The Picture of Dorian Gray Themes

Themes

Homoerotic Love
Although the theme of homoerotic love is never stated explicitly (and could not be, given the conventions of the day), it may be present in Basil’s feelings for Dorian. He tells Lord Henry that he cannot he happy if he does not see Dorian every day. He is upset when Dorian becomes engaged to Sibyl. Later, he confesses to Dorian that from the first moment they met, he worshipped him. He says, “I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.” He is completely dominated by his feelings for the younger man, which also transfigure his perception of the entire world. Everything becomes wonderful to him because of Dorian. Basil presents what may be homoerotic attraction in different terms, as the lure of an aesthetic ideal. He worships Dorian because the beautiful young man allows him to fulfill his highest ideals as an artist. He tells Lord Henry that Dorian is to him “simply a motive in art.”

The Indulgence of the Senses
Dorian attempts to live according to the view of life presented to him by Lord Henry. Lord Henry believes that nothing is gained by self-denial. He tells Dorian that people should not be afraid of their own desires and impulses, because in them lie the seeds of fulfillment and joy. His credo is “to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul.” To live a full life, it is necessary to savor with the senses every passing moment. It is better to experience everything the world has to offer than to spend time worrying about ethics or morals. It is better to seek beauty, in the contemplation of art and beautiful objects, than to tie up the mind in intellectual concerns and with education. Lord Henry calls this philosophy a “new Hedonism.” (Hedonism is defined as pleasureseeking as a way of life.)

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(The entire section is 771 words.)