Women and Men
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 dies, Henry expresses sadness and misses her company. Though his description of sadness is far from a romantic declaration, it does seem that a lot 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 Duchessare 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 centre 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 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.
The Duplicity of One's Public and Private Selves
This theme is prominent in much of Wilde's work. It plays a central role in The Importace of Being Earnest, and is prominent throughout this novel, as well. In addition to the protagonist, many of the novel's characters are greatly concerned with their reputations. Lord Henry and Basil Hallward both counsel Dorian on how to best preserve his good status in the public eye. When crimes…