Looks Can Kill in The Picture of Dorian Gray
Have you ever heard the saying, “If looks could kill”? Well, they can. Oscar Wilde reveals how looks can be charming, deceitful and even deadly.
In The Picture of Dorian Gray, there are three main characters. Dorian Gray, who is a calm, very attractive young man and adored for his good looks, Basil Hallward who is a painter that idolizes Dorian and Lord Henry Wotton, an older man, who becomes a good friend of Dorian’s. As Basil is painting a portrait of Dorian Gray, Dorian makes a wish that only the picture would age and he would stay the same. As he later notices, his wish is granted and the picture begins to age. Not only is the portrait aging, but the face is also becoming more devious looking. This is because Dorian had fallen deeply in love with an actress, Sibyl Vane, and one night he had taken Basil and Lord Henry to watch her act. That night Sibyl Vane was acting so badly that people were beginning to leave. Dorian was humiliated so intensely that he went back stage and told her he had fallen out of love with her. She said the reason for her bad acting was because she no longer cared for acting, just for him. Dorian still could not take the humiliation and told he was never to see her again. After he left, Sibyl ended her own life by drinking a cleaning fluid that was in her dressing room.
Wilde first shows the importance of looks when Basil first sets eyes on Dorian Gray. “I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that…it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself” (7). This was before Basil had even talked to Dorian, and he had already judged what type of personality he had, …
…e picture itself . . . . He would destroy it . . . . He looked round, and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward . . . He seized the thing, and stabbed the picture with it . . . . There was a cry heard, and a crash . . . . When they entered they found, hanging upon the wall, a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him . . . . Lying on the floor was a dead man . . . with a knife in his heart. He was withered and wrinkled . . . it was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was” (253-254).
Wilde uses great characters, setting and plot to explain the significance that looks have. Everyone’s life could be altered just because of the way someone looks, or even the way they look. Looks can not only be charming and deceitful, but deadly as well.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Grey. Penguin, 1992.