Picture of Dorian Gray The Power of Pressure Essay

This essay has a total of 2961 words and 11 pages.

Picture of Dorian Gray The Power of Pressure





The Power of Pressure
Everyone has dealt with peer pressure sometime within his/her life. Just recently a
friend, Julie, gave into smoking weed although it went completely against her morals. Her
friend was so persistent and pushy in trying to persuade her to try it, that Julie could
not fight it anymore and gave in. Julie explained later that she knew it was wrong and
told how her conscience was screaming for her not to smoke, but the pressure and influence
from her friend was just too strong. Many people have been in similar situations where
they find that peer pressure is so overwhelming that they ignore the little voice in their
head, their conscience. In Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, he describes
the power of peer pressure, through two themes: influence and conscience. Through the
characters of Dorian Gray and Lord Henry, Wilde proves that influence can overpower a
person's conscience.

Basil Hallward, a painter, knows the corruptive influence that Lord Henry can impose upon
his model, Dorian Gray. Basil does not want Lord Henry to even meet Dorian because he is
afraid that Dorian will be influenced and ruined. Basil begs Henry by saying, "Don't
spoil him. Don't try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide,
and has many marvelous people in it. Don't take away from me the one person who gives to
my art whatever charm it possesses: my life as an artist depends on him" (Wilde 10).
Right from the beginning Wilde begins to show what type of person Lord Henry is. Lord
Henry's influences pose a threat to Dorian. Basil is well aware of this. Through Basil
Hallward, Wilde implies that Dorian can easily be corrupted. However, Dorian tries to
assure Basil that he is not being

influenced. He states that Lord Henry "has certainly not been paying me compliments.
Perhaps that is the reason that I don't believe anything he has told me" (Wilde 15). The
only reason Dorian does not believe Lord Henry is because Lord Henry does not complement
him. Wilde infers that if this is the only reason for Dorian to doubt Henry, Dorian could
therefore be influenced in some other way. Overall, Wilde shows how a person may deny the
warning signs of being influenced.

Lord Henry slowly begins to influence Dorian, intentionally allowing his corruptive words
to eat away at Dorian's conscience. Lord Henry lacks morals and is not shy in expressing
his unethical opinions to Dorian. Lord Henry believes that, "Conscience and cowardice are
really the same things. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm" (Wilde 5). In essence,
Lord Henry feels that listening to one's conscience and doing the right thing shows
weakness and cowardice in a person's character. Since Wilde creates an evil character who
holds these beliefs, one can imply that Wilde feels quite the opposite. Wilde must feel
that having a conscience and listening to it shows strength in a person's character.
Nevertheless, Lord Henry persists n corrupting Dorian. Lord Henry feels that, "The only
way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick
with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself…" (Wilde 13). Lord Henry tries to
persuade Dorian to believe that listening to his conscience will only bring him pain.
Dorian must give into temptation if he wants to be happy. Dorian listens acutely to
Henry's words. Dorian now has a justification for ignoring his conscience and acting
sinful. Slowly Henry's influence takes over Dorian's conscience. Basil begins to notice
this corruption in Dorian's face right after Dorian meets Henry. When Basil is painting
Dorian, he notices a change. Basil "…deep in his work, and conscious only that a look had
come into the lad's face that he had never seen there before" (Wilde 13). Dorian is
loosing his innocence and purity due to Henry's influence and Basil can detect this subtle
change. Wilde illustrates how

having a corrupted conscience and soul, can negatively affect a person's outer appearance.
Wilde reveals the process in which influence takes over a person's conscience through the
relationship between Lord Henry and Dorian. Lord Henry is witty and therefore able to
subtly, almost subliminally, impose his corrupted opinions upon Dorian. He makes his
comments nonchalantly and makes them sound so believable that it becomes easy for Dorian
to accept his beliefs. Dorian is "dimly conscious that entirely fresh influences are at
work within him. Yet they seem to him to have come really from himself" (Wilde 14). The
ideas Lord Henry offers are new to Dorian. Regardless, Dorian is weak and easily
persuaded to believe that these immoral opinions and ideas are actually moral. Lord Henry
even offers justifications. Although Dorian is blind to the corruption of his conscience,
Lord Henry is not blind to his negative influence. Lord Henry feels:

There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other
activity was 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 views echoed back to one with
all the added music of passion and youth; to convey one's temperament into
another as though it were a subtle fluid or a strange perfume: there was a real joy
in that-perhaps the most satisfying joy left to us in an age so limited and vulgar
as our own. (Wilde 26).
The corruption of Dorian's conscience is an intentional plan of Lord Henry's. It is
terrible how Henry finds pleasure in controlling a person's life. Unfortunately, Dorian
doesn't even realize that Henry's influence is taking over his conscience. Through the
characters of Dorian Gray and Lord Henry, Wilde verifies the dangers that evil and corrupt
people can pose to those who are weak in our society.


Although Henry persistently attempts to corrupt Dorian's conscience, Dorian is able to
savor enough of his conscience to recognize and accept his love for an actress, Sibyl
Vane. Loving Sibyl Vane provides Dorian protection from Henry's influence. Although
Henry's influence overpowers Dorian's conscience, his love for Sibyl overpowers both
Henry's influence and Dorian's conscience. Dorian tells Lord Henry, "I do love her. She
is everything to me in life" (Wilde 37). He later describes, "the mere touch of Sibyl
Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful
theories" (Wilde 56). His love for Sibyl temporarily relieves the control Henry has over
Dorian. He is not as blind to Henry's negative influences but he no longer believes that
succumbing to temptation is pleasurable. He feels that pleasure "is to adore some one"
(Wilde 57). Dorian seems to be gaining his conscience back, which gives Lord Henry a
greater desire to corrupt and control Dorian. However, through Dorian's actions, and his
abrupt change, Wilde suggests that Dorian is weak and does not foreshadow much improvement
with Dorian's conscience and strength. Dorian is easily influenced by Lord Henry, which
shows his weakness. He falls in love and is completely enveloped so that he looses sight
of himself. This also shows weakness. He is able to change so quickly, proving his
weakness and Wilde infers that weakness in a person makes them more susceptible to
influence.

Dorian only has his conscience back for a little while until Lord Henry begins to corrupt
him again. When Lord Henry begins to loose his control over Dorian, he tries even harder
to regain it. Lord Henry places so much importance on Sibyl's acting skills that when she
doesn't perform perfectly, Dorian is influenced to stop loving her. However, his
conscience does hint that he may have been too cruel. Dorian wonders, "Had he been cruel?
It was the girl's fault, not his. She disappointed him. She had been shallow and
unworthy. And, yet, a feeling of infinite regret came over him, as he thought of her
lying at his feet sobbing like a child. Why had such a soul been given to him?" (Wilde
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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