The Color of Innocence
In the context of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," one of the most noticeable and important motifs is that of the color white and its variants, including, but not limited to, pale and listless. The meaning of this color evolves as the novel progresses, changing in relation to Dorian's character. While the motif may never physically alter in appearance, it succeeds in reversing meaning completely, signifying the great contrast in Dorian's soul between the beginning of the novel and the end.
In the very beginning of the novel, as Basil speaks of his first encounter with Mr. Gray, he notes that when their "eyes met, I [Basil] felt that I was growing pale" (9). The motif comes to signify a sort of timid transparency; as if Dorian's purity softens everything around he comes into contact with. Similarly, Lord Henry employs the motif when describing Dorian's youth, labeling it as his "rose-white boyhood" (21).
Shortly after, Dorian is described as possessing "the white purity of boyhood" (37). In both of these passages, the motif represents its most basic connotation, that of innocence, particularly, the innocence of youth. White gives Dorian's appearance a sense of vivacity. Lord Henry describes Dorian's soul as having "turned to this white girl [Sibyl Vane] and bowed in worship before her" (57). The motif denotes a youthful purity or vitality in Sibyl Vane's soul, most likely one that is shared by Dorian Gray. Her innocence soon grows to incorporate innocent affection for Dorian, as after kissing him, "She trembled all over, and shook like a white narcissus" (74). The motif has not reversed its meaning at this point; rather, it incorporates a virtue similar to youth and innocence, that of love. Furthermore, as Sibyl Vane performs onstage, Dorian tells how "Her...