The power of influence is a prominent theme throughout the chapters we have read (Chapters 1-5). It is presented through the main protagonists of the novel: Dorian Gray, Lord Henry Wotton, Sybil Vane and Basil Hallward. They aim to influence each other through their appearances and views, for example: Lord Henry tries to influence people through is hedonistic and aesthetic views. Oscar Wilde may have included the power of influence to show the negative consequences of influence and how one can dramatically change under the influence of others. “The picture of Dorian Gray can be seen as a lesson in taking responsibility for one’s actions.”1
One way Oscar Wilde presents the power of influence in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is through the character of Lord Henry Wotton. This is shown through the negative influence he has over Dorian Gray. He completely has Dorian Gray smitten over himself. This is shown when Oscar Wilde describes Dorian Gray’s admiration for Lord Henry: “Dorian Gray never took his gaze off him, but sat like one under a spell, smiles chasing each other over his lips and wander growing grave in his darkening eyes”. This displays how infatuated Dorian is by Lord Henry. This helps Lord Henry Wotton influence him to believe in the aesthetic and hedonist views he holds. The alliteration “growing grave” shows that with Lord Henry’s influence could cause something sinister to happen, hence the word “grave” being used. This helps Lord Henry Wotton influence him to believe that the aesthetic and hedonistic views he hold are perfectly rational and moral principles that one should possess. It also presents influence as a persuasive power. “Lord Henry’s philosophies and paradoxes have a hypnotic power on some people, a cause Dorian to seek knowledge and believe in these theories enough that he lives by them.”2
Furthermore, Oscar Wilde presents the power of influence in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ through the aesthete Lord Henry Wotton. This is expressed when Dorian could not help telling Lord Henry Wotton about Sybil Vane: “I cannot help telling you things. You have a curious influence over me. If I did a crime, I would never come and confess it you. You would understand.” This shows Lord Henry as an influential character as the force Lord Henry has over Dorian showed Dorian compelled to tell him about Sybil Vane. The sentence: “If I did a crime I would come and confess it to you” shows that he has gained Dorian’s trust after a few encounters with Dorian, which shows how quickly he is able to influence Dorian. This is because he gives him new ideas and feelings, which were already somewhere inside him. This could later have a profound effect on Dorian’s behaviour.
Finally, Oscar Wilde presents the power of influence in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is through the character of Lord Henry Wotton. This is shown when Basil begs Lord Henry to stay away from Dorian: “Don’t spoil him. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad.” This shows that Basil realises that Lord Henry is an influential person and has the ability to corrupt Dorian because he knows Lord Henry can be very influential when he wants to be. The sentence “Your influence would be bad” shows the reader that something “bad” would come from Lord Henry’s influence as Basil has known Lord Henry for a long time which makes Basils judgement more reliable; he knows that Lord Henry will try to influence Dorian and that if Lord Henry is successful, then Dorian will be ruined. “Despite Basil’s plea not to change Dorian, Lord Henry makes it his new goal to have a great