The Influence of Lord Henry on the Soul of Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray, a Novel by Oscar Wilde
Peer pressure is denounced in schools nation-wide, children are told to not just do what others tell them, to be themselves. In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry influences Dorian Gray for the pleasure of it as he has done to many others, but the statement: “There was something terribly enthralling in the exercises of influence. No other activity was quite like it. To project one’s soul into some gracious form, and let it tarry there for a moment; to hear one’s own intellectual view echoed back to one with all the added music of passion and youth […]” has a larger meaning to the novel because it depicts why Lord Henry influences people in general and specifically why he choose Dorian to spend ample amounts of time with while also satirizing society’s emphasis on beauty. As seen in the last quote, Dorian is a young handsome man who Lord Henry is very much drawn to, and he decides to influence Mr. Gray because his youth will allow him to “charm the world” which Lord Henry who is not as young cannot do.
Also interpreted is that Lord Henry enjoys inspiring people because of the pleasure it brings him, calling it an “activity” meaning it is a hobby of his. Since Mr. Gray was chosen for his appearance, Wilde is making a statement about society that continues throughout the book: there is a large emphasis on beauty and little on intelligence. When communicating to Mr. Gray about the advantages of youth, Lord Henry states that “Beauty is a form of Genius-higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation […] It makes princes of those who have it […] It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
This means that those with Beauty compared to those with Genius far outrank them because no support is needed with appearances. This satirizes society because this era was all about appearances: people did not know about home life or any problems, worth was based off of looks, and those who dressed well succeeded. In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry influences the soul of Dorian Gray because of his youth and passion which contributes to the larger novel in such events like Dorian’s engagement and actions towards Basil while also satirizing society as appearance-based and too invested in other people.
- Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York, Bantam, 1982.