The Picture of Dorian Gray is a wonderful story that provides insight on the effect that sin has on the soul. In the beginning of the story Dorian is a kind hearted man, but by the end he becomes a cold blooded murderer who thinks only about himself. The ending is also very interesting in the sense that although Oscar Wilde escaped suspicion, revenge from James and those who could put his pursuit of pleasure in jeopardy, Dorian could not escape himself.
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This is the theme that really stuck with me. Dorian pursued pleasure with complete disregard for his soul or his conscience and in the end it led to his lack of pleasure and death. Dorian Gray originally is a noble character that genuinely cares about others. We see this in his good nature and love for Sybil the actress. Unfortunately Lord Henry’s philosophy on life corrupts Dorian. Lord Henry states that pleasure is the only thing worth living for and that “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. ” While these things that are said are immoral and ethically wrong, Basil hints that Lord Henry is not as a bad as Lord Henry makes himself out to be. Unfortunately Dorian does not see this and his pursuit of pleasure leads to his demise. Basil’s painting represents Dorian’s soul. The painting starts out beautiful and depicts Dorian’s good heart and other-centric personality.
However, when Dorian abandons Sybil for selfish reasons the painting begins to lose it beauty and becomes corrupted as Dorian’s soul does. Dorian disappears for years and comes back from years in the pursuit of pleasure. Oscar Wilde does not tell us individual sins that Dorian has committed and in doing this he allows the reader to fill this void with their own ideas of what are the worst horrors and sins. Edgar Alan Poe also did this in his story Hop Frog. By not specifying the sins, the audience doesn’t have the opportunity to question the ethical decision of the character.
Rather this strategic silence allows the author to move on with the story while still impacting the reader in the way he wants. In Hop Frog and Dorian Gray, the author’s vague description of wrong doing enables the reader to presume the worst from the antagonists and justify the antagonist’s grisly end. After Dorian murder’s Basil, Dorian begins to feel guilty and he swears he will start a new and wholesome life. Despite his efforts and his fortunate luck (James who was going to kill him died is a bizarre accident) Dorian cannot escape himself.
The portrait of himself will always remind him of what he truly is inside. No matter what he does Dorian cannot escape the past or his wrong doings. This situation applies to most readers, as most people have gotten away with a sin. Although no one else knows about the wrong doing, the individual cannot escape the guilt or memory of what they have done. This is what happens to Dorian and the only way to escape his guilt is through suicide (unintentional). The Picture of Dorian Gray provides many good moral lessons that should be observed by anyone who reads the book.
Morals that come to mind are “Beware your sin will find you out,” and selfishness will only bring you pain. Dorian Gray tried to find individual pleasure, but pleasures are not found in the individual. Rather pleasure is found in love, God and friendship, something that can only be found in others. Due to Dorian’s egocentric lifestyle, he never found pleasure and sacrificed his soul in his pursuit of happiness. While Dorian escaped the wrath of others, Dorian couldn’t escape himself or his past which resulted in his death as a lonely and unhappy man.