Lord Henry’s philosophies frequently criticize women and marriage, and the era of Dorian Gray’s London society, and indeed Oscar Wilde’s, becomes vivid to us in his dialogue. He says that women are a “decorative sex”, and that there are always only a few worth talking to. We see his marriage with Lady Victoria Wotton as a very separate affair, both parties leading distinct lives and meeting the other occasionally. When Victoria leaves him, Henry expresses sadness and misses her company. Though his description of sadness is far from a romantic declaration, it does seem that many of the women provide the male characters with essential and distracting company, and actually, it is the hostesses that at times enable the lifestyles of connection and fashion that men like Henry and Dorian boast of. Ladies like Lady Narborough and the Duchess are the connectors. Henry says of the Duchess Gladys that her clever tongue gets on his nerves, which is comically hypocritical. And she has the same disregard of her husband as the men have for women when she falls in love with Dorian. In this way, she is used to illuminate the actions and paradoxes of the men’s world.
With women taking somewhat of a back seat in Dorian’s tale, the romantic energy between the men takes center stage. Though there are no explicitly homosexual relationships, there are definitely homoerotic ones, and words like "admiration" and "fascination" begin to acquire a double meaning in the text. In a world where beauty is the ideal and knowledge is attractive, the older gentlemen’s longing for Dorian and his admiration of them adds another layer of taboo to the secrecy of the characters’ private lives.
Women and Men ThemeTracker
Women and Men Quotes in The Picture of Dorian Gray
“She is very clever, too clever for a woman. She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness. It is the feet of clay that make the gold of the image precious.”