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Basil is an artist portrayed as being utterly devoted to Dorian Gray from the
very beginning of the novel. So much so that he claims that he grew `weak'
when he met him. Although Basil is depicted as boring and not extremely
attractive, he is an interesting character. He provides the morality throughout the novel and
attempts to be Dorian's good angel to counteract Henry's bad influence. Basil's unrequited
love is constantly reoccurring throughout the novel. He understands the Dorian will never
reciprocate his love, but when Dorian is engaged to Sibyl Vane, Basil's jealousy gets the
better of him. He incredulously talks of Dorian's `position', `birth' and `wealth' compared to
Sibyl. When he realised that Dorian is truly in love he resigns himself to letting Dorian be
happy. However, when he hears of Sibyl's death he runs to Dorian, believing he must be
broken; when he sees that Dorian has no care, Basil blames Henry's influence. However,
when he is finally confronted the truth about Dorian and the portrait, he is lost and horrified.
He turns to God to forgive the sins of `worship'. In fact he goes as far as to change the
Lord's Prayer to: `Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins. Wash away our iniquities'.
This is Basil attempting to repent his sin of loving Dorian too much. This, however, just
seems to frustrate Dorian who is fed up of Basil giving him `good advice'.
Basil's Roles in the novel
Basil has the role of the good angel in Dorian's life. Dorian complains that Basil always
gives him `good advice'. If Basil is portrayed as a bore, it is only because he has consciously
taken the role of the good angel for Dorian.
Basil is also the representation of morality, being the only main character in the novel
to consistently have a sense of right and wrong. Yet he refuses to admit that anyone else is
immoral. For example, he `trusts' Henry and believes that Dorian `could not harm' anyone.
Therefore his ignorance is frustrating, yet as the only consistently moral main character,
when he dies as does the morality of the novel leaving Dorian's downfall as inevitable.
Basil is also the epitome of unrequited love; no matter how much he loves Dorian,
he knows it will not be returned. At first he is thoroughly upset, with a look of `pain' on his
face. However, as the novel deepens we see that Basil is willing to admit that Dorian will
never love him, and even settles for the portrait: `at least you are like it in appearance'.
Moreover, Basil's infatuation and jealousy mark his character; he is unable to do anything
without Dorian: `I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day'.
The only death we see is Basil's, and therefore we realise that his importance in the
novel is significant as the sympathetic main character. Moreover, it highlights the fact that
although he might have been portrayed as a bore, he is certainly nothing of a sort. His
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Dorian's hedonistic attitude, yet we know when
Basil dies, as does the hope that Dorian will change.
1. `He is all my art to me now'
2. `I have put too much of myself into it'
3. `We shall all suffer for what the Gods have given us, suffer greatly'
4. `I have grown to love secrecy'
5. `Whose sudden disappearance some years ago had, at the time, caused such public
6. `I worshiped you too much. I am punished'