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Can you analyze and describe the character of Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of...

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sparknotesgal | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:57 AM via web

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Can you analyze and describe the character of Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray and explain his influence and impact on Dorian?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 7, 2013 at 11:55 PM (Answer #2)

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An aristocrat and hedonist, Lord Henry Wotton is the middle-aged, rich, and powerful nephew of Lord Fermor, and he is also the friend of Dorian Gray's friend and painter, Basil Hallward. 

As a hedonist, Lord Henry's life is dedicated exclusively to searching for pleasure and for "sensations"; such yearnings can only be satiated by engaging in any of the many temptations available to man.

Yes, there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life, and to save from that harsh, uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. (Ch. 11)

Part of his "hedonist manifesto" also precludes the search and adoration of the ultimate forms of beauty. Henry takes particular interest in Dorian Gray because the young man is described as the epitome of male physical beauty. 

Lord Henry's fixation with Dorian could be interpreted from a homoerotic perspective, but Wilde gives less importance to this and more importance to the aesthetically-motivated purpose of Lord Henry: to make Dorian his ultimate creation by injecting this angelical-looking man's soul with the poison that comes out of giving into a life of extreme pleasures.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. (Ch.2)

In Lord Henry's mind, the mixture of forbidden pleasures and the beauty of Dorian would mean perfection perfected: a sensually inviting man leading a life of careless debauchery is what, ultimately, Lord Henry would have wanted as a life for himself. Why not create the creature, and watch what happens when perfect beauty and perfect evil combine?

This is a logical course of action for a hedonist to take: pleasure without the consequences of extremes. Lord Henry will set up the scenario to Dorian's lusts and debauchery, while Wotton happily enjoys the action develop. Hence, after finding out the tragedy behind Dorian's birth, Henry was even more interested in twisting Dorian into a plaything.

Yes; he would try to be to Dorian Gray what, without knowing it, the lad was to the painter who had fashioned the wonderful portrait. He would seek to dominate him-had already, indeed, half done so. He would make that wonderful spirit his own. There was something fascinating in this son of Love and Death.

Ultimately, Lord Henry demonstrates that whatever influence anyone exerts over anyone else is proportional with the inner soul of the individual. If the essence of your soul is capable to resist temptation, the latter will mean nothing. However, remember the most important thing: when Dorian exchanged his soul for eternal youth, he had no longer a soul; with no soul, temptation can cause havoc. Lord Henry definitely wins in the end.

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Kay Morse | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:30 PM (Answer #1)

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Lord Henry Wotton, who is quite impressed by Dorian and who unfortunately becomes Dorian's role model, is a selfish man who is absorbed with the observance of life at the expense of participation in life. He sees himself as separate from, detached from, the lives and personalities around him. This detachment is symbolized by his favorite activity of making up epigrams that reverse moral or ethical codes.

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