Our discussion today had me thinking a lot about the philosophies that Wilde is portraying through his characters, as well as how Wilde himself fits into the narrative of his own novel, but then I started thinking about the physical world in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I brought up the point in class that the whole reason for Basil’s downfall becomes his trust in Lord Henry. He believes that Dorian will become influenced by Henry, and “the influence would be bad” (26). At the end of chapter six, Basil mourns the “strange sense of loss” of Dorian becoming influenced by Henry and then states that “life had come between them” (70). I’m not going to be focusing on the word strange and the homoerotic implications it has in this blog post (although it’d be cool if somebody commented on it!), but rather I want to talk about how we can understand the relationships through their physicality and mobility. I find it interesting that at the beginning of the novel, when first introduced to Basil and Dorian’s relationship, the artist and the art, Dorian is physically immobile. He stays confined and seems satisfied simply being inside his studio. There is a part after where Dorian goes out to the garden because he is impatient with posing, but it happens after he meets Lord Henry. After Lord Henry, Dorian cannot be confined to the studio anymore, as a subject of art. He creates the subjects now; he goes from dinners to outings to the theater with Lord Henry, who makes Dorian into somebody physically a part of the world, somebody that can move around unlike when Basil confined him to the art studio. This makes sense with the line that “life had come between” Basil and Dorian, and life is Henry personified because Henry is integrating Dorian into all of the societal outings and sensory experiences that life has to offer over the studio.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this argument as well as the level of nuance that Basil is creating backdrops and environments in the portrait that are not a part of the physical realm since they are birthed from his artistry and his mind, which is also an interesting perspective to consider. I think that the material and physical world will start to tell us some things about the contradictory philosophies we are reading that come from all the characters. What does it mean that Basil is “confining” Dorian? Is it a bad thing to become integrated into the society of dinners, outings, and theater? How does Basil’s trust become his downfall; what does it say about him?
2 thoughts on “Dorian’s Immobility and Mobility”
This argument is really fascinating and something I never would of thought of, so thank you for sharing it! I find it especially interesting when extended further into the plot of the novel, where Dorian’s physical mobility breaks down. First, he locks the painting of himself away in the schoolhouse, and then he spends hours locked away with it, just observing. Slowly but surely, he becomes obsessed with it, and refuses to leave it alone for too long, out of fear that someone will discover it when he is away. When he brings Basil to see it he kills him, trapping him physically in the room as he himself was once trapped. This breakdown of Dorian’s mobility and his taking of Basil’s mobility begs the question: Did Dorian really have mobility at all?
I found this post very interesting because Dorian’s mobility/immobility reminded me of the conversations we have had about freedom. Like you said, with Basil he is confined to one spot. But with Lord Henry, although he is controlling, he gives Dorian a sense of physical freedom through movement. This also made me think of the conversation we had about the relationship as the older man (as the mentor) and the younger man (as the mentee). There is a sense of freedom being given to Dorian through learning from Lord Henry, from being shown the way and how to interact in society. Yet, his relationship with Lord Henry still feels constricting to me.