The following essay will focus on the analysis of one of the most important characters present in Oscar Wilde’s work “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” particularly the figure of Lord Henry Wotton. The cunning aristocrat can be considered the co-protagonist of the novel, since it is the best friend of Dorian Gray and will definitely play a determinant role for what concerns the development of the narration. He is middle-aged, lives in London during the 19th century, actively participates to the high-society celebrations, and apparently leads a staid and serene life.
Thanks to his captivating and fascinating personality as well as his hedonistic attitude, he will be able to persuade Dorian to become a cruel, deceitful, and unscrupulous man. It is not by chance that Lord Henry suggests Dorian to take advantage of his greatest talent, which is obviously his innocent beauty. Wotton’s moral is strictly founded on the satisfaction of every single pleasure, which can be reached through different tools: corruption, strong persuasiveness, and money. Another significant distinctive trait of the character is undoubtedly represented by his aphorisms, which are clear expressions of his aesthetic mindset.
It is certainly noteworthy the peculiar relationship between Lord Henry Wotton and Dorian. The boy is incredibly seduced by the brilliant intellect of his friend, and his radical theories and vision of the world will guide his thoughts and actions all along. For this reason, he seems to take Henry’s suggestions extremely seriously, in order to follow the supreme idea that living with passion and lust is more important than the respect of moral laws. Henry seems to have vague understanding of the consequences of his life philosophy, though this will not impede the actual happening of the tragic ending. His obsession with Dorian could be easily interpreted as a pure homoerotic passion, but in this case the author prefers to pinpoint to Henry’s intention to make Dorian his ideal creation. As a sculptor, Henry tenaciously tries to shape his work of art, that is a disquieting hybrid between an harmless angel and a sordid pleasure-seeker.
In conclusion, Lord Henry can be defined as a static character. None of the story’s events are able to change him for real. Most likely, Henry and Dorian’s friendship was nothing, but a form of amusement to satisfy Henry’s desires. As soon as Dorian wakes up to reality, he feels the weight of his sins. Henry is saved and wins the challenge against temptations, due to the lack of a conscience.
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