Essay on how influence led to Dorians downfall.
The Picture of Dorian Gray begins with Basil making Dorian’s portrait which leads Dorian to become jealous of it for never aging and then wishes for eternal youth in exchange for his soul. As the novel progresses, Dorian continues to attempt to relieve himself of his ennui. He eventually stabs his portrait believing it was the cause of “the living death of his own soul” (226). His death was in part, due to Lord Henry Wotton’s influence over Dorian Gray but the one responsible for his death is himself. Many people are responsible for Dorian Gray’s outcome but his soul, or rather the absence of it, is ultimately responsible for what had happened to him from the beginning of the death of his soul to the restoration of the portrait.
Dorian’s downfall begins when Dorian allows himself to be influenced by Lord Henry. He had told Dorian that to allow someone to influence you is to “become an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him” (20). Dorian knows this yet he encourages Lord Henry to continue. Lord Henry tells Dorian of beauty, how “beauty is the wonder of wonders” and “the true mystery of the world” (24). He tells Dorian that “beauty is a form of Genius- is higher, indeed than Genius, as it needs no explanation” (24). Dorian knew that Lord Henry had the ability to change him. But he allowed it. He allowed himself to be corrupted. This influence leads Dorian to wish to have eternal youth in exchange for his soul. His sins would now be shown in the portrait that Basil had painted. Dorian could have decided to live his life without committing sins. He didn’t though. He decided to live the aesthetic life and continued to try to “cure the soul by means of the senses” (189). But he had no soul to cure, which is why his portrait kept getting worse and worse. He wanted to experience life, to enjoy it, without a soul.
Basil also influences Dorian. Dorian tells Basil,
“[You] flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good looks. One day you introduced to me a friend of yours, who explained to me the wonder of youth and you finished a portrait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty.” (160-161).
He has allowed his mind to change and he kills Basil for seeing his picture and for seeing his true self. Without his soul, Dorian thought he could do whatever he wanted without any cost to him, but to the portrait. His absence of soul led him to turn bad and murder Basil. He also blackmailed Alan Campbell into disposing of the body. He had to make sure there was no trace of what he had done. He went to opium dens to try to experience life again without a soul and met James there. He tricks him by saying he is too young but later James learns the truth. After James dies in a hunting accident, once again Dorian is safe. He cried because he was safe again and out of danger. People enjoy life when there is a danger of dying. Dorian probably did get some thrill out of being in danger. But once again, being soulless has proven to Dorian that he cannot live life without it. He cannot live with the guilt of Basil’s death and cannot deal with the fact that his soul is dead. He decides to stab the portrait that, he believes, caused it all. He says “it had caused melancholy across his passions. Its mere memory had marred many moments of joy” (228).
The corruption of his soul had led Dorian to stab the portrait and kill himself. His actions and beliefs, changed by the influence of others, had led him to relinquish his soul for eternal youth. Oscar Wilde, in the preface, says “All art is quite useless” (2) but in reality, this book contradicts what he said. The portrait held the consequences of his actions. His soul, forever lost led him to his demise.