From the archive: The Picture of Dorian Gray analysis.

First published: 04/03/2013

Today I will do a not so in-depth analysis of Dorian Gray and his relationship with Sibyl Vane in Oscar Wilde’s famous The Picture of Dorian Gray. Recently I have read the advanced York Notes on this novel and it has brought up some very interesting points.

Summary

After Dorian has parted with his soul, he has a very keen interest in art as he sees it as beauty. He first encounters Sibyl when he watches her at the theatre portraying Shakespeare’s female characters and bringing them to life on stage. Instantly, he falls in love with her acting ability to portray love and art. As they both fall in love with each other, the relationship is fairy-tale like with Sibyl referring to Dorian as “Prince Charming” as she never learns his name. Unfortunately, once Sibyl has found her knight in shining armour, she fails to bring her characters to life and no longer holds the interest of Mr. Gray and has killed his love. Sibyl’s performance of Juliet was “simply bad art.” After the performance, Dorian enters Sibyl’s room and says she acted “horribly! It was dreadful. Are you ill? You have no idea how much I suffered” and as a result of this the relationship is ended and Sibyl dies from love – mirroring Juliet’s actions who she failed to portray honourably.

Analysis

The relationship between the two characters is very shallow and focuses heavily around the theme of art, which is a key theme in Wilde’s novel. Dorian does not love Sibyl, he loves the characters she becomes each night at the theatre house. From York Notes, I quote ‘even when in love, he considers that “the only thing worth loving is an actress.”‘ Real life has no appeal to Dorian, he would much rather live in a world where art ruled and therefore giving him the ability to stay forever young like his portrait. To some extent, he is living in a world of art as his portrait now ages and suffers from his sins instead of himself. Since Sibyl can no longer satisfy his need to be a part of a play, she is no longer necessary in Dorian’s life.

Sibyl Vane clearly lives in a dream-like state with “mist” covering her eyes, showing her world is inside of her head. Once Dorian comes along, her world is complete, to her Dorian defines love and is therefore “Prince Charming.” However, Dorian fails to understand what this means to her. Every Shakespearian character she portrays is influenced by love and it leaves the impression on Sibyl that she needs to feel that way. As her death reflects that of her final character Juliet. Her death symbolises how she has lost both love and art as she can no longer act now she has experienced love and she can no longer love after Dorian has dismissed her.

It is quite ironic that her last name is “Vane” similar to the word vain in which Dorian has become due to art, but it could also symbolises the lust the two characters have over Dorian’s appearance.

In chapter 5 the reader is introduced to the melodramatic Mrs Vane who has a Cinderella story around Sibyl with her Prince Charming. Mrs Vane could possibly foreshadow what Sibyl would have been like if she did not kill herself and lived on after her loss of talent. Either way, Sibyl had a dismal future a head of her due to the aftermath of Dorian.

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