The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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The Dictionary defines moral as recognizing the distinction between right and wrong. It also defines corruption as being immoral. Thus, it can be concluded that moral corruption is the inability of distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray truly portrays such a characteristic. He gradually becomes increasingly more morally corrupted as he becomes more comfortable with himself. He portrays his stages of moral corruption in many ways, including his initial stages and the culmination of his corruption.

In the beginning, Wilde describes Dorian as a young man with charming good looks. Dorian is a respected man in his town. He is a wealthy and usually good-mannered man, showing the proper respect to his elders, who are very fond of him. That’s how it all begins. Dorian meets Basil Hallward, an artist who is fascinated with Dorian’s good looks.

As Basil is painting a portrait of him, Dorian gets upset that he will grow old while his portrait will remain young. “I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.” (Wilde 49) Therefore, he openly sells his soul in order to remain young. “If it were I who was to be always young... I would give my soul for that!” (49). Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil’s, is present at the time of Dorian’s quote. He is the one whom Dorian sells his soul to and he is the one who initiates Dorian’s corruption. However, Henry’s affect on him had begun before Dorian had sold him his soul. “ The aim of life is self-development.” (41) That quote, said by Henry, really stuck into Dorian’s head. As well, Henry is the reason why Dorian sells his soul for he said, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. ” (41) After Sibyl Vane, Dorian’s girlfriend, commits suicide because Dorian had terminated their relationship, Henry convinces him that he should not feel culpable for her death. “But you must not think too much about it.” (125) Dorian feels horrible for the way he had spoken to Sibyl the previous evening but he is not regretful for anything that had happened because he claims that it had taught him to know himself better, just as Henry had been teaching him.

Since Henry could not be around Dorian all the time, he gives him a book, which expands on Henry’s opinion of how Dorian should act. So, even though Henry Wotton is not present for most of the novel, he is continuously an evil presence in Dorian’s life through the book he had given him.

All these things that Henry had taught him begin to show in Dorian’s everyday life. He pursues sexual pleasure, not love, like he had been accustomed to. He yields to every temptation he feels including using drugs for pleasure. Dorian is clearly finding self-fulfillment while disregarding other people’s emotions. He is making all of his decisions without considering what is right and what is wrong. Dorian continuously finds things out about people in order to benefit himself and his own way of life. He takes advantage of others to get himself out of dilemmas. “Why is your friendship so fatal to young men?” (183) While doing this, Dorian is destroying the lives of others. People refuse to be anywhere near Dorian since they are all fearful of how he is going to manipulate them. From the beginning of the novel and through all of these events, Dorian Gray’s moral corruption is quickly heightening and becoming increasingly hazardous to others.

As the novel progresses, the life of Dorian Gray becomes more and more corrupted. It has come to the point where Dorian is nearly completely comfortable with who he is and with what he is doing. Three events really portray this easiness: Basil Hallward’s murder, his paranoia of others, and the destruction of his own portrait.

Basil Hallward had been out of Dorian’s life for a while but he kept hearing negative comments about him. When he finally sees Dorian again, he questions Dorian’s encounters’ with others and he wonders why people no longer enjoy his presence. “I think it right that you should know that the most dreadful things are being said against you in London.” (182) Dorian Gray had become extremely impatient with what Basil had been saying. Therefore, he did what his corrupted mind had told him to do. He murdered Basil. Dorian blackmails his friend to cover up the murder in order to get himself out of the mess he had created. “What you have got to do is to destroy the thing that is upstairs...” (202) His moral corruption is shown when Dorian does not show any remorse for the murder, saying Basil drove him to it. The fact that Dorian can show no remorse for a murder and that he has no problem with blackmailing a “friend” into cleaning up his own mess is a monstrous demonstration of how far he’s been corrupted by Henry Wotton.

After this murder, he does however, become more paranoid. Dorian believes that Sibyl Vane’s brother is out to avenge his sister’s death. Dorian thinks he sees him everywhere he goes and that her brother is always ready to pounce on him whenever he gets a chance. Dorian constantly turns away from people, always thinking that someone is there to harm him. He walks the street in extreme fear, not because of Basil’s murder, but because of the painting that keeps changing on him. This paranoia is a sign of his moral corruption since he does not understand why he thinks everyone is out to get him.

The climax of his corruption occurs at the end of the novel, which Wilde describes very well. It is the battle with his portrait that finishes him off. As the painting grows more hideous, Dorian himself remains the same. Earlier on, Dorian had poked fun at the portrait as if it is not really of him. “ The very sharpness of the contrast used to quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty...” (159). He becomes more interested in the corruption of this portrait and he feels that he can do whatever he wants in life and only see the picture deteriorate, not himself. However, as it gets more and more corrupted, Dorian becomes extremely disgusted and impatient with the portrait. One night, he had wanted to relieve any pressure off of himself by destroying the portrait. He feels that all he has done over his life should not make him feel guilty and with the portrait out of his sight, he would not have any reasons for any such negative sentiments. As he goes to stab the painting, he actually destroys his soul and thus, kills himself. He had no longer known the difference between right and wrong and did not want anything reminding him of it.

As shown, Dorian’s corruption is a gradual process, starting from when he was a young and charming man having a portrait drawn of him until he destroys his painting to abolish all of his problems. Many people and events lead to his complete corruption, including Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward, Sibyl Vane and all of his exchanges with them and with others. Dorian Gray demonstrates moral corruption through temptation and self-fulfillment. Dorian is an example of the types of people whom are not needed nor welcomed in this society and Dorian’s end may be argued as the only way and the best way Oscar Wilde could have concluded The Picture of Dorian Gray.