Dorian Gray has the best of both worlds: a stunningly gorgeous face and a perfect personality, but his choice in friends leaves a lot to be desired. One friend, who is enamored with him, stirs up his vanity by painting him in his greatest masterpiece. The other friend, Lord Henry Wooton, makes him keenly feel the terror of aging and losing his charm. In a moment of foolishness, twenty-year-old Dorian gives his soul to make the painting age instead of him. Then, led by Lord Henry's hedonistically evil and blasphemous philosophies, proceeds to live life according to his own evil desires, letting the painting reap the consequences for him.
Basil, the painter, "worships" Dorian Gray. He says it is like idolatry. It is called a real, intellectual love, but it's hard to say whether it is meant to be homosexual feeling or not. There is enough in it to make one believe so. For instance, Basil confesses he never loved a woman and is jealous of all who talk to Dorian. It is even referred to often as a romance, but, later, Basil, who quotes Scripture and appears to be a rather naive Christian, says there was nothing evil or shameful in his feelings toward Dorian. Lord Henry is infatuated with women, but has 26 photographs of Dorian. He seems to be obsessed with him as well, but it seems it's because he wishes to be like him. While terms like "romance" and "real love" could mean something entirely different in 1891, when this book was first published, it still made the critic uneasy about the nature of Basil's affections.
The rest of these were not explicit in nature, but the critic still felt the need to rate this book a 6 in this category because of all that's implied, as well as the very darkness of the book itself and how badly marriage, fidelity, and women are spoken of.
A man says that only the shallow love once. Those who are faithful in marriage are only so because they are lethargic.
A man is in love with a beautiful young actress because of her talents and looks. He says he "worships" her.
Beauty is described as the only thing worth having. A man asks another man why he won't marry a woman because she is beautiful. "What more could you want?" he asks.
A woman who plays Juliet is described to have "sucked poison from her lover's lips" in a performance.
A man tells another man that the only thing worth loving is an actress because he has loved many.
Love is described as deception to oneself and others.
A man wants another man to divorce his fiance after six months of marriage and fall in love with someone else.
A man kisses a woman (no description).
A woman's curve in her throat is described like a "white lily."
A woman strokes a man's hair and kisses his hand.
A woman tells a man she fell in love because of their kiss and begs for another kiss. (He refuses.)
A man is so enamored with his own self and beauty, that he kisses his own lips in a self-portrait.
In a self-described "evil book" that Dorian obsesses over and gets his life goals from, a man is said to have been loved by a harlot, who covered his body with roses when he was murdered. Another man in the book is described as being in love with another man's wife.
A man's sister is given such a bad reputation because of another man that her own children were taken away from her.
A man accuses another man of visiting "shameful houses" and corrupts everyone he becomes close to. It is said that "no pure girl or chaste woman" would keep company with him. A man's wife is said to have written a letter implicating him in "something shameful." Another boy commits suicide because of this same man.
A man intends to run off with a girl, but changes his mind.
A man divorces his wife after she runs away with a musician.
A young woman is said to have poisoned herself because her fiance broke off their engagement. (Very little description.) Her fiance takes the blame, saying he murdered her by his words just as if he were to have slit her throat, but feels very little remorse.
In a self-described "evil book" that Dorian reads, a man is described as "slaying his wife and painting her lips with poison." A man also is described as having a passion for red blood like some men do for red wine. Another man is described as having others' blood in his veins. Another strangled another man with a napkin.
There is an explicit and detailed description of a man being stabbed in the head, along with how the body looked afterward. This scene is the main reason for the Violence category receiving a very high rating.
A man teases another man who dumps his girlfriend by suggesting that she drowned herself.
It is said that a man shot himself in his laboratory. (No description)
A man is killed with a knife in his heart.
A gregarious and annoying man is called "The Old Jew" in a disdainful way. One reference to "Negroes."
God's Name in vain is used eight times.
A** is used once.
Christian Principles: None
As much as the critic would have loved to have put a "Minimum" for Christian Principles instead of "None," she couldn't, because whatever good morals or lessons were hidden in the ending of this book were immensely overshadowed by the evil and perverted philosophies taught throughout the rest of it. Anyone who isn't an older and strong Christian would most probably miss it.
All throughout the book, Lord Henry preaches a new kind of hedonism to Dorian - a hedonism that is no longer "new" to 21st century Americans. But one point this books makes is new to us in the far terrible age of wickedness we are in now: Dorian is portrayed as innocent and "unstained" by the world when he meets Lord Henry, and, even though the older man taints his mind, it is very clear that Lord Henry only tempts Dorian to act out on the sins already in his heart. One could make a case that Lord Henry could be an analogy of the devil. Therefore, Dorian is not portrayed as a helpless victim of his environment. His own soul is filthy and he desires nothing but wickedness. This, in and of itself, is Biblical. However, the only cure, Jesus Christ Himself, is never presented. Lord Henry tells Dorian, "People can never change."
Lord Henry is full of demonic, anti-christian lies. Below is a list of Lord Henry quotes from this book that completely go against God's Word:
- In church they don't think.
- Choose your friends for their good looks. Only shallow people do not judge by appearance.
- Your conscience = cowardice. You only claim to have a conscience because you're too afraid to do what you want to do.
- I hate my brothers. They don't die off fast enough.
- Women are not geniuses, but merely decorations.
- Whatever was good enough for our fathers isn't for us.
- No such thing as sin. The way to resist temptation is to give in to it or your soul will die.
- Don't give to others. Live!
- All influence is evil because man's natural, untouched passions and desires are the only good.
- Beauty is better than genius.
- Women live on emotions and are better-suited for sorrow. They have lovers only to have "scenes." They like cruelty and to be dominated and are no better than animals.
- (Dorian thinks only a woman could keep him on the straight and narrow.) Lord Henry says the only way women do that is by boring a man.
- Tragedies only hurt us because they aren't done in an artistic way. We wouldn't feel badly about other people if their tragedies occured like a wonderful novel. The woman who committed suicide over Dorian was only a good actress. She was a pathetic real person, so she deserved to die. Her suicide was an amazing thing she did for Dorian. (He had broken up with her after a hasty engagement because she was no longer a good actress. This led her to kill herself.)
- Dominate emotions and don't experience them so you won't be at their mercy.
- People are only civilized when they are cultured or corrupt.
All throughout, we see Dorian follow this advice, to his own detriment. It's also interesting to note that Dorian is said to have obsessed over a very evil book that Lord Henry gave him. Quite a reminder to the critic why she has created this very website - to help parents protect their children from such snares.
Dorian even tries religion - like a passing fad. He joins the Catholic church, just enjoying the church traditions for their beauty, but not really learning a thing about Christ or worshipping Him. He says he wishes he could sit in confessionals to hear what others are saying, but expresses no desire to repent, because such a thing goes against his "intelligence."
After that, he tries Darwinism. Trying out these beliefs are likened to trying out music or collecting perfumes.
He then collects gems, which are portrayed as charms with mystical powers (ex. garnets ward off demons).
At the end, Lord Henry admits that he's afraid of death. His wife has divorced him and run off with a musician and he trully misses her. Dorian also has everything he wants and yet he's not happy. Both men have wasted their lives and ruined others. Although, Dorian still feels a "terrible joy" knowing he had been an evil influence to others.
At one point, Dorian has a temporary change of heart. He says, "I know what conscience is, to begin with. It is not what you told me it was. It is the divinest thing in us. Don't sneer at it, any more-at least not before me. I want to be good. I can't bear the idea of my soul being hideous." But Lord Henry easily convinces him against caring about righteousness because Dorian never truly repented in his heart. Dorian always wants to do what he wants to do.
Basil, the painter, begs him to repent, when he sees what has become of the painting. Basil quotes Scripture, telling him, "What is it that one was taught to say in one's boyhood? 'Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins. Wash away our iniquities.' Let us say that together. The prayer of your pride has been answered. The prayer of your repentance will be answered also. I worshipped you too much. I am punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are both punished."
It almost appears that Basil is a believer in this passage. He pleads with Dorian to repent. Instead, Dorian is filled with such hatred that he stabs Basil repeatedly with a knife in the head, killing him. After this, Dorian rationalizes to himself, ignoring reality, by saying, "If one doesn't talk about it, it didn't happen."
This is not Dorian's last chance to repent. At the very end of the book, he attempts to "turn over a new leaf." He falls in love with yet another woman and plans to run off with her, but decides to spare her instead and leaves her alone. He thinks he can change the portrait (change his soul) and slowly make it beautiful again with a scattered good work or two. But, and this follows true Biblical principles, when he goes up to look, the painting is as ugly as usual, this time with a smear of hypocrisy in the eyes. Dorian longs for his "unstained boyhood," even though he should know by now that he has always been "stained" and has always been a sinner. The evil was just waiting in his heart to raise its ugly head.