QCQ-08 English 420, Victorian Monsters

QCQ-08 English 420, Victorian Monsters


“There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr Gray. All influence is immoral—immoral from the scientific point of view…Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor or a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to oneself…” (58)


This where Harry, aka Lord Henry, meets Dorian. Basil would prefer not to make the introduction, because Dorian is his muse. Basil directly tells Harry not to influence Dorian. Then he warns Dorian that Harry is a bad influence. Yet, Harry, who has charisma, rank and wealth, begins immediately to charm and manipulate Dorian. Harry is a skilled spin doctor, addressing right away the cautions against him, saying all influence is a bad influence! He follows that up with a call for individuation.

It is the scene as much as the quote that is of interest to me. It is the point of decision for all the characters: Basil acquiesces, Harry ensnares, Dorian follows. All want something from the other. All this despite the observation Harry just declared on the price of influence, regardless of spin. Just before this meeting, Basil declares “There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction…we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.” (45, 46)


Is there any relationship where we do not try to influence the other who has something we want? What makes some more impressionable than others? Is bad influence able to gain a foothold because of some inner resonance—a kind of answering monster within?

Wilde Oscar, and Norman Page. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Broadview Press, 2000, p. 45, 46, 58

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