Internal and External Conflicts in The Picture of Dorian Gray
The novel The Picture of Dorian Gray written by Oscar Wilde during the late 1800s is a story that follows the life of Dorian Gray who is described as a young man of extraordinary personal beauty (Wilde 3). Over the course of the plot, Gray struggles with internal and external conflicts that are coincidentally connected. As the main character has difficulties overcoming his vanity, he experiences paranoia and trust issues, which lead up to a dramatic and suspenseful death.
When Dorian Gray was first introduced, there was a sense of elegance and sophistication revolving around his character. The reputation that follows the young man is a mysterious one, where people are always questioning his radiance and beauty. The praise he receives for his looks contribute to his overall vanity, and diminishes any morals he had. I shall stay with the real Dorian (Wilde 29). This is just a small example of the ways the people around him shaped the impressionable Dorians mindset. The actions of others around him created a internal darkness that would lead to obsession over ones outer shell. In chapter seven, Dorian speaks with stabbing words towards his fiance in which he ends up leaving. Without your art, you are nothing What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face? (Wilde 84). His cold words begin to initiate the changing of his portrait. Dorian showed not a single ounce of sympathy for Sybil that night. He tore her heart apart because of his lack of moral compassion, and his need to be superior over others. It will mock me someday- mock me horribly (Wilde 27) will foreshadow a consuming obsession to remain youthful forever.
As the portrait of Dorian was locked away in chapter ten, the eternal youth began to struggle with paranoia and trust issues. He even begins to question his servant Victor. When his servant entered, he looked at him steadfastly and wondered if he had thought of peering behind the screen (Wilde 113). The portrait was beginning to take over his thought process, so much that he had trouble trusting the people who were helping him. It is at this point in the book where the weight is beginning to pile onto him. In chapter thirteen a major shock arose from the lines of the book. It was all downhill for Dorian the moment the knife touched innocent Basils skin. Basils presence will always linger from this point on. The enchanting Dorian also experiences extreme paranoia after the aggressive confrontation with James Vane in chapter sixteen. The brother of Dorians ex-lover attacks him while walking late at night. The mask of youth had saved him (Wilde 192). Dorian uses his appearance as an excuse to get out of taking responsibility for Sybils suicide. Before we gain the knowledge of James Vanes death, Dorian fears for his life. …then a thrill of terror ran through him when he remembered that, pressed against the window of the conservatory, like a white handkerchief, he had seen the face of James Vane watching him (Wilde 191). It is as if the guilt of his destruction is finally catching up to him.
The overall main conflict in this book is the self consciousness that Dorian experiences. He is so utterly consumed by his looks that he fails to realize his real problem. At the end of the day, the painting helped to emphasize that your appearance isn’t everything. You could be the most beautiful person in the world, and still have the ugliest heart. That’s something that Dorian seems to get caught up on. The other characters certainly help by constantly praising his perfect looks.
Dorian did not necessarily come to terms with the conflicts in the plot, but rather gives up and fails trying to reverse his unforgivable acts. It is apparent that he regretted the wish he made, but rather than living with his punishments he acts out violently one last time. As it killed the painter, so it would kill the painters work It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free (Wilde 213). He truly believed his actions could be undone and forgotten by simply disposing of the portrait. This was not the case because the portrait was a reflection of his soul. Dorians death was almost unavoidable. Dorian was no longer strong enough to handle the stress put on him by the portrait, so he attempts to destroy it. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart (Wilde 214). The once always gazed upon man died trying to reverse his sins. The not-so-happy ending is how Dorian manages to resolve his internal and external problems.
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