The Theme of The Dangers of Indulgence in The Picture of Dorian Gray
From a young age, children are taught that too much of a good thing makes it bad, thus
creating an open window to introduce the psychoanalytic theory of both the virtuous and illnatured influences in the conscience. The constant struggle of upkeeping both one’s personal need for indulgence and maintaining one’s moral ethics leads to a stage of passionate wars between the moral and immoral voice within the conscience, throwing the individual into instability and causing a stage where he or she will commit to illogical decisions.
The Picture of
Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde displays three main characters a person of hedonism, Lord Henry
Wotton, Basil Hallward who contrasts Henry and Dorian, a curious boy. These three represent the bad influence, the good, and the individual who is torn apart by the two. The struggle between the pure and the impure is shown through Dorian’s experiences. This includes his pursuit of poisonous indulgences, his soiled innocence which is reflected through the mirror that is Sibyl Vane, his descent into senselessness, and his rejection of his good friend, Basil
Henry Wotton is one of the main characters the reader is first introduced to and is also one of the most notable. Lord Henry is first seen devilishly whispering into Dorian’s ear upon their very first meeting. Lord Henry says “The only way to rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden” (Wilde 21). As this quote suggests, Lord Henry, from the beginning, had no motive to keep Dorian a pure and innocent boy. From the start, Lord Henry is pulling Dorian into his perspective of hedonism which he treasures so dearly, thus introducing immorality to young Dorian. The anonymous
"The Life of Secrecy" says “Lord Henry is defined by his secret motive to experiment with Dorian” (
"The Life of Secrecy"). This quote implies that Lord Henry considers himself superior to Dorian. It shows that Lord Henry cares not for the way Dorian wants to be nor what is good for him, but instead one may say Lord Henry only cares for his sole entertainment in the matter. For example, when Lord Henry claims that Dorian is not the type of person to commit murder, it shows that once he has soiled Dorian’s innocence, he is the first to keep out of
Dorian’s business. This tells the reader that Lord Henry does not care for Dorian as a person but instead as a developing character who he enjoys watching. Keeping in mind that the position of the ego the individual who hears the battle between his own indulgences and virtues is the neutral faction of his own conscience, one can see that Lord Henry claims Dorian as the ego he desires to influence. With this mindset and the knowledge that Lord Henry is in no way a morally ethical person, Lord Henry fits himself to be Dorian’s evil influential voice Dorian’s id. The anonymous author of “
The Unconscious Image of the Conscious Mind,” an essay that thoroughly discusses the id, ego and superego, states that Lord Henry “plays the role of the…
Eden snake” ("
The Unconscious Image of the Conscious Mind
. This statement only proves
Lord Henry’s mindset further by comparing him to the Eden snake. The Eden snake is the snake that manipulated the innocent Adam and Eve into sinning against God, thus tainting them, Both
Adam and Eve were now considered tainted by God and were consequently thrown out of heaven. This relates to Lord Henry because Lord Henry leads Dorian into a world of sin and temptation where his very soul becomes tainted, as symbolized by his deformed portrait.
As the story progresses, Dorian, the innocent, childlike individual, is taught new ideas from his selfappointed counsellor. These ideas are nowhere near what their society at the time would