A Student Response to Dorian Gray

Appearance versus Reality

To what extent can beauty and appearance be altered and changed without it costing too much of a price? When is it too late to go back? How much can a person truly hid about oneself? Both Basil and Henry create a monster, Dorian, that leads him to his own fate of the destruction of himself, the painting. Yes, Dorian’s beautifully chiseled appearance remains untouched allowing no guilt or realness glimmer across him externally. But he struggles internally with dealing with his own secrets and devilish thoughts and deeds that he has done throughout his life. One of his main struggles is not being able to be honest to himself, to ever really realizing the misdeeds he has done and results that lead from his new view of the world. He wants to believe his appearance makes up for everything that can never be revealed externally. The painting is what holds the whole life of Dorian; Dorian’s idea of beauty has really just become a shell. He is empty, unstable, meaningless and lifeless. All of what truly is the person of Dorian Gray now lies in the painting, without this it’s like Dorian is a vegetable. The portrait shows the only truth of Dorian Gray, thus showing that an appearance can never stay the same whereas thoughts and facts will always remain the same and to some extent never be forgotten. These occurrences in life make up whom a person is and so without these cold hard facts we are now left with nothing but an empty, heartless, face of beauty, which in reality isn’t really beautiful anymore even though it appears to be. This novel really pushes the lines as to when is it time to take off the mask and start over by come cleaning of all the guilt that you have refused to face. In the novel when Dorian says “I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me, why should it keep what I must lose?”(66). This quote is interesting to this idea because this statement seems actually backwards to me, and thus Dorian realizes that later in the novel. He feels like he does lose everything, that everything does not include beauty though.

Appearance is a very desirable thing in life, for everyone perceives appearances differently. But in the reality of it all, what importance does appearance really have on someone’s life? Does appearance really account for someone’s success in life? In this novel the characters of Basil and Lord Henry fall in love with the appearance of Dorian Gray, they mold him, like a painter does. Henry basically trains Dorian to think cynically like himself, making everything appear to be the right way of thinking when really this causes a monster to emerge. The relationships with Basil and Henry allow Dorian’s perception of reality to be skewed, and thus Dorian loses everything. This novel shows the emphasis on beauty, and the seriousness that allows a person to become too obsessed and thus destroying them selves. With this whole idea of appearance and the importance of beauty over other aspects in life, Oscar Wilde suggests that other things in life, the importance things, can be missed when focusing too much on the surface instead of really diving in and searching for the truth. Also, that life requires having a balance of realism and self-preservation. Too much of one or other and you’ll fall.

3 thoughts on “A Student Response to Dorian Gray

  1. I found it interesting that you referred to Dorian as being moulded by Henry. I definitely agree that he had a large influence on him, but I am left with the question if that was due to Dorian’s naivety or that he had a dark part in him that Henry merely highlighted. Do you think that the self centred qualities Dorian took on throughout the novel were strictly due to Henry’s influence, or that he would have eventually caught on to the fact that he was attractive without the extra encouragement? I liked that you mentioned how people can become too obsessed with themselves, and how (yes I’m quoting Zoolander here) “There’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking”.


    • I (not the OP) also find the comment of Dorian being moulded is super interesting. While I agree that your question of how Dorian becomes influenced is a good one, I’m not sure if relationships like the one between Dorian and Henry can be so easily described by either Dorian being either inherently corruptible or with inherent darkness. I found the relationship between Dorian and Henry to mimic many aspects of abuse, wherein a person of power exerts their influence over another without consent. This isn’t to say that I necessarily believe Dorian was abused by Henry, but rather that there was the potential for an abusive dynamic to have been present between the two.

      I have to wonder what parts of Wilde influenced the characters of Dorian and Henry, and how those parts of himself existed in consideration of one another. Could the “fall” of Dorian have been a reflection of an inner struggle? Or is that getting too pseudo-analytical?

      ((Also I really love the Zoolander reference.))


      • For my final research paper I am focusing on the appearance of Dorian Gray in the Wilde trials. Wilde had a(n) (assumed) lover who’s last name was also Gray. The real Gray was actually flattered by this and in his private letters to Wilde, used to sign his name “Dorian” as a sign of gratitude almost. Once people outside the Wilde circle started to pick up on this, Wilde’s book became even more of evidence for the trials than it was a work of fiction. I personally find bits of Wilde represented in all three main male characters, so your “inner struggle” comment is likely accurate.


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