In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian battles with his own morality and desire for eternal youth, illustrated by the portrait that displays the consequential affects of his every sin and downfall. The supporting characters and the many influences they impose on Dorian highlight his moral ambiguity and the inner struggle it entails.
Initially, Dorian’s naïve and innocent nature emphasizes the origin of his good willed intent. Lust for eternal youth and corruption overcome him only after his first encounter with Lord Henry. Lord Henry’s ideals lead Dorian down a path of corruption and sins. Utilizing irony, Lord Henry professes his many inflated and cynical beliefs but never truly commits immoral acts to support the outrageous principles the way Dorian does. Basil acts not only as a counterpart to Lord Henry but also as a conscience to Dorian. He reminds Dorian of the moral path originally intended to guide and aid him to maintaining his innocence.
After breaking Sibyl Vane’s heart and causing her resulting suicide, Dorian’s initial grief and guilt highlight his remaining humanity. When Lord Henry comes to visit Dorian after Sibyl’s death, Henry convinces Dorian that her death is beautiful and honors Dorian himself, which further stresses his growing narcissism. This pathos shift continues to emphasize both of Dorian’s conflicting noble and malicious sides. The opium dens that Dorian visit act as a metaphor of his desire to return to the ideal moral path and disregard the wretched sins he previously committed. While providing only temporary relief, the dens display that Dorian has not completely lost his humanity and that the changes in the painting continue to cause him anguish.
In one of Dorian and Lord Henry’s final dialogues, Dorian claims that his increasing desire to change for the better can overcome his already damned soul. Lord Henry quickly rebukes and nearly mocks Dorian, causing his conscious to further cry out. Even after all...