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Essay/Term paper: Basil's changes as related to wilde's opinion on art

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Oscar Wilde, author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, makes Basil's life


drastically by having him paint a portrait of Dorian Gray and express

too much of himself

in it, which, in Wilde's mind, is a troublesome obstacle to circumvent.

Wilde believes

that the artist should not portray any of himself in his work, so when

Basil does this, it is

he who creates his own downfall, not Dorian.

Wilde introduces Basil to Dorian when Basil begins to notice Dorian

staring at

him at a party. Basil "suddenly became conscious that someone was

looking at [him].

[He] turned halfway around and saw Dorian Gray for the first time"

(Wilde 24). Basil

immediately notices him, however Basil is afraid to talk to him. His

reason for this is

that he does "not want any external influence in [his] life" (Wilde

24). This is almost a

paradox in that it is eventually his own internal influence that

destroys him. Wilde does

this many times throughout the book. He loved using paradoxes and that

is why Lord

Henry, the character most similar to Wilde, is quoted as being called

"Price Paradox."

Although Dorian and Basil end up hating each other, they do enjoy

meeting each other

for the first time. Basil finds something different about Dorian. He

sees him in a

different way than he sees other men. Dorian is not only beautiful to

Basil, but he is also

gentle and kind. This is when Basil falls in love with him and begins

to paint the picture.

Basil begins painting the picture, but does not tell anyone about it,


Dorian, because he knows that there is too much of himself in it. Lord

Henry discovers

the painting and asks Basil why he will not display it. Lord Henry

thinks that it is so

beautiful it should be displayed in a museum. Basil argues that the

reason he will not

display the painting is because he is "afraid that [he] has shown in it

the secret of his soul" (Wilde 23). This is another paradox because he

has not only shown the secret of

his soul, but the painting eventually comes to show the secret of

Dorian's soul also. In

the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde explains that "to

reveal art and conceal

the artist is art's aim" (Wilde 17). Basil realizes that he has not

concealed himself in the

painting and therefore feels the painting is not worth anything. After

Lord Henry sees the

painting, he asks to meet Dorian. Basil says that would not be good

because his

"influence would be bad" (Wilde 31). Basil is correct in saying this

because Lord Henry

is the main person who helps Dorian to destroy himself. Lord Henry

disregards Basil's

request and meets Dorian anyway. This is the beginning of the end for

both Dorian and

Basil because Lord Henry's influence pollutes Dorian. Lord Henry taunts

Dorian and

continues to remind him of all the sin that is building up and that even

though his body is

not aging, his soul is deteriorating fast.

When Basil notices that Dorian has not changed physically in many

years, he is

curious to know how Dorian stayed beautiful, but also wants to know why

Dorian has

changed so much emotionally. Basil does not have the painting on

display, but rather

keeps it in the attic. When Dorian comes over one day, he and Basil are

talking when

Basil asks, "I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I

should have to see

your soul." (Wilde 216) Dorian goes into a rage and takes Basil

upstairs to see his soul

which is concealed in the painting. When Basil sees the painting which

is bloody and

atrocious looking, he cannot believe that he painted it. Dorian

reassures him that it is

indeed Basil's painting. In that painting is all of Dorian's hate,

fear, and sadness reduced

onto a canvass. When Dorian sees the picture, he blames Basil for it

and picks up a knife

laying on a nearby table and stabs Basil. He then takes the knife and

stabs the painting in

the heart, killing his soul, and returning the painting to its original

form. Wilde

constructs this in an interesting way because after Dorian stabs the

picture, which is a

representation of his soul, Wilde shows Dorian laying on the ground,

wrinkled and

disgusting, with a knife in his heart. Wilde did this to show that when

Dorian stabbed the painting, he was actually stabbing himself.

Oscar Wilde first portrays Dorian Gray as a sweet, sensitive man whom


admires. When Basil, however, began admiring Dorian, he changed. Lord

Henry moved

into his life, and the painting showed a form of beauty that he could

never be able to

achieve again in real life without the help of magic. With this, Dorian

conceals his

morbid soul with the painting and continues living as beautiful as he

ever was,

physically, but spiritually he is rotting inside. Wilde creates an

animal out of the

seemingly perfect man and has him destroy himself and his friends along

with him. All

of this happened because of the picture of Dorian Gray. 

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