Seduction and Manipulation

Published on 26 December 2023 at 17:46

In the Dutch weekly ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’ of 21 December 2022 ( Opheffer states that Oscar Wilde in the first two chapters of ‘The picture of Dorian Gray’ has nearly written a manual on how to seduce. Curious by this observation, I picked up the book that I once read, I don’t remember how long ago. My memory of the story was almost erased and I read the two chapters as if they were new.

I completely agree with Opheffer that these chapters are peerless. While reading and searching for who seduces whom and how they are seduced, I noticed that I was especially impressed by the intrigues between the three men. The master intriguing for me is Lord Henry Wotton. He comes to visit his friend, the painter Basil Hallward, who is painting a portrait of an extraordinarily beautiful young man, Dorian Gray. Basil Hallward is secretly in love with this young man and tries to get Lord Henry Wotton out the door. It is fascinating to read how Lord Henry Wotton, who wants Dorian Gray himself, manages to turn the situation around in such a way  that in the end Basil Hallward begs him to stay.

How he manages this is described in the dialogues in the first two chapters. Characteristic is the language use of Lord Henry Wotton. He speaks philosophical, but full of paradoxes and ambiguities. An example of this is how he responds to Dorian Gray’s question:

‘I wonder shall I always be glad?’

‘Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.’

In his answer he states that the word ‘always’ is meaningless. By saying that women spoil romances with this word, he makes a bond with the two men and especially with Dorian Gray, by suggesting that they should not do such a thing, just like he does. As a reader, eventually you may think that it is better to be non-committal.

As I write above, I was impressed by the intriguing character of the phrases of Lord Henry Wotton, for me the master of manipulation.

Opheffer talks about ‘seducing’. Until now, I have seen ‘seduction’ as courting in a romantic sense. I wondered what the differences were between seducing and intriguing or manipulation.

In the definitions I found, I discovered to my surprise that seduction had a more negative meaning than I thought.

Seducing: 1. Persuading (someone) to do something he or she does not actually want or is allowed to do, 2. Persuade you to have sex.

Intriguing: 1. engaging and making you curious, 2. Being secret, 3. Manipulating.

So, seduction and intriguing seem to be in line with each other.

Without seduction there is no intrigue!

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