The Picture of Dorian Gray

by: Oscar Wilde

Influence

1

But in some curious way—I wonder will you understand me?—his personality has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art, an entirely new mode of style. I see things differently, I think of them differently. I can now recreate life in a way that was hidden from me before.

Basil explains to Lord Henry the effect Dorian has on him as a person and as an artist. Although Basil has always been a talented painter, Dorian brings out his very best skills. Lord Henry becomes interested in how Dorian’s power over Basil can influence his art so much, and later decides to influence Dorian in the same way. While Dorian’s influence over Basil was unintended, Lord Henry’s intentional manipulation has drastic consequences for Dorian.

2

Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.

Soon after they first meet, Lord Henry explains to Dorian the immorality of one person exerting influence on another. He claims that influencing anyone else would take away that person’s chance to know who they truly are. Of course, Lord Henry then takes it upon himself to remake Dorian to think and act in the same way he does. Although Lord Henry characterizes his influence as immoral, he does not necessarily care about acting immorally.

3

Talking to him was like playing upon an exquisite violin. He answered to every touch and thrill of the bow…. There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it.

Lord Henry reflects on what it feels like spending time with Dorian Gray. He thinks of hearing his own ideas echoed in Dorian’s voice, which shows how easily he manipulates young Dorian. Lord Henry compares this feeling to playing music, with complete control of what comes out of the instrument. We can see that Lord Henry views his use of influence as a form of art on its own.

4

Yes… his painting had quite gone off. It seemed to me to have lost something. It had lost an ideal. When you and he ceased to be great friends, he ceased to be a great artist.

As Lord Henry and Dorian discuss Basil’s disappearance, Lord Henry reflects on the fact that Basil’s artistic ability diminished after Dorian stopped spending as much time with him. Lord Henry’s observation shows that Dorian influenced Basil’s art a great deal, and the difference could be seen in Basil’s work and not simply sensed by Basil’s imagination. Lord Henry laments that even if Basil had lived, he would never have produced another great work of art.