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Analysis of the Women in The Picture of Dorian Gray
Sibyl falls head over heels in love with Dorian Gray, willing to commit her life to him after only two weeks. Lady Henry hardly knows her husband, to whom she has been married for some time. Because neither woman is in a stable and comfortable situation, both eventually take drastic measures to move on. Therefore, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, both Sibyl Vane and Lady Henry are weak, flighty, and naive.
The weakness of women is found in various forms throughout the text. Henry refers to women as “a decorative sex” and that “they never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly.” (Wilde 43) Nowhere is this better supported than during Lady Henry’s conversation with Dorian Gray. Speaking blatantly about nothing in particular, the young woman rambles from her husband’s views to parties and flowers. Without even so much as a pause to breathe, the young woman continues to talk down herself, probably not consciously, explaining that though she loves music, she is afraid of how it makes her feel, as if it is a crime to enjoy and feel passion for the arts. She then stumbles into admitting her love for the musicians themselves, leading to question how much she actually enjoys music. It is as if she meets or learns of a stunning new artist and then chooses her fascination with the sound. Following her rant on musicians, Lady Henry finds herself on the topic of foreigners. She uses this opportunity to point out that her husband’s guest has not attended any of her parties.
It is during this conversation with Dorian, that Lady Henry’s character is completely revealed. She admits to Dorian that she “always hear[s] Harry’s views from his friends.” (42) Not only does Lady Henry act as a naive wife, but also a submissive one. She tells Dorian how much she worships pianists, “sometimes two at a time, Harry tells me.” (42) Therefore, the woman has now admitted that she can not think for herself. It does not appear to disturb her, though, that she lacks knowledge of her husband’s views and does not have a mind of her own.
Lady Henry, unfathomly dull and stupid, later files for divorce from her husband, putting her family in a scandalous situation. A smarter woman would not have risked so much to leave her only means of support. In addition, a scandal in Victorian times meant tha...
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... wants to believe he is acting. After Dorian tortures her with his words, she cries out, “Don’t go away from me. I couldn’t bear it.” (78) Even after seeing the cruel side of her true love, she blindly begs for him to return to her. “A low moan broke from her, and she flung herself at his feet, and lay there like a trampled flower.” (78) The young, insignificant woman had her heart broken by a man she barely knew.
Proving how pitiful she was, Sibyl Vane, martyr of love, commits suicide over a man she hardly knows simply because he ends their relationship. In the same manner as the Shakespearian plays she acted in, she downed a poison. “It was prussic acid, as she seems to have died instantly,” Henry explains.
Both Lady Henry and young Sibyl Vane were beyond naive and stupid. They both took to extreme measures to deal with situations that could have been more appropriately handled. Both women were self-centered and had no clue what their men were really like. Neither one of these women had any substance. It is a sad fact to note, that neither Sybil, nor Lady Henry, had a happy fairy tale ending.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008
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