Class in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

I am interested in what The Picture of Dorian Gray has to say about class, particularly through the eyes of Mrs. Vane and her two children.  Mrs. Vane seems to have conflicting visions of the world.  On one hand, she seems excessively practical about money and supporting her son and daughter, but on the other, she seems deeply devoted to the world of theater and how she presents herself to the world from an artistic perspective.  She feels obligated to Mr. Isaacs because of the money she owes him and how he has given them the opportunity to work.  She thinks he has treated them very well (though Sibyl disagrees with this).  She is also obsessed with the idea that her daughter’s Prince Charming might be very wealthy, in which case “there is no reason why she should not contract an alliance with him” (Wilde 60).  In Mrs. Vane’s eyes, if Dorian is a member of the aristocracy, there could be nothing wrong with him. 

Her son, James, on the other hand, seems very distrustful of Dorian and other members of the upper class.  He worries very much about his sister’s safety and reputation as she pursues a relationship with a man she hardly knows.  He thinks that Dorian’s intentions in becoming involved with a poor actress is that he “wants to enslave” Sibyl (Wilde 62).  He worries that Sibyl will share the same fate as their mother, who is now a single mother in much debt after being wronged by a “highly connected” gentleman like Dorian (Wilde 64).  Sibyl seems very naïve in her approach to Dorian, not caring about the fact that she knows nothing about him other than that he adores to watch her act.  She cares not at all for money, exclaiming, “what does money matter?  Love is more than money” (Wilde 57), and “Poor?  What does that matter?  When poverty creeps in at the door, love flies in through the window” (Wilde 62).  It will be interesting to see how her relationship with Dorian plays out, and how her family and Lord Henry affect it.

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