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The Picture of Dorian Gray - Short Sample Answers

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Table of Contents

Discuss the character of Lord Henry and his impact on Dorian. 3

Discuss the role of homoeroticism in the novel. 4

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,” Wilde says in the Preface. “Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” Does the novel confirm this argument? 5

Discuss the character of Lord Henry and his impact on Dorian.

“Don’t spoil him,” Basil begs Lord Henry just before introducing him to Dorian. “Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad.” But influence is what Lord Henry does best and what he enjoys most; inevitably, his charm, wit, and intellect hold tremendous sway over the impressionable Dorian. This influence, as Basil foresees, is primarily negative—if Dorian is like Faust, the fictional character who sells his soul for knowledge, then Lord Henry is something of a Mephistopheles, the devil who tempts Faust into the bargain. Lord Henry is a cynical aesthete, a lover of beauty with a contempt for conventional morality, and he views Dorian as a disciple with the potential to live out his philosophy of hedonism.

One must not overstate Lord Henry’s role as a villain, however. Indeed, above all else, Lord Henry prizes individualism, which allows one to live one’s life boldly, freely, and according to one’s own edicts. Because Dorian so willingly assumes the role of disciple, the real source of his downfall rests in his willingness to sacrifice himself to another’s vision. Following Lord Henry’s advice and i...

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