The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Themes and Colors
The Mortality of Beauty and Youth Theme Icon
Surfaces, Objects and Appearances Theme Icon
Art and the Imitation of Life Theme Icon
Influence Theme Icon
Women and Men Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Influence Theme Icon

The power of one to affect another is a theme that pervades the novel. At first, Basil is influenced by his model Dorian. On a personal level, he is confused and changed by his romantic feelings, but Dorian’s influence is also more far-reaching, actually seeming to change Basil's ability for painting, and to change the painting itself in an almost supernatural way. Influence here describes an almost chemical change that one can assign to feelings and the perception of a painting. The same curse befalls Sybil Vane, when she is so influenced by Dorian, and by love, that she is transformed and can no longer act. In fact the whole course of events can be viewed as a series of domino-like influences. When the narrator recounts the series of bad relationships, where Dorian has led an innocent friend astray, the influences spread through the country, knowing no bounds.

Influence is also shown in the novel as a persuasive power. It is a less magical effect, of attractive ideas and styles worming their way into others’ vocabulary. Lord Henry’s philosophies and paradoxes have a hypnotic power on some people, and cause Dorian to seek knowledge and believe in these theories enough that he lives by them. Henry’s suggestion that the soul and the senses can mutually cure each other, for example, arises in Dorian’s mind and, out of context, misguides him into thinking that opium could soothe his soul.

Influence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Influence appears in each chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Influence Quotes in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Below you will find the important quotes in The Picture of Dorian Gray related to the theme of Influence.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“He is all my art to me now.”

Related Characters: Basil Hallward (speaker), Dorian Gray
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Basil has been telling Lord Henry about Dorian, describing Dorian's extraordinary beauty and explaining the transformative impact of his presence on Basil's work. He likens Dorian's arrival to the dawn of a new artistic movement or era, and says that Dorian is all Basil's art now. This highly dramatic, romantic language is typical of the novel, and it helps create the impression of Dorian as a larger-than-life figure, building suspense in the lead up to his entrance in the next chapter. Basil's exaggerated reverence for his muse also hints at Dorian's sexual power, and is an example of the many homoerotic dynamics within the narrative.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul”

Related Characters: Lord Henry Wotton (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Basil has now introduced Lord Henry to Dorian, who finds him extraordinary. They converse for a while, and later Lord Henry catches Dorian in the garden with his head buried in lilac blossoms, drinking in the scent as if it were wine. Lord Henry murmurs approvingly that sensual experience is the only cure for the soul. This moment can be seen as an example of Dorian's innocence before he becomes fixated with his own beauty and mortality; his soul is vibrant and healthy and he is sensually connected with the natural world around him. It is also a clear example of Lord Henry's almost teacherly relationship to Dorian, a relationship infused with flirtation. 

At the same time, Lord Henry's statement ominously prefigures the coming events in the novel. In contrast to Dorian's present innocent delight in the flowers, he will soon become insatiably hungry for carnal, sinful pleasures. In connecting the "cure" of the soul with the senses, Lord Henry foreshadows the fact that Dorian's soul will eventually be destroyed by submergence in vice. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

“I never approve or disapprove of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life.”

Related Characters: Lord Henry Wotton (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Henry has been telling Basil about Dorian's engagement to Sybil Vane. In response, Basil embodies the pragmatic elitism of the time, worrying that Dorian is marrying beneath him and asking Lord Henry if he approves. Lord Henry tells Basil that he no longer approves or disapproves of anything, and that to do so is "absurd." This answer is a typical example of Lord Henry's flamboyant, contrarian attitude to life. His resistance to making judgments suggests a sense of underlying carelessness and immorality. In contrast to Basil, who is worried about Dorian's future, Lord Henry seems only to want to be entertained by Dorian (and life in general). This statement also emphasizes Lord Henry's commitment against reason, as it is logically incoherent––he calls disapproving of things "absurd," thereby expressing disapproval at the idea of disapproval. 

“I am changed, and the mere touch of Sybil Vane’s hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.”

Related Characters: Dorian Gray (speaker), Lord Henry Wotton, Sybil Vane
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Lord Henry has been teasing Dorian for his lovesick state and for agreeing to marry Sybil so quickly; however, Dorian doesn't mind, telling Lord Henry that his love for Sybil has made him forget Lord Henry's "fascinating, poisonous" theories. One could interpret this quote as revealing the lingering innocence and purity of Dorian's personality, qualities that are brought out by his love for Sybil. At the same time, Dorian is obviously not as free from Lord Henry's corrupting influence as he claims. Although he seems aware of the dangerous nature of Lord Henry's ideas, he nonetheless still calls them "fascinating" and "delightful." Furthermore, it is clear that Dorian's love for Sybil has been influenced by Lord Henry; unlike other women, Sybil represents the ideals of art, illusion, and even "foolishness" that Lord Henry embraces. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

“So I have murdered Sybil Vane,” said Dorian Gray, half to himself, “murdered her as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife. Yet the roses are not less lovely for that.”

Related Characters: Dorian Gray (speaker), Sybil Vane
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorian has written a long letter to Sybil in an attempt to atone for his cruelty; however, Lord Henry then arrives and tells him that Sybil has committed suicide. Dorian is shocked and feels responsible, yet at the same time notices that the roses looks just as lovely as they always do. This passage shows Dorian's growing corruption, especially in contrast to the portrayal of Sybil's childlike innocence ("cut her little throat"). Although Dorian is highly disturbed by what has happened, he can't hep but observe that on the surface, things still seem as "lovely" as if nothing has happened. This directly corresponds to the fact that Dorian himself looks as pure and charming as ever; it is only the painting that is beginning to show his increasing moral corruption.

“The girl never really lived and so she never really died.”

Related Characters: Lord Henry Wotton (speaker), Sybil Vane
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Dorian is horrified by Sybil's death, and Lord Henry attempts to soothe him by arguing that––because Sybil lived through her acting––she did not live as normal people do and thus hasn't "really" died. On one level, this reveals Lord Henry's reverence for art and artists, confirming his belief that art transcends life. However, it could also be interpreted as rather callous. Lord Henry does not seem particularly moved by Sybil's death, thereby increasing the impression that he is careless and immoral. Furthermore, his disdain for the theatre and for women in general means that the statement "she never really lived" could also be interpreted as an elitist, sexist judgment that Sybil's life was unimportant and meaningless. 
Chapter 10 Quotes

It was a poisonous book. The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages and trouble the brain.

Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorian, increasingly disturbed by the painting and suspicious that his valet, Victor, is plotting against him, has tried to distract himself by looking at some reading materials Lord Henry sent him. After growing angry that Lord Henry included newspaper articles about Sybil's death, he turns his attention to a novel Lord Henry also sent about a young Parisian man who indulges in both virtue and sin (the novel is perhaps a references to Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans). This is one of the clearest examples of Lord Henry's deliberate corrupting influence over Dorian. The word "poisonous" appears frequently in the novel, signifying the themes of corruption and vice. This passage also emphasizes the supernatural power of art in the narrative, conveyed by the way in which the book's smell mystically "trouble(s) the brain." 

Chapter 19 Quotes

“It is not in you Dorian to commit a murder. I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don’t blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations.”

Related Characters: Lord Henry Wotton (speaker), Dorian Gray
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

Dorian and Lord Henry have been discussing Basil's disappearance, which is now being investigated by the police, as well as other matters such as Alan Campbell's suicide and the fact that Lord Henry's wife left him for a pianist. Dorian, increasingly frantic, asks Lord Henry if it's occurred to him that Basil was murdered, and then he even asks what Henry would say if Dorian confessed to having murdered Basil. Lord Henry's response is typically blasé––he accuses Dorian of playing a part that doesn't suit him, adding that Dorian is not capable of murdering anyone, and that crime is something only the lower classes do.

This moment provides one of the most extreme examples of Lord Henry's arrogance. He does not seem remotely upset about Basil's death, and similarly is not able to pick up on Dorian's desperate state, despite the fact that Dorian seems to be unraveling right in front of him. Indeed, this passage shows that Lord Henry's careless elitism actually makes him rather foolish. He makes a series of completely false claims, including that Dorian is not capable of murdering anyone and that crime "belongs exclusively to the lower orders," when in fact the narrative has revealed a string of crimes that have taken place among the upper class, including Dorian himself. 

Lord Henry's words also highlight the fact that he treats life as a performance or game, and is unable to take anything seriously. He assumes it would "hurt Dorian's vanity" to be told he was not capable of murder, and believes that crime is merely a "method of procuring extraordinary sensations." Clearly, Henry's luxurious, shallow lifestyle has so cut him off from reality that he completely misunderstands the way the world really works.