The Body, Mind, and Soul in The Picture of Dorian Gray Essay

The Body, Mind, and Soul in The Picture of Dorian Gray Essay

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Dorian Gray is a grand Gothic experiment from the moment in Basil Hallward’s studio when he desperately swears that he “would give [his] soul” if only he “was to be always young, and the picture … was to grow old” in his stead (Wilde 28). Even before this moment, Dorian was a test subject of Lord Henry’s, who wanted to see how many of his own ideas he could inject into the boy. This influence rapidly planted in Dorian the ideas of eternal youth and beauty and led to the encasement of his soul in the portrait. After the switch, Dorian not only is under Lord Henry’s influence, but he is also Oscar Wilde’s subject. In his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde manipulates Dorian, his surroundings, and his circumstances to capture a realistic portrayal of the character’s downfall by depicting the nature of the body, mind, and soul, and the relationship they share.
Wilde believes that along with the body and mind, “there is a soul in each one of us,” and that these three exist in hierarchy (221). Though Dorian’s soul resides in a portrait instead of his body, it fills the same role as it would if it were where it belonged. The soul, for everyone except Dorian, resides in the mind, while the mind resides in the body. Each affects the others cyclically: the actions of the body affect the state of the soul, the soul suggests thoughts and emotions to the mind, and the mind directs the actions of the body. The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of a misplaced soul, because it is the unique location of Dorian’s soul that drives his thoughts and actions.
Because Dorian’s soul does not reside in his body, but in a portrait, he experiences a number of curious circumstances. First, Dorian’s body does not age. It remains the same as it was on...


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...ning” and “hypocrit[ical]” soul, he understands that he had passed a point of no return, and that there was no chance for him to save his soul (227).
Like many stories, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has a moral, a greater message. Wilde’s lesson about the relationship between the body, mind, and soul is simple, but important: the body is the vehicle for the mind, which is the vehicle for the soul. This is the “natural order” of things, and Wilde shows that it should not be contested. The soul should remain inside a piece of the mind: invisible to the world, mysterious and sacred to its bearer. If this order is changed or contested, Wilde warns of sin, manipulation, and grief to come, making The Picture of Dorian Gray an essentially philosophical and moral novel. 


Works Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2003.

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