A Portrait of Dorian Gray

A Portrait of Dorian Gray

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A Portrait of Dorian Gray

“He began to wonder whether we could ever make psychology so absolute a science that each little spring of life would be revealed to us”. Lord Henry spent many days merely philosophizing about the power of the mind and how it could be manipulated. Exercising his abilities of control and influence was what Harry lived for, and when Dorian uttered the fateful phrase wishing to trade places with the portrait, he was not striking a bargain with the Lord of Darkness, but rather one of his rogues. Lord Henry assumed the role of temptation and lured the naïve Dorian into a legacy of abominable deeds and sordid affairs. Dorian received the benefits of Harry’s charm, wit, and views. As for payment, Dorian surrendered any control he may have had over his own thoughts, decisions, or emotions. Harry was able to pursue his quest for mind control and perform his own psychological experiments as he willed. The matter of the portrait that had plagued Dorian for most of his adult life can easily be explained. The painting was merely his guilt that had manifested and displaced itself as figment of his imagination. For although he had traded his self control for superficial characteristics, he still remained the owner of his soul.

Harry slowly exerts control over Dorian in two simple ways. First he implants ideas and reactions into Dorian’s sub-conscience leading him to believe that the thoughts that are flowing from his head are his own, not Lord Henry’s. After Sybil’s death, Harry consoles Dorian, or at least that is how Dorian sees the encounter. “You have explained me to myself, Harry…I felt all that you have said, but somehow I was afraid of it, and I could not express it to myself. How well you know me!”. It is not that Harry knows Dorian so well, but that Lord Henry has influenced and molded Dorian’s coping mechanisms. The young man will now follow this pattern of denial each time he is faced with remorse, guilt, or sadness. Henry himself admits to the fact that he is experimenting with Dorian, “It was clear to him that the experimental method was the only method by which one could arrive at any scientific analysis of the passions: and certainly Dorian Gray was a subject made to his hand, and seemed to promise rich and fruitful results”.

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Again, Dorian has given up his individualism for Henry’s supposed wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Dorian does realize that he has signed himself away to Harry, and he briefly tries to breach the contract. “He would resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry any more—would not, at any rate, listen to those subtle poisonous theories, that in Basil’s garden had stirred within him the passion for impossible things”, yet resistance was futile. Harry had already acquired so much of Dorian that there was nothing left to fight with. Lord Henry sealed the deal by bestowing the awesome novel to his young friend, who was nothing more than a lab rat after he read the first page. The “novel without a plot” effected Dorian to such a degree that he was practically waving the white flag after he had finished the book. “For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of this book. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never sought to free himself from it”. The reason he became so obsessed by the “poisonous book” was because the book became him. Dorian lost himself in the novel and in turn surrendered any sense of self he might have been clinging too. Dorian was now as responsive as a violin to whatever Harry wished.

Lord Henry had begun to exert control over Dorian from the very first time they spoke, but it was bargain that they made which caused the inevitable tragic ending of Dorian’s life. The greatest pity in the novel was the fact that Lord Henry never really cared for Dorian as stated in a dialogue between the two.

‘Yes, I thought you would like it,’ replied his host, rising from his chair. ‘I didn’t say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference.’ ‘Ah, you have discovered that?” murmured Lord Henry.

To Lord Henry, Dorian was merely a fascination, and nothing more. Unfortunately, he grew tired of his contract, and left Dorian to fend for himself. And as we see in the end of the novel, he did so miserably.
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