The Picture of Dorian Gray - Lord Henry

Henry's character profile! Look on my profile for the others; good luck in your exams! x

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"The slick-tongued advocate of sin, Lord Henry
Wotton, is intriguing. A focal character in Wilde's The
Picture of Dorian Gray, his selfish ideals paint an ugly
world. Through Lord Henry Wotton Oscar Wilde
displays a wit and penchant for masterful dialogue that
are equalled by few. Wotton's hedonistic ideology and
Old Testament Satan-like questioning of conventional
or moral views are the impetuses behind Dorian Gray's
sordid evolution and the novel's "scandalous"
reception. Without Wotton, The Picture of Dorian Gray loses much of its appeal. He is the Devil on
Gray's shoulder, the bug in his ear, the influence Gray wishes he never had." Jason Parent
Lord Henry Wotton shares his name with the early 17th century British poet, Sir Henry
Wotton, although the similarities seemingly end there. The fictional character is at first a fascinating
and enticing wit. He has a world view sometimes enviable but most times indulgent or deviant.
For Dorian Gray, acceptance of Wotton's influence is his downfall. This acceptance is
confounding in that Wotton does not practice what he preaches -- his philosophies are entirely
egocentric and immoral, while his life remains boringly sedate. However, his own reserved nature
does not stop him from promoting his selfish ideals in others. And Dorian Gray is weak-minded and
highly impressionable when they meet.
What initially is fascinating about Wotton remains interesting but eventually becomes
ignorant. In the end, Wotton's views seem irrational and in all ways wrong. His intellect become
presumptuous and blinds him to the disenchanting reality of his own life and the ugly effects his
influence has had upon Gray.
In the end the reader wonders if his counterpart, Basil Hallward, was correct about Wotton
all along - that he doesn't believe his own twisted logic and is, too, a victim of it. It is Wilde's words,
mouthed through his wanton Henry Wotton, that provoke intellectual debate and reaffirm Wilde's
gifts for wit and dialogue.
Henry regards the less privileged as disposable. The death of a beater at a shoot `does not
do... it makes people think that one is a wild shot'. He is also impervious to change in the world as he
states that women `love being dominated'. His response to a new acquaintance is to find out where
they fit into his circles, rather than accepting them as unique.
Moreover, Henry's word is very much a means to an end at the beginning of the novel,
making him extremely dangerous. People hang onto his every word, as though he is the most highly
intellectual man in society. Yet they all know that Henry `would sacrifice anybody... for the sake of an
epigram', meaning that he is almost a victim to his own wit.

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Important Quotes
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being
talked about."
"Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love it is the faithless who know love's
"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."
"Young men want to be faithful, and are not old men want to be faithless, and cannot.…read more


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