Duality Essay, Research Paper

Good, evil, right and wrong. These are qualities in man that are always present and constantly battling for control. “There is nothing in nature that does not contain as much evil as good” (C. G. Jung). In Oscar Wildes The Picture Of Dorian Gray this battle is illustrated vividly by Dorian Gray. Dorian faces many crossroads in his life and many opprotunities to decide between good and evil. The duality of man has never been more apparent. “Two aspects of one person: like two blades of the same knife, have cut into me deeply as i ride the edge of life” (http://members.aol.com/palewolf/duality.htm). This quote illustrates the sides of Dorian Gray, for he is both blessed and cursed. Duality is unescapable but sometimes disguiseable. However, disguises may fall away or wear off after time, and exposure of ones true self is often to terrifying to bear.

Dorian is further unmasked later in the novel when he watches his fiancee perform on stage in the play “Romeo and Juliet”, Sibyl Vane is acting the part of Juliet and performs horribly for the first time in Dorian’s prescence. After the play is over Dorian retreats backstage to have a word with Sibyl on her unworthy performance. When Sibyl tells Dorian that she has realized that Dorian is her savior from her fantasy world of acting, Dorians own fantasy is shattered. “Yes, he cried, you have killed my love. You used to stir my imagination, now you don’t even stir my curiousity. You simply produce no effect” (Wilde 115). Dorian’s complete and utter disgust with the reality of Sibyl Vane shines brightly on his conversation with her from that point on. Dorian transforms from a lovesick puppy to a bitter angry man within the confines of a single conversation. This transformation once again demonstrates the duality in Dorian, that he both loves and hates; he loves what he imagines is true and hates the reality of things. Dorian’s duality is self-serving in its manefestations; he unconsciously uses it to shield himself from uncomfortable feelings and situations, almost as if it were a natural defense system.

Dorian’s evil side makes its most dramatic appearence during a shocking confrontation between Basil and Dorian. Basil has come to visit Dorian before he leaves town in hopes of discovering the truth about the rumors around London concerning Dorian’s unscrupoulus activities in the past months. When Basil confronts Dorian about the truth of the rumors, Basil concedes that the only way for him to know the truth is for him to see Dorian’s soul. “‘Yes’, answered Hallaward, gravely, and with deep-toned sorrow in his voice – ‘to see your soul. But only God can do that’” (Wilde 186). Dorian replies, “You shall see it yourself tonight!” (Wilde 186). They proceed upstairs to the room where the painting was hidden away and Basil follows Dorian with the hopes of an answer to the question of Dorian’s innocence. What Basil finds horrifies him. “Christ! What a thing I must have worshipped! It has the eyes of a devil” (Wilde 190). Basil is speaking of the portrait that he painted of Dorian. Dorian responds in a way that almost completely defines his nature, “each of us has a Heaven and a Hell in him, Basil” (Wilde 190). When Basil tells Dorian to pray for forgiveness for his horrible sins Dorian replies that it is too late for that, that there is nothing that could save him now. When Basil asks, “My God! Don’t you see that accursed thing leering at us?” (Wilde 191) Dorian is filled with an uncontrollable hatred for Basil. “…and suddenly an uncontrolable feeling of hatred for Basil Hallaward came over him, as though it had been suggested to him by the image on the canvas, whispered into his ear by those grinning lips” (Wilde 191-192). The suggestion that the painting sinfluenced Dorian directly relates to the theory of the picture being a manefestation of his evil side, not just a painting but a part of him. Dorian is unable to resist his evil desires and murders Basil with a nearby knife.

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