The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray Appearances Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mrs. Vane glanced at her, and with one of those false theatrical gestures that so often become a mode of second nature to a stage-player, clasped her in her arms. At this moment, the door opened and a young lad with rough brown hair came into the room. He was thick-set of figure, and his hands and feet were large and somewhat clumsy in movement. He was not so finely bred as his sister. One would hardly have guessed the close relationship that existed between them. Mrs. Vane fixed her eyes on him and intensified her smile. She mentally elevated her son to the dignity of an audience. She felt sure that the tableau was interesting. (5.10)
Appearances are also paramount in Mrs. Vane's valuation of things. She only thinks about the theatrical elements of life, and constructs her version of reality out of surface appearances and acts.
As for Sibyl, I do not know at present whether her attachment is serious or not. But there is no doubt that the young man in question is a perfect gentleman. He is always most polite to me. Besides, he has the appearance of being rich, and the flowers he sends are lovely […] He has not yet revealed his real name. I think it is quite romantic of him. He is probably a member of the aristocracy […] I trust he is one of the aristocracy. He has all the appearance of it, I must say. It might be a most brilliant marriage for Sibyl. They would make a charming couple. His good looks are really quite remarkable; everybody notices them." (5.13)
Again, we see that Mrs. Vane simply relies upon appearance (like so many of the characters we meet here) as truth. Not wise!
"Dorian, this is horrible! Something has changed you completely. You look exactly the same wonderful boy who, day after day, used to come down to my studio to sit for his picture. But you were simple, natural, and affectionate then. You were the most unspoiled creature in the whole world. Now, I don't know what has come over you. You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry's influence. I see that."
The lad flushed up and, going to the window, looked out for a few moments on the green, flickering, sun-lashed garden. "I owe a great deal to Harry, Basil," he said at last, "more than I owe to you. You only taught me to be vain."
"Well, I am punished for that, Dorian -- or shall be some day." (9.2-3)
This cold exchange between Basil and Dorian expresses the danger in mistaking outer beauty for inner beauty. Poor Basil is just realizing that the Dorian before him really is totally different from the Dorian he captured in paint. There's an interestingly prescient note in his declaration that he is or will be "punished" for showing Dorian his own beauty – he tragically doesn't know how true these words will be.