One of the three main characters in Oscar Wilde
's the Picture of Dorian Gray
Basil is, in many ways, the exact opposite of Lord Henry Wotton even though they are good friends.
He is a very talented painter with world recognition and a very artistic nature. He seeks the beautiful in the world and expresses it in his art.
Basil met Dorian before Lord Henry, and saw him as a symbol of beauty.
Basil’s artistic opinions can be seen on page 9 when he says: “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.” This clearly reflects how much the artist cares about his art and how much of himself he puts into it.
At the same time, Basil does not think that art should have so much of the artist in it and says, on page 9, “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty. Some day I will show the world what it is; and for that reason the world shall never see my portrait of Dorian Gray.”
This is the reason he does not wish to exhibit the Picture of Dorian gray, even though it is defiantly his best piece of work.
This shows that he does not care for fame or money, but only his art and his friends.
Basil cares a lot about Dorian and overestimates his good nature. After Lord Henry convinces Dorian that he should forget about the death of Sybil Vane and go to the Opera with him, Basil comes by his house and says: “I called last night, and they told me you were at the Opera. Of course I knew that was impossible” (pg. 104). Basil is so sure that his friend is in a period of grief that he refuses to accept the fact that he would not care much about the incident.
When Basil finally realizes that Dorian had changed, he blames it all on himself as he says “Well, I am punished for that, Dorian--or shall be some day.” On page 105.
Basil has a very forgiving nature, as can be seen by the end of that previous incident as Basil chooses to forgive and forget: “Well, Dorian, I won’t speak to you again about this horrible thing, after to-day. I only trust your name won’t be mentioned in connection with it.“ He keeps his promise and does not raise the conversation again.
On page 112 Basil’s forgiving nature is fully revealed after Dorian refuses to let him see the picture he himself painted. At first, Basil is surprised and demands to see the picture but after a short argument (in which Dorian does not present any logic reasons as to why the picture should not be exhibited nor seen) he agrees not to look at the picture and not to ask about it ever again. He does so by saying: “Well, perhaps you are right. And now good-bye, Dorian. You have been the one person in my life who has really influenced my art. Whatever I have done that is good, I owe to you. Ah! You don’t know what it cost me to tell you all that I have told you.”
After chapter nine Basil Hallward is not mentioned much until chapter twelve in which he is murdered by Dorian after a desperate attempt to save his soul.
This chapter starts as Basil expresses his good friendship by talking to Dorian about the way society sees him and his wrong ways.
Even after the English society speaks of Dorian in as negative a way as possible, Basil still does not seem to blame him fully for the events but only save him from this terrible life. On page 145 Basil expresses this feeling, saying: “England is bad enough I know, and English society is all wrong. That is the reason why I want you to be fine. You have not been fine.” This sentence demonstrates the fact that Basil loses some of his respect of Dorian but at the same time does not blame him directly.
After that the artist thinks and starts feeling extremely sorry for Dorian. His thoughts are expressed on page 146 “A twisted flash of pain shot across the painter’s face. He paused for a moment, and a wild feeling of pity came over him. After all, what right had he to pry into the life of Dorian Gray? If he had done a tithe of what was rumoured about him, how much he must have suffered!” This shows that even after the most horrible deeds of Dorian Gray, his true friend stays by his side and respects him.
On page 150 Basil sees the deformed picture of Dorian Gray and refuses to believe his eyes. Once Dorian convinces him that it is the truth and not an illusion of sorts Basil blames it all on himself as he says “Christ! What a thing I must have worshipped! It has the eyes of a devil.”
On the same page he adds, “I worshipped you too much. I am punished for it. You worshipped yourself too. We are both punished” as a confession of his own sins and a request of Dorian to ask for the forgiveness of God along with him. Dorian betrays Basil’s confidence and kills him by the side of the picture right after Basil offers him a final chance to change his ways.
(the page numbers are those of the Penguin Books edition of year 2000)