Dorian as the New Mona Lisa

When Basil reacted to the new version of the portrait of Dorian, we all noticed a rather unexpected response from Dorian. Before this moment, Dorian would paralyze himself with fear and anxiety over someone seeing the covered portrait and exposing his secret; while he did choose to show Basil this, it would be reasonable to expect some hesitation or abrasiveness from him. Instead, we are met with a chilling image of Dorian in which “there was neither real sorrow…nor real joy” (170). Most notable about this description is the fact that Dorian is described as an audience member watching a play, enthralled in the art being produced (170-171). At surface level, this is a clear sign of Dorian’s detachment and overall emotional shift. The fact that he is unmoving when someone is physically appalled at his moral wrongdoings and ultimately condemning him, as noted by the painting having “the eyes of a devil,” shows us that Dorian has embraced this childlike philosophy of do now, ask for forgiveness later (171). While I am inclined to agree that Dorian has been influenced by Lord Henry’s no-care attitude, I think there is another layer here. There is importance in Dorian’s apathetic emotional state being described as that of someone watching a play; I think Dorian views his own life as a piece of art that has no moral significance in relation to the rest of the world because Basil, alongside everyone else, has decided Dorian’s value as a person in the terms of artistic value. From his youth, Dorian was introduced to art in all forms (operas, books, plays, paintings) by Henry and Basil. From there, they each obsessed over Dorian’s thoughts on art and what it means in relation to how Dorian chooses to live. After recognizing that Dorian’s “true self” is in the portrait, he begins to view its changes as insignificant since it is a part of the world of art. He was able to recognize the painting as a reflection of his soul but chose to marvel at the artistic manifestations of his actions instead of changing his life. The scene with Basil helps demonstrate this understanding since Dorian acts as an observer of a performance, disconnected from the moral implications of his actions rather than the central one responsible. Dorian is interested in the intensity that art can capture, such as when he became obsessed with Sybil’s acting that portrayed a variety of Shakespeare’s heroines. The fact that his own painting can also capture the intensities of life excites him because it will become the best version of art in his eyes; this goal should only matter if he himself views his own life, or soul, as art.




3 thoughts on “Dorian as the New Mona Lisa”

  1. This is a very interesting deep dive into Doian’s expression when he reacts to Baisl. I found the whole scene interesting since he willingly wants Basil to see how grotesque his soul has become. I believe that this scene is similar to another scene that I would love to see you closely read where Doian Gray is mentioned to be prideful of his appearance and how ugly and evil it has become. I used this moment in my blog post to talk mostly about looks but it would be interesting to see you relate Doin Grays’s feelings of pride and emotional ambivalence to his worsening soul.

  2. This is interesting because I agree that Dorian’s laissez-faire attitude about life seems to take inspiration from Lord Henry, though, it seems forced, a facade. I like your point about how Dorian views his life as art, primarily due to Basil’s influence on objectifying him in this way, because Dorian’s understanding of life becomes skewed with his understanding of art, as the two become to mesh together to become something inseparable. An interesting question to pose is that after seeing the horrors of his own painting at the end of the novel, does Dorian’s idea of an artistic, theatrical life change from how it developed after Sibyl’s death?

  3. Dear Magic Conch,
    I love how you go into depth about Dorian’s lack of a moral compass which results in his “fuck it, we ball” attitude. I also agree with your point where you say “Dorian was introduced to art in all forms (operas, books, plays, paintings) by Henry and Basil. From there, they each obsessed over Dorian’s thoughts on art and what it means in relation to how Dorian chooses to live.” I agree and would also add that Lord Henry and Basil both view Dorian as an ideal form but in different ways. Basil is infatuated with Dorian’s beauty and innocence while Henry is fascinated with how he can corrupt Dorian’s innocence.

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