How Wilde presents the relationship between Dorian and Basil Hallward here and at one other point in the novel
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The twelfth chapter, although seemingly unimportant- yet a necessary reintroduction of Basil Hallward- in fact reveals a great deal about the way in which he sees Dorian. ‘Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed’ is a clear example of traditional Victorian values of aestheticism and a perfect representation of Basil’s views concerning Art and morality. It is at this moment Basil reveals how strongly he believes that ethical goodness has a relationship to aesthetic goodness, especially when it comes to Dorian.
As we have seen earlier in chapter one, Lord Henry Wotton describes Dorian as ‘some brainless, beautiful creature’, a statement which Basil seems to pass over as if it were true but his intelligence is unimportant in comparison to his beauty as Basil states that ‘his beauty is such that Art cannot express’. Basil reveals to us in the twelfth chapter that he has always seen Dorian as nothing more than a beautiful piece of Art and with that comes moral purity as within the realms of aestheticism how is it possible for there to be anything more than the beauty of the piece itself?
It is this which Basil and Dorian’s relationship has always been based upon. Basil describes Dorian in chapter twelve as having a ‘pure, bright, innocent face’ out of love and utter disbelief that Dorian could be anything more than beautiful. The word ‘pure’ conjures connotations of an untainted and morally good as if nothing could ever affect the beauty that Dorian has and in Basil’s eyes, that is all Dorian has and will ever be; a beautiful piece of Art, beautifully internally and externally.
But, Dorian’s internal moral decay is concealed by his stunning good looks to every person who does not thoroughly contemplate his personality, and therefore, by aesthetic belief, not one person ever truly knows him, except for Basil, who pays for that knowledge with his life. It is not only Basil’s traditional Victorian views on aestheticism which effect’s his relationship with Dorian but his adoration and love for him.
As stated by Peter Ackroyd ‘Wilde was seen as the most successful society playwright of his day, and the pilloried as the most famous ‘sexual outlaw of the time’ and this is demonstrated with the suggested homoerotic love between Dorian and Basil. In the twelfth chapter Basil is still so consumed by Dorian that he cannot begin to imagine the rumours of Dorian’s hedonistic lifestyle being anything but rumours. ‘I don’t believe these rumours at all. At least, I cant believe them when I see you’ a statement by Basil which once again aids the idea of his believes of aesthetic and ethical morality being one as well as showing his love for Dorian.
That fact the Basil cannot see Dorian for what he is reveals just how consumed he truly is. Within the first chapter we were shown the beginning of this love and what Lord Henry describes as a ‘romance of art’ which I believe perfectly encompasses Basils aesthetic and emotional love of Dorian. Basil even says ‘As long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me’ a statement which I find rather ironic considering it is not until he pays with his life does he discover Dorian’s personality.
This further proves how consumed basil is with Dorian, as he believes that he knows Dorian’s personality and convinced himself that it is that he is in love with as opposed to his aesthetic beauty. Nonetheless whether it is Dorian’s soul or body that Basil falls for, he has fallen and this has lead to a poisoned relationship filled with misconceptions and tragedy. But it is only once we immerse ourselves in the idea of love that it lets go leaving one ‘so unromantic’.
Basil’s romance would have never lasted because the soul he claimed to love is destroyed and the body he fell for will wither. Wilde as Peter Ackroyd said ‘does not provide a ‘full statement’ to clear up any speculation’ when it comes to the homoeroticism between the two men, something which was used against him when he accused in a court of law in the late 1800’s. The controversy it caused landed Wilde in two years of hard labour after the prosecution found the relationship to be of substantial evidence of his homosexuality.
Wilde has also brought structural significance to Basil and Dorian’s relationship through the passing of time in the twelfth chapter. It is 18 years before the two men meet again and through this use of arithmology, the number eighteen has developed an important thematic role within the novel as it is an age of reflection and an age where learning from being a young adolescent has been complete. Not only that, but it is almost as if Dorian has be reborn into a new man.
When we first met him, he was 20 years old and still a young man, naive and waiting to experience the world, Basil knew Dorian as this young an d ‘pure’ person completely untainted by the rest of the world. But know when they meet again Dorian is a new man still young but no longer naive and has experienced the world. Dorian’s life has changed significantly in those eighteen years and he has become a new man, a man which Basil Hallward only recognizes from his untouched beauty and although seemingly similar with their aesthete views, they differ so much more ethically.
Wilde has created a relationship between Dorian and Basil that has always been consistent from the first chapter and even in the twelfth chapter. Dorian is the dominant character of the two and will always have power over Basil because of his love of him, a love which Basil will die for. It is almost as if Basil has created Dorian in his mind as a man purely beautiful with nothing more and to realize that Dorian is more than this breaks his heart and ultimately leads to his demise.