In The Picture of Dorian Gray, does Dorian Gray attempt to reform his dissolute life?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, the character of Dorian Gray is a tragic antihero. His vanity and propensity for being easily-led drives him towards a path of self-destructive behaviors. All his actions were done under the wrong idea that life is meant to be a feast for the senses. Therefore, he over-indulges in every whimsical taste that comes to his fancy. 

Undoubtedly it is Dorian's impulsive behavior that leads him to try, in three different ocasions, to reivindicate his ways and lead a life of virtue. He fails in all three ocasions. His capricious nature prevents him from deviating from anything that is not intense, nor perverse, enough.

However, this aspect of Dorian's personality is only known to us after he meets the dark influential person of Lord Henry Wooton. Prior to this, Dorian actually was close to leading a normal life. He was even interested in philanthropy. This plan, however, was deterred by Lord Henry's interference, where he begins his journey into Dorian's mind by promoting a gospel of hedonism that Dorian quickly follows.

The second time Dorian tries to change his life is when meets a lower-class actress named Sybil Vane. Dorian's fascination with the actress is clearly another caprice of his, particularly when he decides that he is going to marry her. When he speaks of her, he continuously compares her to the Shakespearian characters that she interprets. He insists that he is going to love her forever. He basically promises Sybil the world. In turn, the woman falls madly in love with Dorian, and decides that acting is no longer her passion: Dorian is. Sadly for her, when Sybil acts badly one night, Dorian's fantasy of her ends and his coldness and meanness towards her leads to her suicide.

The last try occurs the next day, when Dorian is again touched by the idea of living a life of virtue with Sybil Vane, and sends her a letter. However, he receives the news from Lord Henry of Sybil's suicide. Instead of learning from this sad event and understanding the gravity of his behavior, Dorian takes Sybil's tragedy as her final performance. He was happy that someone would have done something like that in the name of romance. This is Dorian's turning point in life: From this moment on, his life becomes nothing but complete chaos.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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