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The Portrait Of Dorian Grey | Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1313 words Published: 16th May 2017

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Dorian is soon to recognize of his deviance from social norms and decides to indulge himself in everlasting pleasure. “Eternal youth, infinite passion, pleasures subtle or secret, wild joys and wilder sins – he was to have all these things” (Wilde, page 106). Seeing as age will not have any toll on his appearance, Dorian is able to pamper himself with pleasures of the flesh perpetually. As Dorian Gray’s soul grows ugly, the world will never view him as ugly because his portrait will not allow it; hence the addition this creates to Dorian Gray’s Hedonism.


“It held the secret of his life, and told his story” (Wilde, page 92). Dorian, now in addition to Basil, both claim that the portrait of Dorian Gray is a portal and reflection of both of their souls, and because of this they wish upon no one to have any sort of viewing access to the picture. The mistake Dorian makes with Sibyl is the first sign of the ugliness of his “soul”; the lad cannot bare to lay eyes on the portrait for it will judge him as a person and he just does not want to view that much of reality.

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“The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience” (Wilde, page 92). Dorian allows his portrait to act as his conscience; in view of the fact that it tells him if his soul if good or bad, looking at this piece of art works as constant reminder of the should bring goodness and not evil. The decision of returning to his love Sibyl Vane would probably not be made without the painting’s reminder of his wrongdoing. He was hasty to do the right thing and return to Sibyl the proposal of marriage regardless of the pain she has brought upon him; he had no tolerance for the thought of his soul decaying with ugliness.

In Dorian’s attempt at goodness, he had failed; Sibyl’s death brought death upon possible marriage between the two, and if Dorian played on his wisdom, he would realize the portrait realized this before he did. Despite the tragedy of this death, Dorian took this as a blessed opportunity to explore and unleash his youth and beauty that he has been privileged to. The lad grasps the fact that he can please his wants and remain beautiful regardless; the corruption of his soul has a direct correlation to the ignorance of his conscience. Dorian’s realization of the fact that old age will affect everyone except him, as well as the reality that the suffering of his soul will not be apparent in his outer appearance rewards him with a sense of blissful delight.


There is a direct correlation of character and beauty when the two are intertwined to show the changes in the picture; “The quivering, ardent sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing” (Wilde, page 91), we see that cruelty and diminishing beauty have been a result of Dorian’s careless actions. Dorian’s character and actions are shown in the face of the portrait, hence Wilde’s reference to the portrait as a mirror. “This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul” (Wilde, pg. 107).

The driving force behind Dorian’s want to be good is merely the conserve of his beauty. “A feeling of pain crept over him as he thought of the desecration that was in store for the fair face on the canvas” (Wilde, page 106). Dorian Gray is very cautious with his choice of words; he never stated that he did not want his soul to corrupt, rather be is more concerned with his looks so he states he does not want to be hideous. The biggest fright imposed on this character is that he is terrified that people will soon see his evil.

Applicable Connections

Taking an inside look at Freud’s psychoanalytic theories containing the id, ego and superego, allow us as the reader to better understand and interpret the protagonist’s three elements of the psyche.

Superego (Conscience)

According to Freud, the superego is guided by the sense of right and wrong; failure to accordingly directly results in a feeling of remorse or guilt. The superego acts like a communication device to the conscious part of one’s mind, sharing its intentions with the ego. Dorian Gray’s conscience served as a reminder that from a moral standpoint, his living was bad. Wilde creates an emphasis on bad living and how it correlates negatively with the physical appearance of one’s face. It is apparent that Dorian shows constant disregard to the indicators of his conscience. By choosing to ignore them, Dorian Gray flips Freud’s concept of the superego by a full 180 degrees. Mr. Gray’s conscience is indeed present and well, but its customary impulses in relation to the conscious mind have been transmitted to the portrait that Bail painted. This is exactly what permits Dorian to plunge into his corrupt immorality.

Id (Unconscious)

Although the id acts behinds the scenes of the conscious mind, the influence it carries is just as great. This is the part of the human psyche that stores ones desires and acts on the pleasure seeking principle. “The sense of his own beauty came to him like a revelation. He had never felt it before” (Wilde, page 27). Dorian Gray recognizes his beauty but it was only through the compliments and flattery of Basil Hallward that he was able to do so. His narcissism led him to the master-puppet relationship with Lord Henry. This hunt for pleasure would never have existed without Lord Henry who is the controlled of Dorian Gray’s strings. The portrait of Dorian Gray itself takes on all the sins of the protagonist, leaving no reason for him to regard his conscience and therefore resulting in no need for the repression of the unconscious. The pleasure seeking urge is left freely for Dorian to spoil his hedonistic self with.

Ego (Consciousness)

The ego loves to be in the spotlight of both the superego and the id seeing as the two are constantly fighting which intuition should be followed by the ego. The ego is also considered to be an innate knowledge of the state of one’s soul. It is evident that Dorian’s conscious plays a larger than normal role on his mind. It is because of Basil’s portrait of Dorian that the young lad is able to act upon each and every single notion that travels through his mind. “What the worm was to the corpse his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas. They mar its beauty, and eat away its grace. They would defile it, and make it shameful” (138). The existence of this portrait calls for no need of a filter when gazing at his soul and eavesdropping on his unconscious. There is no longer a duty of ignorance by Dorian’s consciousness in terms of his hedonistic id. The only communication Dorian’s conscience has with his soul is through the painting therefore this does not phase him. The combat between the superego and id over the ego is not presence when it comes to Dorian. Not only is Dorian mindful of the shady and dusty corners of his soul, as well as all parts of his psyche, he seems to also find ecstasy in it all. The need of the consciousness to communicate with the conscience is no longer essential since his painting does so for him; all that is left for him to do is absorb it as another perk of his life. Due to the fact that the relation between the conscience, the unconscious, and the consciousness is lead astray, Dorian is given all the more reason to treat his soul in the same way as Lord Henry regards him, a manipulative study.


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