The Rotting of the Spirit in The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde, author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, makes Basil’s life change drastically by having him paint a portrait of Dorian Gray and express too much of himself in it, which, in Wilde’s mind, is a troublesome obstacle to circumvent. “Wilde believes that the artist should not portray any of himself in his work, so when Basil does this, it is he who creates his own downfall, not Dorian” (Shewan 36).
Wilde introduces Basil to Dorian when Basil begins to notice Dorian staring at him at a party. Basil “suddenly became conscious that someone was looking at [him]. [He] turned halfway around and saw Dorian Gray for the first time” (Wilde 24). Basil immediately notices him, however Basil is afraid to talk to him. His reason for this is that he does “not want any external influence in [his] life” (Wilde 24). This is almost a paradox in that it is eventually his own internal influence that destroys him. Wilde does this many times throughout the book. He loved using paradoxes and that is why Lord Henry, the character most similar to Wilde, is quoted as being called “Price Paradox.”
Although Dorian and Basil end up hating each other, they do enjoy meeting each other for the first time. Basil finds something different about Dorian. He sees him in a different way than he sees other men. Dorian is not only beautiful to Basil, but he is also gentle and kind. This is when Basil falls in love with him and begins to paint the picture. Basil begins painting the picture, but does not tell anyone about it, including Dorian, because he knows that there is too much of himself in it. Lord Henry discovers the painting and asks Basil why he will not display it. Lord Henry thinks that it is so beautiful it should be displayed in a museum. Basil argues that the reason he will not display the painting is because he is “afraid that [he] has shown in it the secret of his soul” (Wilde 23). This is another paradox because he has not only shown the secret of his soul, but the painting eventually comes to show the secret of Dorian’s soul also.
In the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde explains that “to reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim” (Wilde 17).