The Scarlet Prayer: Genesis Allegory and Christian Symbolism in The Photo of Dorian Gray
Dorian Gray and the Bible (NKJV) seem to agree on a minimum of one form of teaching, if only partly. They both maintain that the body is a temple, though the concepts to praise within it remain a point of contention between the 2. Gray’s religious beliefs is a faith of the flesh where one praises on an altar of satisfaction. This does not avoid his involvement in a narrative filled with the themes, narrative structure and primary figures from Biblical history, consisting of the fall of guy in the Garden of Eden and the crucifixion at Calvary. Gray’s titular photo, protecting him from the noticeable repercussions of his debauchery, contains an allusion to the Messiah arriving to deliver fallen “humanity” (represented by Gray) from the repercussions of sins against the body’s pureness and the will of the creator deity, the God of Abraham. In its role as redeemer and prophecy, Gray’s messianic painting is the central link in a chain of allegorical and biblical functions spanning from the tempter to the Dad himself, and directly parallels the ethical history of humanity in relation to the Christian trinity.
Gray’s quick shift from innocence to inundation in worldly satisfaction parallels the fall of guy in the Garden of Eden, correlating the Bible’s mentors about the origins of sin. The situations of Gray’s corruption resemble those of collective humankind in Genesis. Just as mankind existed in a beautiful state prior to getting understanding of both good and wicked, Gray has “a basic and gorgeous nature” (Wilde 16). His petulant, simpering mindset embodies the naïve pureness of the young. The young man’s crimson lips and blue-green look reflect how he has “kept himself unspotted from the world” (Wilde 18), just as Adam and Eve, in their incipient innocence, “were both naked [in Eden] … and were not embarrassed” (Genesis 2:25).
In yet another allusion to Eden, the intro to the possibility of corruption (the original sin from which all future iniquity proceeds) in Dorian Gray takes place in Basil Hallward’s garden. The luxurious sanctuary brims with graceful dragonflies and the scent of roses, similar to Eden’s wide range of preferable trees, among which God communed daily with untainted male. In Hallward’s garden, Gray’s presence suddenly blazes with ethical (or, in retrospect, unethical) discovery in the moment where he awakens, physically and philosophically, from “the candor of youth” into a world ripe with murder, drug use, alien sensory fulfillment, eroticism and “sleeping dreams whose simple memory might stain [his] cheek with embarassment” (Wilde 21). Wilde’s particular mention of pity here is distinct because it precisely echoes the aforementioned description from Genesis 2:25 of mankind’s previous state as being “not embarrassed.” This shame originates from the brand-new ethical awareness, or perhaps simply the ethical conception of nakedness– physical for Adam and Eve, and psychological for Gray. Wilde does not indicate Gray’s psychological nakedness through a sincere confession or an individual revelation of some sort, but through his response of pity in recognition of his previous condition. He is exceptionally uneasy due to his previous moral innocence, or rather, his ignorance of having actually lived “nakedly” (without knowledge of wicked or wrongness, as did Adam and Eve) for two decades in a world whose moral tenets, and the possibility of their mutual infractions existed, despite his participation in maintaining or abusing them. This lack of poisonous knowledge, that Wilde represents as innocence, is the very same state that Adam and Eve inhabited before their own individual revolutions. The exact same driver as in Gray’s case– the dark knowingness of the world epitomized by “the tree of the knowledge of great and evil” (Genesis 2:17)– prompts the couple’s exile.
After listening to Henry Wotton’s hedonist monologue, Gray gets away to the garden and fanatically drinks in a flower’s fragrance, in a frenzy that imitates that of Adam and Eve when “the eyes of both of them were opened” (Genesis 3:7) and, after realizing their nakedness, they stitched themselves coverings of fig leaves. These responses of confusion and shame display not just Gray and the Eden couple’s regretful inauguration into their newly found states of awareness, however likewise their very first concessions to the behavioral needs that this fresh moral self-consciousness locations upon them. Their indicated states of psychological shock likewise suggest a shared abruptness in their states throughout the minute in which they awaken to ethical option. Upon discovering of the possibility of misbehavior, Adam and Eve conceal fearfully from the eyes of God, and, as is evident from his hyperbolic desperation in the garden, Gray receives his epiphany with the very same shock and dread. In a procedure that features the same thematic significance with which the eyes of the first of mankind were “opened”, Gray is startlingly awakened to the potential for evil versus himself and others.
The Edenic parallel between Genesis and Gray’s representation of fallen humanity is sealed with certainty in Hallward’s garden when Wotton at last pronounces Gray a “fantastic development” (Wilde 23), mentioning the exultant sentiment that human beings are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). The presence of a being that can envisage ethical and immoral actions (even if that being is still yet considered an animal) among a garden of organisms whose thoughts do not exist on the plain of morality is an exceptional marvel that Eden and Hallward’s gardens plainly share. At the conclusion of Adam and Eve’s story, God proclaims that humanity has actually become “like [a god], to know great and evil” (Genesis 3:22). Similarly, Dorian Gray’s soul bends its freedom of will, seeking out “the important things it has forbidden to itself” (Wilde 21), and he soon emerges into a world of sordid possibilities, intoxicated with the power of option. His actions unfold such that, in the novel’s allegory, he jointly represents mankind from Adam onward, in accordance with the biblical account of male’s ethical history and relationship with God, from its tainted roots in Eden to the centuries beyond.
Whether fallen or forgiven, mankind (and therefore, Dorian Gray) struggles with surrendering to the whispered wickedness of a tempter. The novel does not leave the allegory lacking in this regard. Wotton, Gray’s acquaintance and later on his confidante, explains in the opening scenes his love of “persons with no concepts” (Wilde 11) in referral to the unsavory characters with whom he has made acquaintance. Wotton’s olive skin and blasé composure seduce the naïve Dorian into firmly insisting that any place Wotton goes, he shall follow. Wotton waxes fondly and eloquently of the satisfaction attainable just in youth, sowing the seeds of Gray’s wickedness with a disturbing prowess for adjustment tantamount with the craftiness of the snake (frequently presumed to be a version of Satan, who is “more cunning” than any beast in the Garden (Genesis 3:1). Regardless of the demonstrations of Gray’s pal Hallward that Wotton’s impact might threaten, the devious lord happily observes Gray’s new, hedonistic psychological outlook. His fascination is rooted (as is Satan’s) in the observation of the damage of ideal innocence, for which he happily confesses he is responsible. He concerns Gray’s worldly new self as “his own creation” (Wilde 61). When Gray recognizes his mortality and starts to weep, stating himself envious of all things whose appeal will never fade, Hallward admonishes Wotton, saying, “this is your doing, Harry” (Wilde 29). Hallward’s bitter, fatalistic way corresponds with the condemnation God problems to the snake for his function in the start of man’s iniquity (Genesis 3:14). As Gray’s innocence breaks down, Wotton strengthens his function as the tempter of perfect humanity. Abstentions from sin are merely inexplicable rejections, Wotton states, and the concept of sin is simply an antique of a middle ages period. He includes candidly that yielding to a temptation is” [t] he only way to eliminate … it” (Wilde 20-21), cementing himself in the Christian allegory (at least in semantics) as the “tempter” in Matthew 4:3 who confronts Jesus in the wilderness. However, unlike Christ, Gray yields to the allure of putting Wotton’s views into practice, as he claims to do with whatever Wotton states (Wilde 51). Of course, this decision later on concludes disastrously for Gray, as it does for Eden’s locals when they observe the tempter’s reasoning.
From the beginning, Wilde develops Gray’s relationship with his painting in terms of redemption and divinity. In particular, the mention of Gray’s soul as a challenge be relinquished renders spiritual significance to his promise that he would offer all he possesses for the painting to replace him as he ages so he can stay devoid of limitations of the flesh. The specification that Gray’s physical youth is the painting’s protectorate conjures the guarantee that “no evil shall befall you, nor any plague come near your house … For He shall provide His angels charge over you … lest you rush your foot versus a stone” (Psalm 91:10 -12). This passage stimulates the health (“nor any afflict”) and providence that, like angels, relentlessly tend to Gray. In addition to achieving eternal bodily life, for instance, he survives a nearly dreadful fight with James Vane, the vengeful bro of among his dead lovers by virtue of his young look, (Wilde 196). This fortuitous occurrence recommends not simply supernatural defense, but likewise a sort of immunity to the repercussions of his previous actions. Because this moment of resistance happens while Gray is mesmerized by the painting (which represents the intervention of the supernatural), Gray’s imperviousness symbolizes magnificent forgiveness for his sins. Manifested in his reprieve from death and physical suffering, this forgiveness is preserved so long as Gray stays within the protectorate of his relationship with the painting, simply as in Christianity, a human soul’s forgiven state sustains once the individual has yielded him or herself to the divine will. Gray’s death at the novel’s closing is likewise indicative of this arrangement. Figured out to “kill this monstrous soul-life” (Wilde 229), Gray stabs the painting and immediately perishes in a moment representing man’s own rebellion versus God. It is his ultimate rejection of the divinity that has masked him in defense from spiritual death as well as earthly injury. This is completion of Gray’s plan with the supernatural, the murder of the relationship on which his eternal life depends. The action is merely more visual and overt in the unique because of the painting’s earthbound status, and due to the fact that Gray’s physical body straight counts on the image to stave off the maladies he has actually built up in his wicked life.
Wilde’s text further suggests the spiritual context of Gray’s redemption through the painting when it describes him as burying his face in a cushion after his plea, “as though he were hoping” (Wilde 29). Years later on, Gray confirms to Basil Hallward that his wish remained in truth something that could be called a prayer (Wilde 161). Wilde demonstrates that Gray’s characterization of his plea has a particularly Christian nature when Hallward urges him to hope, “‘Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins. Remove our iniquities’… Isn’t there a verse someplace, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white as snow’?” (Wilde 162). This picture of redemption recalls Wotton’s remark about Gray’s “rose-white boyhood” (Wilde 21). The color imagery that symbolizes purity in these metaphors shows yet another kinship in between Dorian Gray and the Bible, particularly in their ideas of morality and the ethical cleansing/restoration involved in redemption. The painting redeems Gray (albeit just physically) to his previous state of blossoming youth, unburdened by the rot of aging, untarnished by the bruise of his malice, simply as Christ does to sinners and forgiveness does to a soul “scarlet” with sin.
Hallward’s quote about sin originates from the book of Isaiah (KJV). This Pre-Messianic text prophesies in later chapters that “unto us a Kid is born, unto us a Boy is offered … And His name will be called … Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The origin of this remark indicates that readers ought to view the painting’s powers of restoration as an instance of redemption; restricted in this situation to the physical self of one blessed, and cursed, man. In Gray’s case, however, the painting is a reverse of Christ in 2 respects: the photo is an inanimate, enchanted things rather than a magnificent instructor, and it cleanses from Gray just the physical signs of immorality rather than rebuking in whole the inner, spiritual decay that persists in his soul and quickly grows visible on the canvas. Nevertheless, these abnormalities fail to significantly misshape the underlying parallel of approved redemption and responded to prayers which Christ and the painting share. Nestled in Scriptural recommendations that make Wilde’s text fertile ground for symbolic contrast, the relationship in between Gray and the painting uncannily mirrors the one in between Christ and sin-laden humanity. Just as Gray “converts” into the painting’s defense, the Christian sinners are fixed up to “the glorious liberty of the kids of God” (Romans 8:21), a spiritual variation of Gray’s spotless youth.
As do Adam and Christ, Gray’s painting has a moral, unyielding daddy who opposes the tempter’s wish to spoil his ward’s golden nature. Basil Hallward is the artistic intellect and grand designer behind the portrait (Christ) which has actually conserved Gray (humanity) from facing the complete effects of his wicked conspiracy with Wotton (the Devil). Likewise, like his allegorical counterpart who positioned the very first male in Eden, Hallward commands the garden setting in which Gray’s nature is very first tempted to indulge its baser desires. As the painting’s “moms and dad,” Hallward symbolically satisfies the function of the Daddy entity in the Christian trinity. He is the main force in the book’s allegory that spawns the “only begotten of the Dad” (John 1:14) that rescues mankind from being condemned to death. He is a plainspoken advocate for tradition and a view of morality consistent with that of the Scriptural law the Father espouses: he dislikes the naughty, deceptive way in which Wotton mentions his marital relationship, regrets that his old pal is “completely ashamed of [his] own virtues” (Wilde 6) and declines to invest in Wotton’s blasé viewpoint that “conscience and cowardice are truly the exact same things” (Wilde 9).
Years later, in a minute of spiritual orthodoxy, the artist hearkens back to his youth to remember Bible verses from Isaiah; simply as the Father urges mankind to abide in Him, Hallward urges Gray to turn to God for forgiveness: “The prayer of your pride has actually been responded to. The prayer of your repentance will be responded to also … It is never ever far too late, Dorian. Let us kneel down and try if we can not remember a prayer” (Wilde 162). Hallward’s exhortation alludes strongly to his connection with the Daddy’s relentless nature, embodied in the promise that “I will not leave you nor abandon you” (Joshua 1:5).
After Wotton whisks Gray away from Hallward, his feelings mirror the pain of the Dad after being estranged from His creations, “As the door closed behind [Wotton and Gray], the painter flung himself down on a sofa, and an appearance of pain entered his face” (Wilde 33). Though Hallward cautions Wotton not to influence Gray right before they welcome the young man, Wotton mesmerizes Gray with his approach and spirits him far from his private friendship with Hallward. At the same time, Hallward is separated permanently from a dear buddy, and loses the chance to communicate a creature of best innocence, simply as God loses the possibility to know his human developments thoroughly when they reject Him in favor of the tempter’s twisted ideas. This sorrow appears in Hallward’s obvious despair after his former, untarnished conception of Gray disappears, yet he stays committed to wishing Gray’s wellness, thus showing the “longsuffering and abundan [ce] in mercy” credited to the Daddy God (Numbers 14:18). Each of these emotions mimics on an infinitely smaller scale the responses and efforts of the Daddy God to fix up humankind to His sovereignty, even at the expense of His own kid (or, in Hallward’s case, the appeal of his painting).
In Dorian Gray, Wilde’s portrayal of a soul descending into the corridors of enjoyment and self-fascination is a reflection, even in monstrous mini, of the Genesis production story of fall and redemption. Dorian Gray’s antiheroic journey from redemption to disgrace and death is a sequential reverse of the Bible’s own variation of man’s moral journey, although this by no methods decreases the symbolic resemblance between the scenarios, occasions and styles of the 2 texts. In reality, Gray’s climactic murder of Basil Hallward, the “Dad” attempting to save him, is symbolic of humanity thinking itself too modern-day or too human for God. It functions as a caution, or perhaps simply a cooling pronouncement, about the haunted state of a mankind that has actually rebelled bloodily versus its native reality, and is now left only to look its own wickedness in the face.
The Holy Bible, New King James Variation. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York City: Barnes & & Noble Classics, 2003. Print.