Today on Wednesday’s book excerpt we revisit for the final occasion Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In our last encounter with Wilde’s only novel we explored Lord Henry’s enlightening views on humanity and science. The following dialogue between Henry and Dorian Gray occurs towards the end of the novel where the die has been well and truly cast on our protagonist Gray. Oscar Wilde paints such an alluring picture of youth in the first half of Dorian Gray that I like Dorian was being set up for the great fall due to my having succumbed to Henry’s morbid conclusions about ageing and windswept by his great monologue Youth is the One Thing Worth Having. You see, it’s the hedonistic and amoral Lord Henry who has corrupted the virtue and innocence that Dorian possessed at the start of the story. Henry appears on the surface unaware of the effect of his actions upon the young man, but even as Dorian remonstrates ‘I am going to be good’, Henry devilishly rebuttals ‘You cannot change to me, Dorian’ leaving Dorian behest to this unholy pact.
The book which Dorian accuses Henry of poisoning him with below is a thinly veiled reference to J.K. Huysmans’ À Rebours (“Against Nature”). The protagonist of that book is a representation of what Dorian could become—a robotic being with no true emotions and no true relationships—looking for only the next new sensation.