Oscar Wilde's novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray", presented many themes. One such theme is the idea of doubleness. Oscar Wilde used this as a technique to link his characters and ideas. While doubleness is shown in many aspects of the novel, the most obvious and most important presence of it is the parallel between the main character, Dorian, and his self-portrait. This bond between Dorian and his picture is crucial to the understanding of the novel. Dorian and the picture are in a sense one character acting as two.
When Basil paints the portrait of Dorian Gray, Dorian becomes angry and curses the picture. The idea of the picture being able to remain youthful and beautiful for all of time, while Dorian must endure all the signs of aging is too much for him to bare. In jealousy and anger Dorian wishes that it be the portrait that bare the signs of aging and sin and he be the one that retains his beauty forever. Dorian says, "Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day - mock me horribly!" (22) This is the turning point of the novel as Dorian's wish is granted. The picture has now taken on the role of Dorian's soul and conscience. This is where the idea of doubleness exists. The picture has become Dorian, and Dorian himself is nothing more then a body and pretty face. Holding all of Dorian's secrets and thoughts it is his true soul, his true person. The barrier between life and art was crossed.
Dorian was very distraught when he discovered the power the picture gained. After leaving Sibyl broken hearted...
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...hole. Destroying it, he deprives himself of hope of recovery of his soul, as the painting was the only way he could have possibly regarded himself as a complete person possessing both body and soul.
All in all, Wilde's use of this parallel between Dorian and the picture was perhaps the most important aspect of this novel. It let the reader watch Dorian's life proceed and made us privy to all his secrets. Wilde used it to both act as a warning, and give us insight into his own issues and life. Without this theme of doubleness, the novel would lose its substance. It is this supernatural aspect that initially draws the reader from a somewhat boring tale, into one of magic and amusement; good and evil. It lays the foundation for a very interesting story.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008
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