The Picture of Dorian Gray

by: Oscar Wilde

Chapters Nine–Ten

Dorian reflects, for a moment, that with this love Basil might have saved him from Lord Henry’s influence, but he soon resigns himself to living a life dictated by the pursuit of passion. He devours the mysterious “yellow book” that Lord Henry gives him, which acts almost as a guide for the journey on which he is to travel. Like the protagonist of that novel, Dorian spirals into a world of self-gratification and exotic sensations. Although Wilde, in letters, identified the novel as imaginary, it is based in part on the nineteenth-century French novel À Rebours (“Against the Grain” or “Against Nature”), by Joris-Karl Huysmans, in which a decadent and wealthy Frenchman indulges himself in a host of bizarre sensory experiences. The yellow book has profound influence on Dorian; one might argue that it leads to his downfall. This downfall occurs not because the book itself is immoral (one need only recall the Preface’s insistence that “[t]here is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book”) but because Dorian allows the book to dominate and determine his actions so completely. It becomes, for Dorian, a doctrine as limiting and stultifying as the common Victorian morals from which he seeks escape. After all, Lord Henry is a great fan of the yellow book, but, to his mind, it is no greater or more important than any other work of notable art. He does not let it dominate his life or determine his actions, which, in turn, allows him to retain the respectability that Dorian soon loses.