The Picture of Dorian Gray

by: Oscar Wilde

Appearances

1

I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your silver Faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose.

Dorian makes a wry observation about Basil’s preoccupation with beauty after seeing in the finished painting how Basil idealized Dorian’s own handsomeness. Dorian accuses Basil of preferring art to his friends, because pieces of art will never change or grow old. The painting has made Dorian realize both the power and the transient nature of appearances, and he becomes jealous of anything that will remain beautiful forever. His accusation of Basil reveals that Dorian projects his feelings onto others, assuming they feel as he does. Basil has made it clear that he values Dorian for more than his looks.

2

Sibyl is the only thing I care about. What is it to me where she came from? From her little head to her little feet, she is absolutely and entirely divine.

Dorian describes his adoration for Sibyl Vane to Lord Henry. Dorian previously explained that the theater manager wanted to tell him about Sibyl’s past, but he was not interested in learning more about her. Sibyl herself attracts him and he regards her history with other people as irrelevant. His observations on her petite body and porcelain skin reveal that Dorian’s feelings for Sibyl focus on her appearance rather than her personality. Dorian not only values his own good looks, but those of others as well.

3

Dorian says she is beautiful, and he is not often wrong about things of that kind. Your portrait of him has quickened his appreciation of the personal appearance of other people.

As Lord Henry tells Basil of Dorian’s engagement to Sibyl, he explains what he knows of Sibyl from Dorian. Her appearance made a strong first impression with Dorian, a key piece of information that Lord Henry feels necessary to pass on to Basil. Although Dorian must have been aware of his good looks before Basil painted his portrait, he did not place much value in his appearance until seeing the portrait. As a result, he now sees beauty as the only thing worth having or noticing.

4

And yet who, that knew anything about Life, would surrender the chance of remaining always young, however fantastic that chance might be, or with what fateful consequences it might be fraught?

Dorian sees what his actions have done to his soul in the name of youth and beauty. He considers praying to undo the link between his soul and his portrait. Yet here Dorian reveals that even though he’s seen his soul’s decline, he doesn’t consider this consequence severe enough to try to alter the situation. His rationalization that anyone who “knew anything about Life” would make the same choice has an element of dramatic irony: Dorian’s still-young life hasn’t given him the experience to assess the cost of remaining young and beautiful.