The picture of Dorian Gray is a novel by Oscar Wilde that describes the relationship between three men; Basil Hallward, a well known and celebrated artist and painter, his friend Lord Henry, and Dorian Gray, whom the two men admire and fascinate about. Their relationship is not defined as sexual in the book, but their description of the attachment they feel toward one another is questionable.
In the Victorian culture, beauty was highly regarded and appreciated more than anything, including morals. Artists such as Basil communicated their obsession of beauty through their work, and yet art was a tool to communicate moral lessons and enlightenment to members of the society.
In the beginning, Dorian is introduced as an innocent and pure boy, "simple and beautiful nature" as Basil descries him to Lord Henry, and who has no notice of his good looks and handsome body, until basil makes him aware of it through his painting. Basil later discusses his new client with Lord Henry who gets drawn to Dorian and makes it his mission to "mould" the boy into seeing and accepting the unpleasant realities of the society. Lord Henry meets Dorian and changes him through his philosophies of not having a care about anything else but to strive to appreciate beauty and the pleasures of life (Wilde, 2009).
Idolizing beauty is as harmful to the society as it is to the whole society. Basil idolized Dorian's beauty and he later declared him, "his sole inspiration". He even refused to exhibit the painting because he feared it would reveal his obsession with Dorian. This shows the negative influence of idolizing beauty, obsession. Dorian's encounter with Lord Henry also shows the negative effects of Idolizing beauty, as Dorian becomes more and more heartless towards people and events in his life. When Sybil commits suicide, Lord Henry convinces Dorian not to feel guilty and instead see it as a sign of "undying love" between them. Even the very act of Sybil's suicide denotes the effect of idolization of beauty. Sybil fell in love with Dorian's handsomeness and affluent lifestyle that she abandoned her acting career saying she found real reasons not to act out feelings that she did not have. This broke Dorian's heart and he decided to end things with her, i.e, he noticed he had fallen in love with her acting, he felt thrilled watching her act and proclaimed, "the world worship the woman who is mine."
Beauty corrupted Lord Henry's soul and mind, hence his abnormal Philosophies about life. He criticized his Aunt's Philanthropic actions and seemed to convince everyone around him to embrace his way of though. When he presents the yellow book to Dorian, he was trying to make it easier for Dorian to forget Sybil. This book became an obsession to Dorian and he spent days alone reading and not noticing the harm he was doing to people around him. Dorian became selfish and self centered that people started talking about him. His friend died mysteriously and people who were close to him lost their careers. Although people were aware of these, they failed to make him accountable, choosing to maintain the handsome and pure boy picture that Dorian was at the beginning.
This obsession with beauty later sees Dorian kill Basil, and his soul became so dark that he abandoned the country villa he shared with Henry for Opium dens, which portrayed the dark state of his mind and soul. James, Sybil's brother comes to haunt Dorian, he appeared as a "white handkerchief" to make Dorian accept responsibilities for his actions and to torture his conscience. Dorian appeared not to have any moral responsibility left within him. The yellow book from Lord Henry also represented the effects art had on morality.