Dorian Gray Essay, Research Paper
The influence of evil can take over a whole community. Not only can it take over a whole
community, it can also take over the soul. In the short novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray,
by Oscar Wilde, a young, attractive man named Dorian Gray is influenced to seek pleasure
in beautiful things. His main influence is Lord Henry, a friend of Dorian, who teaches him
hedonistic beliefs, the belief that only pleasure is the sole good in life. However, these
beliefs make Dorian more intrigued by evil and therefore he commits serious sins, such as
murder. Although Dorian Gray is directly responsible only for the death of Basil Hallward,
a talented artist, he is morally responsible for several others. In addition to killing Basil,
Dorian is also responsible for the death of Sybil Vane, a young actress, and the death of
his own soul.
The one man that Dorian directly murders is Basil Hallward. Basil is introduced to
the fascinating, yet handsome Dorian Gray at a party held at Lady Brandon s, a friend to
both Basil and Dorian. After they meet, they quickly become friends. Basil, the wonderful
artist he is, begins to take pleasure in painting marvelous portraits of his new friend. In one
of his best paintings, Basil captures the true beauty of Dorian Gray and gives it to him as
a gift. As the years pass, many things begin to change. Dorian and Basil s friendship begin
to grow apart. The reason for their fading friendship is mostly due to the change in
Dorian. Rumors have been spread about Dorian s behavior, so to discover the reason for
Dorian s change, Basil pays Dorian a visit. Basil tells Dorian that he doesn t believe these
rumors at all . When I hear all these hideous things that people are whispering about
you, I don t know what to say , exclaims Basil. He wants answers to the rumors
spreading around about Dorian. He also adds, I wonder do I know you? Before I could
answer to that, I should have to see your soul . In response, Dorian says that the answer
shall be given to you upstairs . Slowly, they both walk up the staircase to the room
containing the portrait. Dorian shows Basil the portrait which he had painted. In disbelief,
Basil sees the foulness and horror in the face. Dorian says that it is the face of my
soul . Basil pleads Dorian to ask for forgiveness, but an uncomfortable feeling of hatred
for Basil came over him , and Dorian picks up a knife and draws closer and closer to
Basil. Dorian [digs] the knife into the great vein that is behind his ear, crushing the man s
head down on the table and stabbing again and again .
The death of Basil Hallward, however, was not the only one committed by Dorian.
He is also responsible for the death of Sybil Vane. Sybil Vane grabs the attention of
Dorian Gray at her play performances at the theater. Dorian calls her a genius and a
simply born artist . Never has anyone so wonderful and lovely captured the interest of
Dorian Gray. To him, Sybil is everything . Dorian s love for Sybil encourages him to
propose to Sybil for her hand in marriage. I have never been so happy , says Dorian.
Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good . Enthusiastic about Sybil s
upcoming performance, Dorian invites his friends, Lord Henry and Basil Hallward, to a
play in which she stars as Juliet Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. Sybil s performance that
evening was simply bad art. She was a complete failure . In disappointment and
embarrassment, Dorian rushes to find Sybil to express his feelings about her performance.
Dorian tells her that the play was horrible and dreadful. You have no idea what I
suffered . In response, Sybil claims that ever since she met Dorian, her ability to capture
the true feelings of the characters began to fade, causing her to become a bad actress.
Sybil says, you had brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a
reflection. You had me understand what love really is, Prince Charming, you are more to
me than art can ever be . Heartbroken, Dorian says that Sybil has killed his love. Don t
be cruel to me , Sybil mutters. As Dorian leaves the theater, he comes home to realize that
his portrait [appears] to be a little changed. There [is] a touch of cruelty in his mouth .
Thinking that his cruelty to Sybil caused the horrid change in his portrait, Dorian decides
that he would go back to Sybil Vane, make amends, marry her, try to love her again . In
pursuit to make amends with Sybil Dorian writes a letter of forgiveness. Dorian later finds
out from his friend, Lord Henry, that Sybil kills herself. So I have murdered Sybil Vane ,
says Dorian. Dorian is responsible for killing her spirit, her devotion, her love, and in
short, everything that she was and had.
Dorian is also responsible for the death of his own soul. Dorian, a handsome,
young, rich gentleman is painted by Basil Hallward. Basil paints the finest portrait of
modern times , of Dorian. Dorian looks at the painting and wishes for the portrait to grow
old, while he remains young forever. For that I would give everything, I would give my
soul , says Dorian. A friend of his, Lord Henry, becomes a major influence on Dorian.
Lord Henry s hedonistic belief, that pleasure or happiness is the sole good in life, comes
through in Dorian s character. Dorian has changed in that he now only seeks pleasure for
himself. He is mostly intrigued by beautiful things. However, the portrait soon begins to
show Dorian s foulness and horrid images through his face. The portrait is a symbol
of Dorian s wickedness, and the sight of the portrait makes him want to change. With a
visit from Lord Henry, Dorian tells him that [he is] going to alter . To prove his change,
Dorian tells him of an offer to seduce an innkeepers daughter which he refuses. Lord
Henry tells Dorian that he is still the same , but on the other hand, Dorian asks himself
was it really true that one could never change? Dorian knew that he had tarnished
himself, filled his mind with corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an
evil influence on others, and had experienced terrible joy in being so . Dorian goes to see
the loathsome portrait. There [is] only one bit of evidence left against him. The picture
itself that [is] evidence. He would destroy it . Dorian picks up the knife and as it had
killed the painter, so it would kill the painter s work, and all that that meant. It would kill
the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It would kill this monstrous soul-life,
and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace. He [seizes] the thing and [stabs]
the picture with it . Because he stabs the portrait, Dorian, in essence, kills himself.
Evil doings can effect ones soul. In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian
Gray destroys his own soul by the influence of evil. He not only is responsible for the
death of his own soul, but he is also responsible for the death s of Basil Hallward and
Sybil Vane. Because of the influence of evil, Dorian directly kills his friend, Basil. On the
other hand, Dorian does not directly kill Sybil Vane, but he is morally responsible for her
death. He kills her spirit by telling her that he does not love her anymore. She, in turn,
takes her own life because of Dorian s failed love for her. The influence of evil is a major
theme throughout the play. It is seen through the actions of Dorian Gray.