The Influence of Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

The Influence of Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

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In analyzing Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, concepts such as influence and the origin of evil in Dorian Gray play an exceptionally valuable role in understanding the motives of the characters. Although some critics argue characters such as Lord Kelso significantly influence Dorian’s corruption, Lord Henry Wotton’s toxic personality undeniably impacts Dorian the most. Throughout the course of the novel, Lord Henry remains the ultimate source of evil and uses deception and persuasion to poison Dorian from a naïve boy to a destructive monster.
Shortly after meeting Dorian for the first time, Lord Henry calmly declares, “to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul” (20). In these few words, Lord Henry foreshadows the entirety of his relationship with Dorian throughout the novel. By sharing his unique thoughts about the scientific view of influence, Lord Henry captures Dorian’s curiosity and attention, opening the door to the beginning of Dorian’s evolution
Lord Henry continues to bruise Dorian’s perfection on page 21 when he lectures Dorian about the key to a rewarding life through means of the senses. In response to these dangerous regarding influence, sensation, temptation, and beauty, Dorian commands Lord Henry to stop speaking as he absorbs the new light shed upon him:
For nearly ten minutes he stood there, motionless, with parted lips, and eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious that entirely fresh influences were at work within him. . . The few words that Basil’s friend had said to him – words spoken by chance, no doubt, and with willful paradox in them – had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious puls...


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...n goes on to murder Basil in a moment of pure hatred, allowing Lord Henry to ultimately succeed in his aims of winning Dorian’s soul.
Careful examination of Dorian’s initial susceptibility to influence, willingness to commit sin, and interactions with other characters prove Lord Henry plays the biggest role in transforming Dorian from pure to vicious. With his cunning theories and brainwashing comments, Dorian cannot muster the strength to resist Lord Henry’s dominating nature, showing there are no limitations in relationships when it comes to influence. The topic of which character primarily influences Dorian to turn to a dishonest lifestyle is undeniably significant in understanding the purpose of the characters as well as the deeper meaning of the text.


Work Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1993.

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