What does Lord Henry say is the "one thing worth having"? (p.24)The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 2 of Oscar Wilde'sThe Picture of Dorian Graywe witness Lord Henry Wooton admiring Dorian's beauty, as well as his innocent, young looks.

We know that Lord Henry's role in the novel is to be the catalyst that will motivate Dorian's inner temptations to meet his weaknesses. It is Lord Henry's canon of modern hedonism and his avowal to adhere to every sensation what causes Dorian to doubt his own knowledge of the world and life, as he knows it. Therefore, Lord Henry will instill in Dorian a series of axioms and tenets for "good living" that awake in Dorian many curious feelings and questions in a way that he has never experienced before.

Yet, the most powerful of all of Lord Henry's attractions is his obsession with youth. Being that Lord Henry is actually representing Oscar Wilde's own mind, he admires and analyzes youth not as a basic stage of life, but as a mystery of beauty and innocence. To Wooton youth is to be worshipped, as it is the only time in one's life where attractiveness, joy, and carelessness can co-exist in peace.

For this reason, we see that Lord Henry tells Dorian, in a very suggestive dialogue:

[...] you have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having.”

“I don't feel that, Lord Henry.”

“No, you don't feel it now. Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.

Hence, Lord Henry's worship of youth is what, ultimately, leads Dorian to conjure his dreadful wish of never to age again-which leads him to dire consequences.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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