Influence, Corruption and Conscience in The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, explores the themes of influence, corruption and conscience. “The obvious influence of Lord Henry upon Dorian shows how one may corrupt another to such an extent that one’s own conscience withers and dies”(Weintraub 116).
Basil Hallward, a painter, knows the corruptive influence that Lord Henry can impose upon his model, Dorian Gray. Basil does not want Lord Henry to even meet Dorian because he is afraid that Dorian will be influenced and ruined. Basil begs Henry by saying, “Don’t spoil him. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvelous people in it. Don’t take away from me the one person who gives to my art whatever charm it possesses: my life as an artist depends on him” (Wilde 10). Right from the beginning Wilde begins to show what type of person Lord Henry is. Lord Henry’s influences pose a threat to Dorian. Basil is well aware of this.
Through Basil Hallward, Wilde implies that Dorian can easily be corrupted. However, Dorian tries to assure Basil that he is not being influenced. He states that Lord Henry “has certainly not been paying me compliments. Perhaps that is the reason that I don’t believe anything he has told me” (Wilde 15). The only reason Dorian does not believe Lord Henry is because Lord Henry does not complement him. Wilde infers that if this is the only reason for Dorian to doubt Henry, Dorian could therefore be influenced in some other way. Overall, Wilde shows how a person may deny the warning signs of being influenced.
Lord Henry slowly begins to influence Dorian, intentionally allowing his corruptive…
…the duality of any relationship. This is true of any relationship, in any society, “for even the most obvious case of corruption or the most straightforward relationship carries more to it than the eye can see”(Woodcock 49).
Belford, Barbara. Oscar Wilde. New York; Random House, 2000
Freidman, Jonathan (edited). Oscar Wilde: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1996.
Pearson, Hesketh (edited). Essays By Oscar Wilde. New York: Books For Libraries Press, 1972.
Weintraub, Stanley (edited). Literary Criticism of Oscar Wilde. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1968.
Woodcock, George. The Paradox of Oscar Wilde. London-New York: T.V. Boardman and Co., Ltd., 1950.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford University Press, New York. 1994
“Pink Monkey.’ www.pinkmonkey.com 15 Jan. 2001