Sybil Vane: Plot Device
Sybil Vane in the novel represents Dorian’s last chance to escape the life he chose when he made his wish to stay young forever. In the beginning of the term we were assigned to choose one of the works we were going to study to write a blog post about. I choose to write my blog post about The Picture of Dorian Gray, a decision I kind of regret. I was initially very excited to be studying the picture of Dorian Grey, I’ve read a good number of old (classic) books on my own time. I knew what I thought was next to nothing about The Picture of Dorian Gray, except that he had somehow attained immortality by making a painting of himself age for him. Immortality at a cost is a theme I like very much to read about so I was naturally excited to read the book myself. I found an audiobook and started listening to the book. It wasn’t what I had expected when I picked it up, Lord Henry spoke quite a lot of philosophy, for lack of a better word he spoke like an aristocrat. I continued to listen a bit more engaged when the namesake of the book first appeared and I could see what kind of character he was.
I could understand Dorian changing according to Lord Henry’s philosophies, Lord Henry speaks well, and Dorian is young and impressionable. It’s understandable that when around someone like Lord Henry a person would change their actions. Until Sybil Vane kills herself that is, as I got to the scene where I was hoping that Dorian would be kind to her. But as she begs him for forgiveness he just turns away, he leaves her after just one bad night. I was actually angry at a fictional character, so much so that I couldn’t pick up the book until the start of term.
That got me thinking is Dorian even supposed to be a relatable characters at all? On that line of thought is Lord Henry? I believe that Oscar Wilde deliberately made Dorian a character people could hate. Because after Sybil Vane dies he simply goes to the opera. Sybil Vane did nothing to deserve his scorn and when faced with life without him the reader is supposed to wish for his undoing or ruin. Sybil is shown to be naive and innocent, until she meets Dorian all she wants to do is act. Then after she meets him all she wants to do is be with him, before she even knows his name. She can’t focus on her acting because she is so in love with him. Sybil’s suicide marks a turning point in the novel, after her death Dorian realizes that the painting will age instead of himself. Setting him on the path of debauchery and excess that he lived that leads to Basil’s murder and Dorian’s death. Sybil Vane Dorian’s last chance to escape his fate, she is good, Wilde wants the reader to feel something when she dies. In comparison Dorian essentially becomes someone different from who he was in the beginning. Even though he is the protagonist he has essentially become his own antagonist. The person getting between Dorian and his goals is himself.