Sibyl & Dorian’s intertwined deaths

In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the main character Dorian is responsible for the death of his ex-lover, Sibyl. He states, “I loved you because you were marvelous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art,” (Wilde 74). In this scene, Dorian’s anger gets the best of him and foreshadows his own fate. After Dorian says this to Sibyl, she takes her own life. The words he uses surrounding her are things that do not have to do about their relationship, instead, they are just beautiful words to describe someone that he may not have even known very well. By using the word art in this line, it can be taken as a nod to the own art that exists of Dorian, the portrait that hangs in his house. In this way, his fate is sealed.

After Sibyl dies, Dorian states “the birds sing just as happily in my garden” (Wilde, 85). This lack of empathy towards her death shows that Dorian saw her as no more than just his muse and his “one love.” This mirrors the way that Basil views Dorian, as his muse, his only muse. Much like Sibyl, Dorian is no more than a blank canvas where people paint their own ideas onto it. Unfortunately for Dorian, both Lord Henry and Basil painted their ideas on his canvas which turned him into a muse with both good and evil. Ultimately, because he is just a muse to Basil, Basil or himself must die to escape the tragedy of Sibyl’s fate. Luckily for Dorian, he kills Basil, his creator. Muses cannot live without the admiration of their creator; they live off the attention and approval of their artist. They give “substance to the shadows of art.” In this way, Sibyl and Dorian are both very similar and their deaths are equally as tragic. While Sibyl is pure and a beautiful canvas that gets splashed by a paint bucket of hate, Dorian is a canvas that was equally splashed, a fight between good and evil artists.

If Dorian and Sibyl are both just muses of other people, then this makes them character that only exist due to the other characters in the novel. While Dorian is the main character, he would not exist without Henry and Basil. During this time, there were many outside influences, fake protectors like Sherlock, scary stories like Frankenstein, and the soulful horror of Dorian Gray. The novel shows the readers that everyone can be influenced, art influences the reader, and everyone is connected by the way they influence each other, we are all a canvas to be imposed upon. This is important because it shows that Dorian is not a character on his own, “it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors” (Wilde, Preface).

3 thoughts on “Sibyl & Dorian’s intertwined deaths”

  1. I see the overlap in Sibyl and Dorian’s death as the result of art being pushed too far. Sibyl didn’t meet Dorian’s expectations in addition to her being reduced to a “decorative sex” which removed her value as everyone imposed on her thus making her death, in a way, from her not meeting a specific mold. I read Dorian in the same way as everyone viewed him differently and he desperately attempted to keep up the good looks and innocence that he was trademarked for. His own painting killing him can be seen as society killing him.

  2. I do agree with you, it seems a lot like Dorian and Sybil are two sides of the same coin with their beauty, naiveté, and flare for the dramatics, and I think it’s really interesting that you’re linking the two deaths as well. I suppose Dorian’s death is similar to Sybil’s in that it could be read as an inadvertent suicide — similar to Sybil’s cause of death, but I feel as though this important theme is lost in this posting and it might be helpful to keep in mind. I really like your points about how both Sybil and Dorian are muses, but I would also encourage you to think about how Sybil was the muse of a muse (Dorian) and how that relationship dynamic impacted her.

  3. The point that struck out to me most in your post was your statement about Sybil being a blank canvas. When I think of Dorian being a blank canvas, I am brought back to our first discussions on his innocence being corrupted by Lord Henry’s ideals. For Sybil, the main reason Sybil can no longer fully endorse her characters is because she has this newfound experience of love. This all leads to Dorian losing the love for her and Sybil’s untimely suicide. A contrasting ideology could be that as an actor, you need to be a blank canvas to actually portray your characters. Although we have discussed the importance of art throughout this unit, maybe we should be looking at art based on which form in appears in (paintings, acting, music etc).

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