Over the next years of Dorian’s life, he becomes obsessed with the book about the Parisien. He gets it bound in different colors to suit his various moods. As he reads and rereads it, it seems to tell the story of his own life, yet while the protagonist suffers the loss of his own beauty, Dorian’s is as noticeable as ever. Dorian finds pleasure in this. Even when his friends and acquaintances begin talking badly about his “sensual” lifestyle, they are still charmed by his looks and his relentless youthfulness.
Not only is Dorian represented by the book’s protagonist, but Lord Henry is also very present in the book’s pages. His philosophies about living a sensual life are those of the book. Lord Henry’s influence, immortalized in art, seems limitless now. The text becomes alive, just like the painting, and Dorian feels competitive towards it as if it is a living thing.
Dorian would sometimes disappear from society on mysterious jaunts. Each time he returned to his house, he checked on the portrait, which was becoming uglier and uglier. But instead of fearing it, Dorian became fascinated, almost in love with the feeling of superiority he had over the image. His hunger for knowledge and experience of life was always growing, thanks to Lord Henry’s influence.
Dorian has fully given himself over to a life of pleasure and experience. Just as he earlier felt insignificant next to the timelessness of his portrait, now he revels in his own timelessness as compared to the portrait. He has fully prized surface over soul—he enjoys watching the harm he does to his soul.
And Dorian was managing to keep up his place in society. When back from his jaunts, he would throw parties, hosting artists, beautiful music, and the finest decorations and pieces of art filled his rooms. The way he embodied ideals of beauty and fashion was admired by the men in his circle. But to Dorian, the best form of art, as he had so often been advised by Henry, was life itself.
But despite the obvious degradation of Dorian’s activities, the facades of society and art that fill the characters’ reception rooms cover up the immorality of the streets outside and Dorian is able to keep up a double life. The dual existence of the painting and the original expands into the whole of Dorian’s world.
In his place in society, Dorian was coming of age into a position of very high status and influence, but he desired now not to follow the traditional path but to be an icon of fashion, modern in his ideas and living by the values of sensuality and pleasure rather than traditional virtue. He mourned, looking back at history, how valor and sacrifice had won over pleasure. But guided by Lord Henry, he saw a new way of life opening up, replacing puritan values with passion and the senses - the dreams, shadows and hallucinations that happen at night seemed most real to Dorian.
Dorian not only ceases to care about his soul, he ceases to care about traditional society or morality. He has fully embraced Lord Henry's philosophies and placed art and experience and pleasure at the pinnacle of life. It is interesting that as he himself has ceased to age—has become timeless—that he has focused more and more on things that are ephemeral and always changing.
The narrator describes at length a series of hobbies and fascinations that Dorian takes up to fill his life of leisure. First, is Catholicism. Its idols and luxurious rituals attract him, but he finds he cannot adapt his life to a strict code. He then goes to the more physical laws of Darwinism but again, he cannot submit himself to one limiting theory of life.
Though Henry’s theories fill the novel with structure and reason and attract Dorian with their intelligence, theories that do not allow freedom, spontaneity, or an excess of pleasure have too much of reality for him to handle.
Dorian’s pursuits move away from religion and philosophy. He becomes obsessed with perfumes, then music, jewels and tapestries. With each fascination, Dorian collects not only the objects but the romantic stories behind them, the stories of Kings and Queens who wore elaborate crowns and scepters, and the origins of embroideries of exotic cultures. This list of treasures accumulates into a rich world surrounding Dorian, but beneath it all, the old fear still haunts him. He finds he must regularly check on the state of his soul in the portrait, and becomes frantic when he is away from the house.
Such is the portrait’s influence on Dorian that he now sees only aesthetic pursuits as valuable. His whole life seems to be mapped out as a series of collections of objects, connected to real romance and tragedy by their histories but in themselves detached from human life. In a life of surfaces and decorations, Dorian replaces his concern about the portrait with other imitations of life and these mirages become his new reality. And yet these mirages are just that, and can't hold back reality altogether.
As his anxiety grows, and his behavior gets stranger, Dorian’s circle of friends becomes more seriously distrustful of him. Rumors abound. He is barred from establishments and avoided by people who once loved him. But all this only increases the strange charm of his reputation. Lord Henry’s theory that entertainment, manners, and material opulence are more important to one’s social standing than morals seems to be true.
The picture of Dorian Gray retains its perfection but its cheating of nature’s course plagues and rots Dorian from the inside. The society they live in is exposed for the sham that it is, when we see that it is only appearances that count and though reputation is also considered, it is also a shallow measure, hiding the real sin
Dorian enjoys walking through his rooms and studying the portraits of his ancestors. He enjoys seeing the rich fashions and handsome forms and how each set of passions has somehow formed his nature. But he also believes his lineage lies in literature, and it seems to him that the characters of the stage and novels are all telling parts of his own adventure story. He comes back to the yellow-bound book and reads over and over again his favorite passages, those about violent acts, poisons and seductions. Dorian’s life has become fuelled by dangerous ideas.
The novel is full of pictures, tableaus, and works of art, each pushing and pulling Dorian in various directions, asserting influence. Dorian becomes so concerned with the artistic portrayal of things that these portraits and fictional heroes become more real to him than the lives he is ruining in real life.