Lord Henry’s Role

Lord Henry’s character is very interesting in The Picture of Dorian Gray because he is ultimately the only major character that remains alive at the end of the story. Seeing the developments of the characters throughout the story, he is the only character who manages to not become overly obsessive. Dorian with his beauty, Basil with Dorian, Sibyl to Dorian, and James Vane with Dorian’s death are all obsessive tendencies where their lives are dependent on something else. Strangely enough, everything ties back to Dorian who is formed into the self-destructive person by Lord Henry.  As a result, one cannot help but think of him as a villainous character. However, Lord Henry is never presented in a negative manner. He is clever, charming, and eloquent.

One can argue that he represents the devil, drawing a parallel to Faust by his beguiling manner. His first interactions with Dorian prove to bring about positive benefits for Dorian and those around him—Basil completes his portrait of Dorian, Dorian feels reinvigorated and curious, and Sibyl even finds herself mutually in love with Dorian. It is later when Dorian becomes too engrossed in his own beauty that every one of these characters ends up dead.

Furthermore, there is a manner in which he seems to be many steps ahead of the other characters. He emphasizes very heavily the importance of individuality stating, “’To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self,’ he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers. ‘Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life—that is the important thing.’” He is almost warning Dorian not to be influenced by him, making Dorian’s death even more tragic. This combined with undertones of gothic representations of death in “pale, fine-pointed fingers” makes it very clear that Lord Henry is far more contemplative and conniving than he is depicted.

-HJ

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Filed under Week 5 Reviews: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Against Nature

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