The Picture of Dorian Gray


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  1. Morally ambiguous characters--whose behavior discourages readers from identifying them as purely eveil or purely good are at the heart of many works of literature, and clearly at the heart of this novel.

    Choose a character from this novel and explain how that character can be viewed as morally ambiguous and why this moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole.

    Cite one or two examples/quotes from the text to support your opinion on that character's moral ambiguity.

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    1. Lord Henry is morally ambiguous in that he plays the role of the Devil on Dorian's shoulder through out the novel. He does not provoke Dorian specifically, but tells him philosophies and gives him books that corrupt Dorian and turns him into the creature the portrait shows in the novel. An example of the corrupting philosophies is evident on page 21, where Lord Henry first tells Dorian "Yes, that is one of the great secrets of life- to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul." Dorian spends the rest of his life pondering this phrase and following it to the letter by indulging in both obscure fads for his pleasure and eventually using drugs like Opium. The book that corrupts him further is described on page 104. "It was a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian, who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all of the passions and modes of that belonged to every century except his own, and to sum it up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call sin." This book absorbs Dorian to the point of him obtaining a dozen copies of its first edition and telling Lord Henry on the last day he sees him on page 180 "Yet you poisoned me with a book once. I should not forgive that. Harry, promise me you will never lend that book to any one. It does harm." To which Lord Harry nonchalantly replies in his roundabout philosophical fashion "As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence on action. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are simply books that show the world it's own shame. That is all." This clearly shows how his moral ambiguity unknowingly poisons Dorian and destroys him from the inside out.

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  2. Analyze the picture on this page that is featured at the right. This painting is titled "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and can be found at the Chicago Institute of Art. In your blog response, make connections to what you see in this image to the character of Dorian Gray. Cite textual passages/quotes that seem to echo the illustration details. Focus in on specific aspects of the image as you do this side by side connection.

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    1. The hair on the creature in the painting is frazzled and grayed like the warped painting's description on page 130: "There was still some gold in the thinning hair and some scarlet on the sensual mouth." Another important detail of the painting is the warped and blood covered hands that are described on page 145, "What was that loathsome red dew that gleamed, wet and glistening, on one of the hands, as though the canvas had sweated blood?"

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