The Picture of Dorian Gray

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray: Pathos 1 key example

Definition of Pathos
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is an argument that appeals to... read full definition
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is... read full definition
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective... read full definition
Chapter 2
Explanation and Analysis—Lord Henry's Power:

Lord Henry’s speeches to Dorian Gray on the benefits of his hedonistic philosophy are prime examples of the use of pathos as a persuasive device. In his initial pitch, Henry appeals to the basic human instinct to desire:

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.

If you desire something, Henry asks in this passage, why would you suppress it? He then continues his speech by emphasizing Dorian’s beauty in terms of his youth:

You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—

As he carries on with his probing appeal, Henry invites Dorian to reflect on the burning passions of his childhood—visceral instances of young emotion—and delivers a striking set of implicit compliments: Dorian has a rose-red youth and a rose-white boyhood. He is beautiful, even as beautiful as a flower, but that beauty comes from his age. “The world belongs to you for a season,” Henry will later add. The rest is implied: once that season is over, the world is no longer yours. When Dorian ultimately makes the pact with the portrait to enable him to live his life to (what he believes to be) the fullest extent, it will be in an effort to preserve his youth above all else. Henry’s argument is effective because it is pathos-driven and surrounds Dorian with the complex shame of his youth and his fear of eventual aging and death.