Lord Henry

In both ‘The Collector’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ obsession can be considered as an overwhelming power that makes characters feel powerless. In the opening chapters of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, Wilde conveys Dorian as a “lad” who is somewhat vulnerable due to his beauty and youth. Due to his vulnerability, Basil is reluctant to expose him to Lord Henry and wants him to be his secret portraying a sense of mystery. The reader begins to learn in the first chapter of the novel that Basil is “immensely” obsessed with Dorian giving to Basil’s art “the charm it possesses”. The adjective “charm” emphasises his beauty which is found in his youth and innocence. It is clear that due to this, Dorian’s power of his charming nature is overwhelming for Basil as Basil is completely consumed by him making him powerless and weak. This could link to the idea that Basil does not wish to sell his art as he doesn’t want to expose Dorian to the world because he is afraid of the influence he could endure. Lord Henry’s “bad influence” is presented through the motif of the daisy. He “plucked a pink-petalled daisy” and then “plucks another daisy”. This highlights that Lord Henry just takes beauty, uses and then destroys it once he has finished. Therefore, this could foreshadow the “bad influence” he has over Dorian as he takes Dorian to observe his purity. Lord Henry sees Dorian as an “interest” in which he pursues to “study” which suggests that he has no consideration of his emotions and tries to influence his life choices without caring about the consequences. Basil desperately tries to protect Lord Henry from destroying Dorian’s “simple and beautiful nature” as the reader is made aware of Lord Henry’s selfish attitudes which Wilde uses to convey the opinions of the upper classes. Lord Henry is a “faithless” character who believes that nothing can come above beauty and therefore treats it with great respect when he sees it within Dorian. Contextually, Wilde utilises the characters of Dorian and Lord Henry to explore the societal view of aestheticism and decadence. This view that aesthetic values are considered above social-political values is presented through Lord Henry’s characteristics and actions towards Dorian. Lord Henry indulges in Dorian’s youth and beauty which enables him to participate in this “study” of beauty being above intelligence. However, this contrasts to Basil’s views as he explains that “the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate” him. The powerful verb “dominate” emphasises the control Basil is under as of a result of Dorian. The use of Basil’s character therefore, contrasts the social opinions between the upper class and the middle working class in society. Both Dorian and Lord Henry experience luxury which is evident through their selfishness and treatment of others contrasting to Basil’s life of fairness and equality. Similarly, in ‘The Collector’ Clegg’s obsession with Miranda is so strong that it forces him to imprison and seclude her for a very long period of time. He begins to get a “feeling of power” and Miranda becomes the “purpose of [his] life”. This is evident through the possessive pronouns “mine” in which demonstrate that Clegg has been so engulfed by her beauty that she has now become part of his life in which he doesn’t want to expose her to the rest of the world and by keeping her imprisoned he is capable of fulfilling a superior standing. Unlike the power of influence being Basil’s fear experienced in his obsession, Fowles focuses on the torture that obsession causes for Clegg. A critical analysis suggests that “Fowles’ psychological study of the two characters is, in fact, a battle of minds and wills”further demonstrating that Clegg is in a battle within his own mind as he cannot bare to live his life without Miranda. This battle with his conscious causes him to capture Miranda and use methods such as chloroform and a gag in order to feel powerful. This presents Clegg as a weakened character as he loses control over himself to his obsession. Although it is clear that Miranda is imprisoned physically, a modern reader may consider Clegg as being trapped within his own mental prison due to his lack of self-confidence and his lack of ability to control his desire.