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The (Shallow) Picture of Dorian Gray Essay example

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Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray presents a keen question on morality: can one cleanse the senses by the means of the soul, and the soul by the means of the senses? Dorian Gray lives out this epigram of Lord Henry’s in an attempt to justify a life of hedonism and over-objectification of beauty. Wilde introduces Dorian as a young man whose beauty rivals the “invention of the oil painting” itself (Wilde 7). Basil Hallward, the painter, claims that Dorian is “absolutely necessary” to him and showers Dorian in compliments as he paints him in Greek and Roman idealizations (7). Lord Henry tells Dorian that when his “youth” and “beauty goes,” he will discover there are “no triumphs left” for him (16). Because of his good looks,…show more content…
Upon arriving home, Dorian notices the physical disfigurement of his soul in his painting due to his treatment of Sibyl and claims, as his portrait is now a “visible emblem of conscience,” that he will change his ways by resisting temptation and not seeing Lord Henry anymore (67). He vows to “go back to Sibyl Vane, make amends, marry her, and try to love her again” (67). Dorian attempts to change his mode of life and forget his pursuit of pleasure in favor of moral soundness. It is in this moment that Dorian could been seen as repentant, as a man who recognizes his sins and would like to make amends for the sake of his own soul. However, the next morning, while contemplating his guilt, Dorian reminds himself that there are “opiates for remorse, drugs that could lull the moral sense to sleep” (70). He writes a letter to Sibyl and feels “forgiven” for his harsh words (70). Lord Henry then arrives, and assuming that Dorian has already heard of Sibyl’s death, says that he’s relieved Dorian is not “plunged in remorse, and tearing that nice curly hair” of his (71). By “tearing his curly hair,” Dorian would be destroying his beauty on account of moral principles, an act that would violate the Lord Henry’s philosophy. After Lord Henry tells Dorian that Sibyl has killed herself, Dorian is initially horrified but eventually calms himself by saying that though Sibyl has died, “the birds sing just as happily” in his
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