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The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, embodies the zenith of the mid-

nineteenth century movement known as aestheticism The relationship between the


titular Dorian Gray and Lord Henry Wotton and that between Dorian and Basil
symbolizes the duality of Dorian's character, that of good/evil and
stoicism/hedonism. The two, in addition to the various objects that manifest
them, act as a sort of shoulder devil and angel tugging Dorian in either direction
of this axis.
Lord Henry obviously serves to represent the hedonistic side of Dorian's nature.
He himself makes his devotion to this ideal explicit, and though it generally repulses all
who hear of it at first glance, Wotton's rhetoric pokes holes in these universal Victorian
moral presumptions. Lord Henry is static in his views. He does not waver in his
affection for the Epicurean ideal and peristently attracts Dorian to his side. His main
purpose is simply to remind Dorian of his beauty.
Basil, alternatively is the voice of moralistic reason to Dorian. He frequently
admonishes Dorian for his callousness. Basil is frustrated and saddened by Dorian's
corruption and likely sees himself to be at fault as he first introduced Dorian to Lord
Henry, who is of course the source of said "corruption." Dorian ignores Basil and grows
to dislike him, to the point of murder. Dorian is unable to take this constant reminder of
his own sin and eliminates it. Basil is the "angel" in that he makes every attempt to
disuade Dorian from the encroachment of Lord Henry's ideals.
Dorian's slow descent to depravity is akinable to that of loss of paradise by the
biblical characters Adam and Eve. Both are found in an initial state of innocence, and
are necesarily thrust after an act of disobiedience. Basil's warning against consultation
with Wotton is analogous to the mandate of God not to eat the fruit of the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil. Likewise, just as Adam and Eve disobey this command,
so does Dorian in his dialogue with Lord Henry in the garden (itself oviously relatalble to
Eden). Lord Henry is an Eve, who gives his "fruit," his speech about Dorian's beauty, to
Dorian, the "Adam." The "serpent" of this metaphor is the very ideal of hedonism and
aestheticism that so controls Wotton. The symbolism is twofold in that Lord Henry as
Eve, and Dorian as Adam highlights the hinted physical attraction between the two.
After eating Lord Henry's "fruit," Dorian instantly loses his naivete. He suddenly
becomes aware that he will age, just as Adam and Eve become aware of their
nakedness. In this event, Dorian, as a sort of Victorian-era Narcissus, sees himself in
the pond. This epiphany is both beneficial and detrimental. The "fruit" of Woton, and
Dorian's "reflection in the pond" fascinates him, but yet terrifies him.
The Portrait is a steady reminder to Dorian of what he has lost. Dorian attempts
to mask it later in the book, but this is all in vain.
After leaving the metaphorical "garden" Dorian gradually evolves into a Cain-Like
character. This transformation is most obviously seen in his murder of Basil, and his
wandering throughout the slums of London. Dorian kills Basil out of rage, just as Cain
does Abel. Dorian's almost seems to have the mark of Cain. James Vane attempts to
avenge his daughter's suicide and is killed himself in the process