A Face Without a Heart - An Essay on A Picture of Dorian Gray

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        Randy Fox
Professor Medd ENGL2109A
Monday, October 1st, 2012

A Face Without A Heart

        The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only novel written by Oscar Wilde, discusses the superficiality of men and the consequences of negative influence. The titular character Dorian Gray, a young and beautiful man, falls victim to self gratification and Lord Henry’s influence. He loses his sense of virtue and falls into a spiral of sin, all the while maintaining his status in society due to his seemingly everlasting youth and beauty. In Chapter Ten, when Dorian comes to terms with his evil portrait, and in connection, his sin, and falls under the influence of the yellow book, his downward spiral truly begins. The constantly degenerating portrait and the “poisonous” yellow book are constant motifs in the novel that symbolize Dorian Gray’s downfall, and both enter with full force in this chapter. The actions that Dorian commits during this chapter both foreshadow and set the basis for his downward spiral throughout the remainder of the novel.

        Lord Henry holds art and culture in the highest regard and tells Dorian it can only be attained “by being cultured [or]...by being corrupt” (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 238).It is quite clear that Dorian is impressionable and is influenced by Lord Henry and he begins to take culture and art in very high regard. Dorian begins to date Sybil Vane, solely for her acting and the “aesthetic value”, however she truly falls in love with him, and because of this, she can no longer act. She tells him he “is more to her than all art can ever be” (97). However, because she can no longer act, Dorian turns cold to her, stating that he only cared for her because of her artistic value, and leaves her. This is the beginning of the unstoppable succession of sins Dorian commits throughout the novel. In Chapter Nine when Basil informs him that she is dead, Dorian responds with “what is past is past” (122) thus continuing his newfound coldheartedness. This is displayed most clearly by Basil and Dorian’s contrasting reactions to Sybil’s death. While Dorian has now embraced Lord Henry’s selfishness and hedonism, Basil is shocked, stating that “something has changed [Dorian] completely” (122).

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        While Dorian’s path to his eventual destruction had been coming for some time, his descent truly takes full effect in Chapter Ten. The chapter begins with Dorian deciding to hide his cursed portrait in the attic of the estate, a place to “hide his soul from the eyes of men” (137).  Evidently, Dorian has resigned himself to his fate and has decided to hide away the portrait and its horrors, rather than better himself.  He tells himself that like “the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas. They would mar its ...

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