Dorian Gray: Dorian = Faust?

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Dorian Gray: Dorian = Faust?

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feb 10, 2014, 12:02 pm

This story is frequently likened to Faust. Lord Henry is clearly our Mephistopheles, but unlike Faust, the titular character in The Picture of Dorian Gray never explicitly, consciously makes his deal with the Devil. How would the story (and its implications) differ if Dorian had signed up for this from the beginning?

feb 10, 2014, 12:39 pm

Thanks for starting these topical threads, Loranne.

I think comparisons to Faust are irresistible (mainly because of the figure of Lord Henry which is, as you say, Mephistophelean) but misleading. These are two very different myths.

Faust was a scholar at the end of his life who doubted, at the last moment, whether there was any value in the knowledge he had pursued all his life, at the expense of sensual living. The deal Faust makes with the devil brings him back his youth so that he could have a go at this life of the senses, which is the "real" life.

In contrast, Dorian is a young man, almost an adolescent, who knows nothing. Lord Henry reveals to him the "genius" of his youth and beauty. This is all the knowledge, all the gift Dorian will ever possess ("genius" meaning not just extraordinary talent but a spiritual guidance, lead, emblem of destiny.) While superficially both Faust and Dorian embark on a life of pleasure-seeking, Faust does it in order to live the authentic life, while Dorian rejected living authentically in favour of artifice. Dorian's real existence is lived by his portrait.

feb 20, 2014, 11:23 am

Faust makes a conscious deliberate deal to achieve an end. Dorian takes advantage of circumstance. Faust makes an informed decision that would not be available to Dorian because Dorian's youth and inexperience prevent him from having the knowledge gained by living life to its full term.