The sensual imagery that occurs throughout the novel in connection with Dorian demonstrates how he tries to live surrounded by exquisite sensations. His moments of delights are always accompanied by rich sensual imagery. This is particularly apparent when he is in some unpleasant situation-he savors a beautiful sense experience and this restores his peace and equanimity. This happens for example when he is returning from his upsetting argument with Sibyl Vane. When he reaches Covent Garden market at dawn, he sees carts filled with lilies: “The air was heavy with the perfume of the flowers, and their beauty seemed to bring him an anodyne for his pain.” In chapter 18, when he ventures out for the first time after he has been scared by the sight of James Vane, the “pine-scented air” brings back his zest for life. And when he goes to join the shooting-party later that day, aural, visual and olfactory images combine to lift his mood once more: “The keen aromatic air, the brown and red lights that glimmered in the wood, the hoarse cries of the beaters ringing out from time to time, and the sharp snaps of the guns that followed, fascinated him, and filled him with a sense of delightful freedom.”
The richness of sense experiences is linked to the pleasures afforded by art, which elevates life beyond sordid realities. Such pleasures are enjoyed by the aristocracy, and there are some class distinctions in the ways that the imagery is applied. The aristocracy create beautiful, artistic environments in which to live, whereas the darker imagery in the novel is mostly applied to the lower-class areas of London, where art does not tread. As Dorian returns from his rejection of Sibyl, for example, he passes through “Dimly-lit streets . . . gaunt black-shadowed archways and evil-looking houses” (ch. 7). He encounters drunkards like “monstrous apes” and “grotesque children.” These are the realities of life that must, at least as far as Lord Henrys creed is concerned, be transcended by art. The dark, unpleasant imagery recurs when Dorian goes to the opium den. The streets are “like the black web of some sprawling spider” and the moon hangs “low in the sky like a yellow skull,” a reminder of death.
The doppelganger is a well-known motif in myth, folklore and literature. The word comes from doppel (“double”) and ganger (usually translated as “goer”). The term refers to any double of a person; sometimes the doppelganger is a ghostly second self that haunts the first self. The doppelganger device was recently used in the movie, Fight Club. The picture of Dorian, which serves as a metaphor for the state of his soul, or his conscience, is a variation of this motif of the doppelganger. It is Dorians second self that haunts him and which eventually he cannot bear to look at.