Describe Dorian Gray as a Faustian figure in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are similarities between Dorian Gray and Dr. Faustus as Marlowe writes him. One contrast that exists is with Goethe's Faust, though. While Faust shuns the company of people, Dorian comes to be shunned by people. Dorian is evil and dissolute so that people come to despise his company. Faust, on the other hand, begins life as a solitary scholar who never cares about the normal associations and passions of life.

Faustus can not find a balance between the pursuit of knowledge, power bestowed by knowledge and morality that puts godliness and human goodness above knowledge. Similarly, Dorian will not balance an obsessive adoration of beauty--beauty at all costs--and resulting selfish behavior with moral and responsible behavior: he comes to kill at will and disguise his crime without hesitation.

In the end, Faustus repents his self-centered pursuits that exclude godliness and goodness, yet cannot find a way to repent. His soul is captured by Mephistophilis and taken to torment in a life devoid of God.

Faustus: Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I'll burn my books!—Ah, Mephistophilis!

Similarly. Dorian comes to repent his life in the end, yet is persuaded by Lord Henry that alteration is useless, even undesirable. He ends in torment with the wounds in his own breast that are meant for the evil doppleganger portrait.

Dorian: Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood- .... it would kill the painter's work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.

By contrast, Goethe's Faust is saved by the love and prayers of Gretchen and snatched to Heaven before Mephistopheles and his demons can snatch him to the inferno.

Mephistopheles: They’ve stolen a great, a unique treasure:
That noble soul, mortgaged to my pleasure, 11830
They’ve snatched it away, with cunning even.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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