There is an extremely clear theme of platonic love shown throughout the novel. Dorian is seen as the ideal idea of love. Dorian’s beauty and looks is constantly mentioned by Basil and Henry and even other characters continuously throughout the novel. Although they continuously speak of his youthful beauty, they appreciate him in a more sensual way rather than sexual. This conveys the idea and theme of vein, platonic love as they are only actually infatuated and become obsessed by Dorian because of his physical appearance and his vulnerability as a young attractive man. Dorian’s beauty is something that Wilde has consistently focussed on and is a theme that stays predominant throughout the chapters; he conveys Dorian’s beauty as an aesthetic focus. Lord Henry shows a great level of interest in Dorian and does influence him. ‘I adore simple pleasures.’ The idea of ‘simple pleasures’ suggests that Lord Henry has a great interest in more simple aspects of life but perhaps aspects that he should not be involved in himself as a man in the 19th Century. Wilde throughout the novel uses platonic love to convey to his 19th century sanctimonious Victorian readers that just because Basil and Lord Henry appreciate Dorian’s beauty and are shown to be attracted to him, doesn’t mean they intend to have any physical relationships with him. To cover up any misconception the readers of the time may have had, Wilde uses words like ‘admiration’ and ‘appreciation’ to explain the interest the two men have in Dorian. This goes back to Lord Henry telling Dorian on the first occasion of the characters meeting, that he ‘adores’ simple pleasures. This allows Lord Henry’s statement to be down to the perception of the reader. Dependant on the readers mind set, they may consider it a very innocent statement or they may look deeper into the idea of simple pleasures and understand what Wilde is trying to communicate with the reader. He also suggests that the men are smitten with Dorian’s ‘personality’ to show a sense of innocence in the relationships between the men, as nothing with any sexual suggestions would have been acceptable to write about in the time the novel was written. Wilde had to be careful not to show his own emotions and sexual preferences in the novel but also wanted to portray them in a more covered up manner.
Another type of love that Wilde often refers to is the love of art. Art is a continuous theme throughout the novel and this allows the characters to be seen as people who enjoy artistic pleasures in life. The first idea of love for art comes across in the painting of Dorian that Basil paints himself. It is a very significant art aspect throughout the novel. The painting is very important to both Dorian and Basil, and the importance of it being perfect is made to be quite a theme in itself. For quite a childish character, Dorian does understand the importance of love for art. He says to Basil ‘You like your art better than your friends.’ Although this is still quite a childish statement, Dorian here does show quite a valid point of the importance of art and its perfection to Basils’ character and others throughout the novel. Wilde wishes to continue the theme of beauty and perfection through the painting as he shows that Basil does not want to settle for anything less than perfect in his art piece.
Another way art is made to be a significant component to the theme, is the way in which it draws Dorian to Sybil Vane. Dorian loves Sybil because of her talent in the art industry as an actress. Although an actress is seen to be a very low class job for someone of the time, Dorian falls in love with her characters and her talents before he even falls for Sybil herself. He does not actually meet Sybil before falling in love with her. Wilde here conveys how the artistic themes allow the characters to become quite weak for each other, and the romantic theme of love is portrayed through the Sybil’s work in the theatre. Her perfection within art is so important to Dorian is so significant that it actually ends their relationship when Sybil performs badly to attempt to bring herself and Dorian closer together. He says to Sybil ‘you killed my love’ suggesting that her performing badly is exactly what has made him so quickly fall out of love with her. Here Wilde presents the way in which love is unhealthy, immature and also how much of an important component love itself is to love and relationships between characters.
Although this book seems to convey a lot of Wilde’s own emotions and experiences, he did not meet Lord Alfred Douglas until a year after the novel was published, which means the novel is not necessarily a reflection of Wilde’s own love interests but of his desires within love.