How does the portrait influence Dorian's sense of his own beauty in The Picture of Dorian Gray?

Dorian Gray's portrait influences his sense of his own beauty in The Picture of Dorian Gray at first by causing him to lament the inevitable decline of age. After he gets his wish of eternal beauty, the portrait acts as his license to indulge his weak character. As it grows uglier, the portrait becomes a more faithful representation of the evil in him. As such, the painting torments him until he destroys it and himself.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dorian's portrait does not influence his character so much as it enables it. At first, after Basil completes the painting, Dorian is filled with longing to remain as young and beautiful as he is in the portrait. True, he would not have felt this way were it not for Lord Henry's influence, which causes Dorian to prize beauty above virtue. But it is telling that Lord Henry has such a strong influence on so little acquaintance.

The Faustian bargain seems at first to Dorian to be his salvation. The painting does not, however, inherently corrupt him. He could have acted virtuously, and the portrait may have aged gracefully or it may have remained the same, with no corruption to depict. A truly virtuous person would not necessarily behave any differently in Dorian's position, but then such a person would not have made Dorian's wish in the first place. Since Dorian is vain and susceptible to temptation, the portrait acts as his license to indulge every whim without consequence.

As Dorian...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1013 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on