The Picture Of Dorian Gray is yet another novel portraying evil. The theme is very much reflected by the book's setting, plot structure and characterisation. It shows how individuals can slowly deteriorate because of the evil lying within themselves. The evil of this book is the evil created by one's self and thrusted upon one's self. The power of greed and selfishness take over Dorian Gray and create an ugly evil side to him.
The mid eighteenth century was a very influential era, specially in England. This period judged much upon appearance and status. Dorian was a very wealthy, intelligent man with a very high status. He knew the very influential and rich people in his town as well. His beauty charmed the world. Basil was inspired to draw his portrait in order to preserve his beauty and youth. Dorian recognised that as long as he remained young he would be handsome. He dreaded the day that he would age slightly and start to form wrinkles and such ugly (in Dorian's opinion) ugly things. He believed that that day would deprive him of triumphs that would result in him being miserable.
The degree of evil within Dorian increases as the plot develops. By trading his soul for his youth, Dorian rids of the good inside of himself. The plot proves to us that evil does actually lie within an individual. From the moment that he becomes forever young he begins to deteriorate. Even once he reached his epiphany and saw his evil through the portrait he simply denied seeing it and continued his malicious deeds.
The characterisation of the book is one of the most important elements of this book. Dorian begins by being a very naïve lad. He is very easily influenced by others especially his two new good friends; Basil and Lord Henry. Basil, the painter of the portrait, influenced Dorian in more of a good, honest way. While Lord Henry, although not being evil himself, gave him a more evil insight on life. Both of them changed his life forever. How little they both knew what went on inside that man.
Basil does not have any real direct influence on the youngster; without him the lad would have never been caught in his evil destiny. Basil was an inspired artist when he first met Dorian. He admitted that his picture of Dorian was the best picture he ever painted. To him it was more than a painting, it was as if he created another life. He put himself into it. He did not know that he was creating his own murder when he made the painting. He was always a good friend to Dorian. When Dorian talked about ageing being such a dreadful thing, something worth killing yourself for, Basil tried to calm him down.
At the same time, Lord Henry was more of a directly harmful influence on Dorian. Within the couple of minutes in which he lectured Dorian about youth and living, he developed a whole other side to him. He had such a big cynical impact on Dorian and yet he did not realise it. It was because of him that Mr. Dorian Gray decided that he would like to remain young and exquisite. He is also the one who brings out Dorian's first bad deed with Sibyl Vane.
With a multitude of different influences around Dorian Gray, he is still the one to blame for all his wrong doings. His character is a tragic one, much like Macbeth's. His flaw was excessive ambition. Even once he knew he was doing something wrong he could not control himself. He even yearned for self reformation but could not make it possible.
He started off as one of the kindest, most modest and innocent men ever. That all changed once he traded his soul for his youth with the painting. He entered a life of gradual dissipation. It became easier and easier for him to sin because he always had a maginot line; that he does not have a soul. In my opinion that was a poor excuse because his greediness and selfishness began before he abandoned his soul. His first act of covetousness was when he craved to be infinitely young. He wanted to be different, to be superior to others, to have something that the whole world would be envious of. He believed that to live a simple life was merely to live at all.
When he first started his life of debauchery his uneasy conscious made him avoid those he knew. Although once he became regulated to a life of degradation he no longer cared what others thought of him. This is one of the biggest ironies of the story; that he no longer cared what people think of him. He originally wanted to stay young and lovely so others would recognise his greatness so he may still be able to do audacious things. His pride of individualism was half of his fascination of evil.
The author was very successful in finding the right means to represent the evil in this book. The different aspects of the book made this possible. In Dorian's attempt to redeem himself he must terminate his life. The book ends on more of a good note than a bad; that there is hope in stopping evil, we just have to have a want for it.