The significance of a name in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Brittany Schenk

4 January 2014

What Is In a Name?

French author Marcel Proust once stated “Words do not alter their significances so drastically in the course of centuries as, in our minds, names carry out in the course of a year or more.” What this quote suggests is that while names simply are words, they hold a whole various significance. Names, much like a person’s face, can hold their entire identity in simply a few letters. They stimulate feelings of rage, joy, love, hatred. Put simply, there is a lot of suggesting behind one’s name. Since of this, it is not a surprise that numerous authors put so much thought into the names of their characters– it offers the first impression of the character. The very same can be said for Oscar Wilde, author of The Photo of Dorian Gray. In the novel, Dorian Gray negotiates to remain young and beautiful forever. Rather of his body becoming old, a painting of him becomes a growing number of grotesque as the young man’s soul becomes corrupted. The unique depicts precisely how much the male’s vanity starts to deform him and the threats that he wants to take as whatever however his appearance starts to alter around him. Throughout the piece, Gray makes a number of acquaintances: good friends, enemies, and even fans. For much of these characters, their name is likewise used as a source of characterization, holding a surprise meaning behind them that straight correlates to their personality or mindset. The characters Dorian Gray and Lord Henry, in addition to the Vane family, can be examined even more by their names.

Dorian Gray is most likely the most crucial character in the unique, therefore his name holds a lot of significance. The provided name Dorian can be connected to ancient Greek culture. The culture from which the name is derived links Dorian to Lord Henry. Lord Henry holds high esteem for Greek society, claiming that “the world would acquire such a fresh impulse of pleasure” by going back to the Hellenic perfect (23 ). The Greeks were known for their appreciation of the human form and their focus on aestheticism, hence their olympian-like statues and art. Similar to the statue of David or any other sculpture, Gray is described as being a “young Adonis, who appears he was constructed out of ivory and rose-leaves”– something that the Greeks definitely would have valued (7 ). As far as the surname of Gray goes, it can be utilized to characterize Dorian’s mentality and the progression of his personality as he ends up being increasingly more damaged by Lord Henry and the impacts of the world. Simply put, Dorian inhabits a “ethical gray location” in numerous aspects. He does not view his actions as especially right or wrong, no matter how negative they may seem to others. For example, when Gray attacks Hallward and” [digs] the knife into the fantastic vein that lags the ear … stabbing again and once again” he does not see it as berserk. however a required job (174 ). The young man does not fully comprehend the seriousness of his actions. Had he not killed Basil in cold blood, as he believes, he certainly would have been betrayed and berated by the painter. This justifies his actions in his mind, even when “a noticeably conceited attitude emerges, and the incompatibility of morality and unconditional aestheticism becomes all the more apparent” (Duggan). Also, a lot of the important things that Gray does are made with good objectives, yet end up leading to a negative result. In an attempt to alter his berserk ways, Dorian leaves a girl that he claims to have actually been in love with, reasoning that he wishes to “leave her as flower-like as [he] had actually discovered her” (231 ). However, are Gray’s exemplary efforts actually that exemplary? Lord Henry sagaciously suggests that the “very first excellent action [Dorian has] done for years, the first little bit of self-sacrifice [he has] ever known, is really a sort of sin” (232 ). No matter how warranted Dorian claims his actions are, they still result in Hetty being conclusively sad. Due to the fact that of these dead-set ideals, Gray remains in an ethical happy medium.

Just like Dorian, Lord Henry Wotton’s name also has quite a bit of meaning behind it. Henry is an English name with Germanic roots, equating to “house ruler”. Similar to the translation implies, Lord Henry could definitely be identified as a ruler. Not just is he a literal nobleman, however it can also be argued that his requiring presence likewise starts to command Gray’s mind also, due to the reality that “there [is] something awfully fascinating in the exercise of impact” (42 ). As if captured under a spell, Gray ends up being entirely mesmerized by Lord Henry’s unique and uncommon ideas. It is due to the fact that of Lord Henry that Gray starts to follow the long, twisting path of corruption: Lord Henry puts vain concepts in Gray’s head; Lord Henry presents Gray to the shanty towns of the city; Lord Henry tries to push Gray to his limitations. This psychological decay produces inner turmoil within Dorian. It is Lord Henry’s overwhelming influence that stimulates the dark fire of ideas of vanity and aestheticism within the youth. Wilde explains” He would seek to dominate him– had currently, certainly, half done so. He would make that terrific spirit his own” (43 ). If Gray’s mind is the home, then Wotton’s influence is the ruler, building and sculpting it as he sees fit.

Unlike Lord Henry, Sibyl Vane is the image of naiveté and simpleness, just as her name suggests. The forename Sibyl has Greek origins, meaning “prophetess”. Similar to a prophetess, Sibyl’s character goes on to predict a number of things in the novel. One method which Sibyl’s character anticipates the future is the method which ladies respond to Dorian’s existence. Sibyl becomes consumed with everything about Gray, in spite of not even understanding his genuine man or, regretfully, his real character. She declares that “he is like what Love himself must be” (69 ). Like an afflict, whatever about Dorian starts to consume her, both in body and spirit. Sibyl’s fixation with the guy even goes so far on as to destroy her acting profession– among the only things that truly mesmerized Dorian in the very first location. Vane goes on to profess that Gray “is more to [her] than all art can ever be” as she blindly throws herself at his feet, only to be entirely damaged when Gray declines her (97 ). However, Sibyl is not the only character that ends up being completely controlled by Gray; she works as the first piece, the model in what would turn out to be a long line of captivated– and distraught– women, such as Hetty. Likewise, another way in which Sibyl works as a prophetess is that the relationship between her and Dorian acts as the beginning of a pattern in the way that Dorian’s relationships will turn out. With the relationships, the 2 characters begin as lovestruck, entirely soaked up in one another. It is not a real bond, nevertheless, as “Dorian is not attracted to Sibyl’s character of personality, but rather her acting skill and enthralling performances” (Duggan). When Dorian is first with Vane, he goes on to tell Lord Henry “I love her, and I need to make her love me” (62 ). This “honeymoon” duration only lasts for a brief period, nevertheless, as Gray quickly dislikes Sibyl the minute the minute her magic wears off, tossing her aside like a piece of garbage. Following this rejection, Vane quickly takes it to heart by ending her own life. There is a pattern with Gray’s relationship: devotion, disinterest, rejection. This held true with Sibyl Vane and Hetty and many more momentary lovers. Since of these repeating parts, it is no surprise that Dorian’s first enthusiast in the book is called the prophetess.

While Sibyl’s forename uses primarily to herself, her surname Vane– or vain– appears to use to her household as a whole. This is specifically the case with her mom. Mrs. Vane is a self-loving, egocentric character mainly worried about her own well being instead of that of her kids. Regardless of the fact that she is “a faded, tired woman … and looks as if she [has] seen her better days” (61 ). Mrs. Vane still reveals an excessively high opinion of her abilities. Indebted to a local theatre owner, she has relegated both herself and her younger daughter over to the company. A sign of Mrs. Vane’s vanity can be experienced when she is refusing to turn Sibyl over to Dorian, in spite of her protests of how delighted he makes her, till she finds out that “the boy may be abundant” and that just then “marriage should be considered” (69 ). It is a marvel that the older woman does not appear to pass these characteristics of large melodramaticism and vanity onto her 2 children.

Names work as more than simply ways to recognize a character; they can develop a history, a personality, and even a future– all finished up into a string of vowels and consonants. Much like appearance and dialogue, a name can act as an essential characterization tool when developing individuals. Many names in The Photo of Dorian Gray do simply that: they include a specific level of depth beyond the normal elements. The roots and meanings behind classifications are constantly interesting things to look into, as is the case with Dorian Gray. The forename Dorian is of Greek origin and serves to link him with the well-known, aesthetically-drawn culture. The surname of Gray is utilized to represent the moral gray area that he inhabits, never ever rather comprehending the seriousness of his actions. With Lord Henry Wotton, the name Henry equates to “house ruler”, something that applies both to his position as a nobleman in addition to how he controls the space that is Dorian’s mind with his particular point of views. The Vane family creates a broad range of characterization within the book. With Sibyl Vane, her name equates out to be prophetess, or one who can forecast the future. Not only does she function as the model of how women respond around Dorian, however Sibyl likewise functions as the model of how relationships with Gray will run their course. Sybil’s mother, Mrs. Vane, is identified by her surname rather actually, indicating her vanity and self-regard when it concerns both the theatre and her 2 children. Combined with numerous other elements, the cautious idea process of picking names can help the reader in analysing characters, a strategy that was utilized in the novel. It is apparent that Wilde understands the value behind such an ignored idea as each character’s character and background is thoroughly shaped like a piece of clay. It is just as American author Logan Pearsall Smith when composed: “Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our previous habits”.

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