dorian Gray, probably has a homosexual attachment to the young Dorian. And as a homosexual himself (or to be exact, bisexual, because he also loved his wife and two sons), Wilde here might be commenting on the enforced secret homosexuals' lives in the late nineteenth century.
Seemingly striving after impersonality and aesthetic perfection in his work, Basil feels the greatest anxiety of having put "too much of himself" into his picture of Dorian (Chapter 1, page 20) that he can't exhibit it. To display his work of art in public would, in a sense, amount to exposure of Basil's attraction to Dorian Gray. This is one reason, and another reason is that he may fear that more people will see and get attracted by Dorian Gray. He admits to Lord Henry that "he is much more to me(Basil) than a model or a sitter."In his deep consciousness, he is quite possessive and self-contemptuous. He refused to introduce Dorian Gray to Lord Henry because on one hand, he knew the latter influence "would be bad" (Chapter 1, page 31), but on the other hand, he is quite aware of his plainness in appearance and not as attractive as Lord Henry in personality. He fears that Dorian would get fanatic with Lord Henry and leave him.
Basil struggles hard to maintain his intimate relationship with Dorian Gray all his life. He claims he loves Dorian's "spirit" but in fact that spirit is visually symbolized by his body. If he really cherishes that purity, he won't "flatter him(Dorian Gray) dreadfully" and "find a strange pleasure in saying things to him that I (Basil) know I shall be sorry for having said"(Chapter 1, page 29). Actually, his obsession and idolatry prepare Dorian to appreciate his extreme beauty and is trying every means to please Dorian. And after the death of Sibyl Vane, Basil has seen the corruption of Dorian's soul, he should help Dorian, but on the contrast, he felt "strangely moved", "he could not bear the idea of reproaching him any more", "there was so much in him (Dorian Gray) that was good, so much in him that was noble." (Chapter 9, page 124). How can one who is indifferent to his fiancée's death be good and noble? Basil should...