So here we are at the second check in for the blog read-along of The Picture of Dorian Gray. So far, I’m not loving it, having seen the 2009 adaptation I still feel I’m waiting for something momentous to happen. Perhaps all will be revealed in the final 6 chapters.
Here are the questions and answers that I set for the second discussion:
What impact does Sibyl’s suicide have on Dorian?
I think that Dorian was embarrassed to have built up Sybil to Basil and Henry as this amazing actress and was utterly disappointed in her performance. He was incredibly cruel to her probably due to realising that he enjoyed her acting more than Sibyl herself. When he notices the change in the painting and then learns of Sibyl’s death this seems to prompt the start of the loss of self-control.
I think Sibyl’s suicide is a real turning point for Dorian, but not in a good way. The night before her death Dorian is cruel to her on discovering she is not genius or artistic as he originally thought but simply appeared this way though her on stage acting. I think he sees this as the reinforcement of Lord Henry’s cynical views on the importance of pleasure over love as he discovers the veil of infatuation has lifted after only a short time. In the morning he wakes determined to continue the engagement and be noble but Henry informs him of her death. He grieves for a short time before realising that he is not in fact all that affected. Once Sibyl is gone and he discovers the magic of the painting and that he will never grow old, there is nothing else standing in the way of Lord Henry’s philosophies and he gives into them fully to pursue a life of pleasure, artistic aesthetics and immorality.
I agree with Becky, Sybil’s suicide marks a definite change in Dorian’s character for the worst. It shows him as rather cold, selfish and emotionally distant. He loses his moral compass and his touch with reality at this point. He behaves horribly to Sybil, rejecting her love because she dared to trivialise acting, then only has a change of heart when he realises that his beautiful painting develops a cruel mouth as a result of his actions. After a conversation with the ghastly Lord Henry, Dorian behaves as if Sybil’s death is absolutely nothing to do with him. He is unbelievably manipulated yet he consistently accepts the advice without question. The suicide is the first step on the slippery slope as Dorian realises that his ‘sins’ can be reflected upon the painting rather than on his own face.
Dorian Gray’s impetuous and short-lived engagement to Sybil Vane marks a turning point in the novel and the beginning of Dorian’s descent into a darker and more menacing world than the glittering rich society that he inhabits in the first part of the novel.
Dorian becomes engaged to Sibyl after becoming infatuated with her acting talent and her performance on stage in the theatre. Ironically, his feelings for her destroy the talent that he admired; her performance after her engagement was lacklustre (she explains that she could think only of Dorian while on stage) and Dorian’s infatuation vanishes in an instant, and he breaks their engagement. Standing before his portrait next morning, he reflects on his behaviour towards her, and the callous way he treated her. Nevertheless, and with some regret, he blames her; “she disappointed him….,she was shallow and unworthy”. Noticing that the portrait seems to have changed as though it has been defiled by his betrayal of Sibyl (it has bloodstains that were not present in the original painting), Dorian Gray resolves to try to make amends, to marry Sibyl and to try to love her, but she has already committed suicide in despair.
After Sibyl’s death, outwardly maintains his high society life and country house parties, but he also frequents the worst slum ares of London to buy drugs and he resorts to murder. The contrast between the two parts of his life is shocking to the reader.
Discuss Dorian’s portrait. What does it represent? What does it suggest about the effect of experience on the soul and why does he hide it in the attic?
The picture is a representation of his inner self, his soul! Whilst he stays young and attractive on the outside, the portrait is portraying what’s happening on the inside. The darker and deeper he falls into a life of vices the worse this picture is going to be.
I think he’s hidden it in the attic because a) he can’t quite figure out what’s happening to it and b) because he’s ashamed of it and doesn’t want to have to explain his lifestyle choices and consequences to Basil.
Dorian’s picture represents his real soul. The portrait bears the burden of his real age, sins and passions while he will forever appear young, innocent and unaffected by the darker sides of the world. I guess this suggests that throughout life our experiences and true nature form a sort of blueprint or map on our face of who we really are through our wrinkles, eyes and mouth.
I think Dorian hides the portrait in the attic because he is ashamed of his soul. Even though he revels in the freedom of youth the painting gives him he worries that people will see him for the horror he really is. Locking it up in the attic is a way to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
The painting serves as a physical manifestation of Dorian’s sins and actions. So much emphasis is placed on beauty that he is terrified to lose his youthful good looks to old age and experience. He wishes that the portrait of himself will bear the brunt of his lifestyle and choices so that he can forever remain beautiful and different. The painting becomes the canvas of Dorian’s soul. When we look at a person’s face, we tend to read the wrinkles, the frown lines, the laughter crinkles, and imagine what kind of life they have lead. Wilde is suggesting that a person’s life experiences become etched on the internal soul, so Dorian choosing the painting as his soul means that it is externally laid bare for the world to see. Of course, this terrifies Dorian because he wants people to think that he naturally retains his youth. He wants to be envied and adored, not discovered for the fraud that he is. He hides the painting in the attic to save face, but also so it isn’t a constant reminder of the horrible sins he is committing. Out of sight, out of mind. Or so he thinks. Even though he appears to show little remorse or thought over his actions, you can tell by the way he hides the painting that they do plague him.
I think that the portrait represents the soul; the artist says at the beginning of the novel that he would never exhibit the painting because he has put so much of himself into it and could not bear to have his soul exhibited and exposed for all to see and interpret.
The portrait begins to change and deteriorate from the time of Dorian Gray’s rejection of Sibyl Vane (see above), as though the portrait exhibits the faults and amoral character of the soul. Dorian Gray’s indirect destruction of Sibyl is shown as bloodstains in the portrait. I think that Sibyl’s death is the destruction and betrayal of youth and innocence; Dorian refers to her as a child and we are told that she is aged only seventeen.
The author suggests that the soul reflects the experiences of the physical entity that it inhabits (so that the Dorian cannot bear to see the deterioration of his soul displayed in the portrait and hides it from view.
Dorian’s scandalous behavior shocks his peers, yet he remains welcome in social circles? Why? What is Wilde suggesting about “polite” London society?
I think he’s still welcome in his social circles because they all find him so intriguing and so attractive that they can’t possibly oust him? It wouldn’t be the done thing to ostracise him!
Hmm interesting question, I’m not too sure about this one. Maybe he is trying to portray that the polite London society doesn’t really exist. It is mentioned several times in the book how horrible and useless English society is, so I guess he is saying it may look polite on the outside, but on the inside many other people are also as vain as Dorian and desperate to seek life’s pleasures as Dorian but do not have the luxury of doing it.
I genuinely think people are in awe of Dorian and mystified by him. His beauty basically carries him within society. He continues to act in the same careless manner and refuses to change his behaviour even though there are scandalous rumours constantly circulating about him. It seems like “polite” London society loves a good scandal and revel in being outraged. They dislike his actions yet he is continually invited to social occasions probablybecause of his actions. Entertainment? Dorian is the intriguing cad that they love to hate. It also suggests the society is highly contradictory and hypocritical. They placed Dorian on a pedestal within the first few chapters, marvelling at his youth and beauty. It was constantly said that he was adored, admired, and everybody wanted a piece of him. Then, they are eager to see him brought down. They’re like a pack of wolves I tell you. It’s all so incredibly vacuous and fake.
Wilde suggests that London society is shallow and hypocritical; wealth, aristocracy and the right connections are more highly valued than morals. London society will overlook (and even be complicit in) scandals.
Wilde says that “civilised society …is never ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating” and that “manners are more important than morals”. He goes on to say that society values the possession of a good chef more highly than the highest respectability; a witty and perceptive comment that highlights the shallow views of London society.
Dorian Gray’s wealth and fascinating youthful looks effectively afford him the protection and high regard of London society.
I found all of the questions very perceptive and they really made me think hard about the book! I didn’t look at anyone else’s answers before sending mine.
Thanks all for answering the questions with such indepth and well thought out answers. Look out for Miscrawl’s questions when we’ve completed the book which I’ll re-blog.