Oscar Wilde, author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, makes Basil’s lifechangedrastically by having him paint a portrait of Dorian Gray and expresstoo much of himselfin it, which, in Wilde’s mind, is a troublesome obstacle to circumvent. Wilde believesthat the artist should not portray any of himself in his work, so whenBasil does this, it ishe who creates his own downfall, not Dorian. Wilde introduces Basil to Dorian when Basil begins to notice Dorianstaring athim at a party. Basil “suddenly became conscious that someone waslooking at [him]. [He] turned halfway around and saw Dorian Gray for the first time”(Wilde 24).
Basilimmediately notices him, however Basil is afraid to talk to him. Hisreason for this isthat he does “not want any external influence in [his] life” (Wilde24). This is almost a paradox in that it is eventually his own internal influence thatdestroys him. Wilde doesthis many times throughout the book. He loved using paradoxes and thatis why LordHenry, the character most similar to Wilde, is quoted as being called”Price Paradox. ” Although Dorian and Basil end up hating each other, they do enjoymeeting each otherfor the first time. Basil finds something different about Dorian.
Hesees him in adifferent way than he sees other men. Dorian is not only beautiful toBasil, but he is alsogentle and kind. This is when Basil falls in love with him and beginsto paint the picture. Basil begins painting the picture, but does not tell anyone about it,includingDorian, because he knows that there is too much of himself in it. LordHenry discoversthe painting and asks Basil why he will not display it. Lord Henrythinks that it is sobeautiful it should be displayed in a museum. Basil argues that thereason he will notdisplay the painting is because he is “afraid that [he] has shown in itthe secret of his soul” (Wilde 23).
This is another paradox because hehas not only shown the secret ofhis soul, but the painting eventually comes to show the secret ofDorian’s soul also. In the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde explains that “toreveal art and concealthe artist is art’s aim” (Wilde 17). Basil realizes that he has notconcealed himself in thepainting and therefore feels the painting is not worth anything. AfterLord Henry sees thepainting, he asks to meet Dorian. Basil says that would not be goodbecause his”influence would be bad” (Wilde 31).
Basil is correct in saying thisbecause Lord Henryis the main person who helps Dorian to destroy himself. Lord Henrydisregards Basil’srequest and meets Dorian anyway. This is the beginning of the end forboth Dorian andBasil because Lord Henry’s influence pollutes Dorian. Lord Henry taunts Dorian andcontinues to remind him of all the sin that is building up and that eventhough his body isnot aging, his soul is deteriorating fast. When Basil notices that Dorian has not changed physically in manyyears, he iscurious to know how Dorian stayed beautiful, but also wants to know whyDorian haschanged so much emotionally.
Basil does not have the painting ondisplay, but ratherkeeps it in the attic. When Dorian comes over one day, he and Basil aretalking whenBasil asks, “I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, Ishould have to seeyour soul. ” (Wilde 216) Dorian goes into a rage and takes Basilupstairs to see his soulwhich is concealed in the painting. When Basil sees the painting whichis bloody andatrocious looking, he cannot believe that he painted it. Dorianreassures him that it isindeed Basil’s painting. In that painting is all of Dorian’s hate,fear, and sadness reducedonto a canvass.
When Dorian sees the picture, he blames Basil for itand picks up a knifelaying on a nearby table and stabs Basil. He then takes the knife andstabs the painting inthe heart, killing his soul, and returning the painting to its originalform. Wildeconstructs this in an interesting way because after Dorian stabs thepicture, which is arepresentation 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 whenDorian stabbed the painting, he was actually stabbing himself.
Oscar Wilde first portrays Dorian Gray as a sweet, sensitive man whomeveryoneadmires. When Basil, however, began admiring Dorian, he changed. LordHenry moved into his life, and the painting showed a form of beauty that he couldnever be able to achieve again in real life without the help of magic. With this, Dorianconceals his morbid soul with the painting and continues living as beautiful as heever was, physically, but spiritually he is rotting inside. Wilde creates ananimal out of theseemingly perfect man and has him destroy himself and his friends alongwith him. Allof this happened because of the picture of Dorian Gray.