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The Picture of Dorian Gray
Transcript of The Picture of Dorian Gray
• Slick-tongued advocate of sin
• Deeply moral upper-class artist
• Archetype of male youth and beauty
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Point of View
Oscar Wilde has only published one novel which is The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is mostly famous for his plays, poetry and short stories.
Critics denounced Wilde for what they thought to be his own innate immorality - to which Wilde responded with the famous "Preface" to the novel.
This novel reveals Wilde's philosophy more than any of his other works; reading it is an essential key to understanding his artistic mission as a whole.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of one beautiful, innocent young man's seduction, moral corruption, and eventual downfall.
• Basil paints a portrait of the one person he adores and has feelings for: Dorian Gray. Dorian comes to see truly his own beauty and with his newfound ideology (thanks to Lord Henry) he makes a wish so that the painting will grow old and have flaws and that he will remain youthful and beautiful for eternity.
• Dorian appears to have fallen in love with an actress, Sibyl Vane, and upon realizing the fact that she doesn’t live up to his expectations – he dumps her. She kills herself, and instead of mourning her and learning a lesson, Dorian reads “The Yellow Book”, continues to be influenced by Lord Henry, and gets over the entire thing. Dorian notices that there is an ugly change in his portrait’s smile but chooses to ignore it.
• Over the next decade Dorian is deeply influenced by the Yellow Book and changes his lifestyle. Rumours start to spread about Dorian’s secret, evil deeds. Dorian has gone over to the dark side. The portrait grows uglier and uglier.
• Dorian kills Basil in a fit of passion, and instead of remorse he feels like Basil brought it upon himself. The portrait is hideous at this point and there is blood on the canvas.
• Dorian is shaken by Basil’s murder – he is afraid he will get caught. Dorian also finds out that Sibyl’s brother is in town and seeks out revenge.
• Everything looks like it works out for Dorian Gray. Sibyl’s brother is accidently killed. Dorian is relieved and wonders if he should change his ways after all. He starts this new change by sparing another girl from heartache and possibly ruining her life. He goes to check the painting to see if the ugly markings went away with his new “good deed” – but to no avail, the painting is still terribly ugly.
• Dorian finally gets his comeuppance – he tries to destroy his portrait like he destroyed the artist and in doing so he kills himself.
Lord Henry wants to gain influence over Dorian, as Basil has influence over him, which ultimately leads to Dorian's death. This novel prizes individualism, and says that the sacrifice of one's self, whether it be to another person or a work of art, leads to their destruction. Dorian lives only for himself yet he faces a destruction because he feels remorse. The only character that lives is Lord Henry because he lives for himself without conscious.
Influence Gives Negative Consequences
Lord Henry Wotton
Picture of Dorian Gray
The Yellow Book
Third Person Omniscient
Although we see the story mainly through the lens of Dorian's opinions, we also dip into the minds of other characters here and there, from Lord Henry to Mrs. Vane. We're able to see everyone's thoughts and perspectives, but that doesn't mean we have an objective, or even necessarily fair narrator – in fact, this narrator is way harsh sometimes (see "Tone" for more on this). However, the narration is really thorough and complete, if nothing else.
A living allegory, a visible interpretation of Dorian's soul. The picture represents Dorian's inner self, which grows uglier with each crime he commits.
As the painting becomes uglier and uglier, Dorian loses it. It becomes kind of a conscience and reminds him constantly of the evil at heart in his nature.
Reference to J.K Huysman's A Rebours - an important novel of the Decadent period. In both the original text and Wilde's summary of it, its protagonists devotes his life seeking aesthetic sensations, regardless of what society says.
Upon reading this book, Dorian sees aspects of his own life reflected back at him in this character's life.
The Yellow Book represents the influence Lord Henry has on Dorian. Its hedonistic message makes it a guide book for Dorian. We are reminded it is Lord Henry's fault for poisoning Dorian with the book.
A young man known for his good looks. The main character and initial friend of Basil Hallward. Dorian becomes entranced by Lord Henry's view of new Hedonism, sparking the initial turn to pleasure seeking.
A friend of Basil's who is a stereotype of the Victorian culture at the time. He introduces Dorian to the idea of "new Hedonism" and cultivates his pleasure seeking ways.
An artist who is initially friends with Dorian Gray, as well as Lord Henry Wotton. He introduces Lord Henry and Dorian, sparking Dorian's interest in him. Basil shows an infatuation with Dorian throughout the work.
The Picture of Dorian Gray opens in 1890 in London, England.
This novel takes place in the height of the Decadent artistic movement of the late 19th century. This trend of aesthetic pleasure and sensual experience began in France. Wilde was the major proponent of it in England.
Wealthy West End
Dorian is the gallant gentleman, fashionable trendsetter, cultured aristocrat, and scandalous local celebrity. Enjoys the theatre, opera, paintings, and french cuisine.
Dorian becomes a creepy, sulking, unambiguously evil specter - desperate for an opium hit.
It has elements of the classic horror story, like the suspenseful build to the final twist. In other words, it's a kind of horror story that's ascended to the level of literary horror story – other examples are basically any short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
On the "horror" side, we've got the grotesque descriptions of the portrait, the terrible murder and consequent, disappearance of Basil Hallward, and the general ick-factor of the opium den – and, of course, the dramatic ending, shrieks and all.
Oscar Wilde creates elements of fantasy with the use of the painting of Dorian Gray. It is employed as a means of communicating the important insight of corruption through selfish motives. It is clear that fantasy conveys the truth with this symbolic portrait. Without this fantastical element, Wilde would not have produced the thrills and wonders that are tied with the novel.