“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

“The picture of Dorian Gray”, it turns out, is not about a picture at all. It is about a book. It is about the transmission of that book into the mind of the protagonist and the destruction that ensues. The picture of Dorian Gray is about the spiritual risks of reading” (xi-xii). This statement is evident in the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey in the sense that when Lord Henry gave Dorian a doctrine to read, Oscar Wilde the author of the book says that the book spoilt Dorian Gray because it was the most strange book that he has ever read. To him, this was the most beautiful book that expressed how a person could live free from sin in the world. This book, therefore, changed the life of Dorian Grey completely for some years, as he could not stay without reading the book all the time.

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The hero in the book who is the young Parisian whose life was full of romance and a very strong temperamental made Dorian Grey feel that the young Parisian was his mirror. This then made him feel that the whole book was discussing his own life and the writing of the book was before his birth and life in the world. In The Picture of Dorian Grey, Dorian the protagonist becomes the portrait of the picture in the book in which the content of the story revolves around his own life and therefore being narrated In Basil’ excellent piece of work. Early in the narrative, many chaos that surrounds Dorian’s life seems to confuse him for example ‘to gather up the scarlet threads of his life and weave them into a pattern’ (119), but later he is able to get out in an unexpected manner. This, therefore, indicates that it is not easy to separate his life from the pattern portrayed when writing the book as well as its art.

The gothic in The Picture of Dorian Gray has been a concept in the novel that inspired many other arts like in writing novels as well as theatre where some have used the idea to create films. In the novel, when the writer reverses the law of nature, Wilde uses Dorian’s portrait that when Dorian as a self gets old, the soul remains young forever and through this, the author is able to create a myth that dramatizes a soul’ life. It is therefore difficult to explain about the picture whether it was to limit all the thoughts of Dorian and therefore replicates what he read, or he is the one constructed around it. Dorian as a protagonist knows that the work of art can have a strong effect on one’s life and that is why he keeps on saying that The Picture of Dorian Gray as a book changed his life. The artwork can cause a permanent change in one’s mind as it is in the case of The Picture of Dorian Grey, where it changed the life of the protagonist Dorian. The first time when Dorian encounters the portrait, he simply stands ‘gazing at the shadow of his loveliness’ (67). The feelings aroused were similar to those that he felt when he read the book that Lord Henry gave him.

The aspect of narcissistic in Dorian can simply explain why Dorian is a homosexual person, and it can give an idea to understand the kind of relationship that existed among the three protagonists; Dorian, Basil and Henry. Dorian’s attitude in admiring himself is unthinkable in his mind and at some point, it settles in his life when he kisses the lips of the picture, which represented his own image. In this case, Dorian seems to have discovered his beauty and to some extent, it explains Dorian’s evolution because this is when he is able to discover himself. This is also evident when Lord Henry tells him ‘The moment I met you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are, of what you might really be’ (65). though Dorian’s joy was not only that he discovered himself but also in love with his own picture/image, which he admired all the time. Dorian is again jealousy of the portrait because he feels that the picture will be source of mockery in his life as it was a replica of him. This narcissistic kind of identification simply comes out because of his misconception about the picture that is narrating his story hence becoming the main subject in the narrative. In Wilde’s novel therefore there is an intoxicating idea about life that if read young people it can easily change their way of thinking hence imaginations on how it can be if one gives room to every feeling. To spoil one’s mind, secrecy is a key contributor because it makes someone not to share the feelings with others. In the Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian as a protagonist failed to keep the static quality of the narrative hence becoming the portrait in the novel.

In the novel Dorian’s implication on the portrait was according to his belief that the youth should use to satisfy their desires, is on the contrary to Basil’s view about the picture. Basil therefore feels that the picture is an incarnation though not visible of the unseen ideas, which haunt them as artists. To him the paintings represent the moral ideal as it uncovers the physical morals of Dorian, which mirrors the inner beauty. Basil projects his own thoughts on the painting work that he does and this makes him fear to release it to the public because he feels that the picture portrays the inner secrets of his soul. ‘Too much of myself in this thing, Harry-too much of myself!’ (56). In this case, basil interprets the text as a work which expresses the author’s subconscious mind but not as a text to be read.

Basil reveals his intentions of homosexuality through his work and this makes him feel that people may realize his act of homosexuality if he exhibits the work. He is in love with Dorian because he keeps on admiring the portrait of Dorian. Lord Henry on the other hand, admires the portrait of Dorian, which looks young and handsome in Basil’s masterpiece. Because of his age, he could not show it openly but takes the opportunity to advice Dorian to utilise all the opportunities he had as a young person to enjoy the decanted lifestyle. In Wilde’s edition of the Lippincott the picture of Dorian Grey, there are instances in the chapters that reveal the homosexual behaviour among the characters who were involved.

Oscar Wilde, who wrote the book entitled The Picture of Dorian Grey, uses his art of literature to express his feelings. In his novel beauty is the driving force for the lives of the three main protagonists Basil, Lord Henry and Dorian. In this case, Dorian is the character that represents him and Henry is very similar to Lord Alfred. When Wilde was at the age of 37, he met a 21-year-old Lord Alfred Douglas who by then was an undergraduate student in the University of Oxford. Later in their second meeting, Wilde proposed to Alfred whom they became lovers. The court therefore justified that Wilde had only used his literature to unveil the hidden.

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The court used Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray as evidence against Wilde though Edward Clarke, who was his defending council took a very strong stand to defend him. In this case, the book gives Wilde’s semi-autobiography. During the Victorian era, homosexuality was very popular and Wilde’s only option to inform the public was through his literature. In the novel Dorian discovers his godly powers by destroying his innocent soul. His decanted behaviour emerged and the Victorians felt that such immoral behaviours happened because of corruption from other young men. During the trials of Wilde in 1985, the court termed The Picture of Dorian Gray as a ‘homosexual book’ and therefore sentenced Wilde to prison because of his act of flaunting love.

When Wilde wrote his book The Picture of Dorian Grey, he was already married for a period of time and they had two young boys. Even though he was married, he still practiced homosexuality outside his marriage. In his trials, he tells the court that he has never admired any other person in his life except himself and this shows a replica of Dorian’s character in him. Wilde was the person who enjoyed leading an immorality life only that he feared its consequences. When he presented his suit against the Marquis of Queensberry, he was found guilty of sodomy hence his imprisonment. At first, he thought that he could win the suit and on the other hand, he wanted to please Lord Alfred by bringing the suit. This becomes his source of gothic in his life hence the internal conflicts in his life. Wilde was not only confused about his personal life but also in his life of art that he ends up writing a book that explicit his ideas and immoral behaviours as an individual.

Dorian regards himself as a creative reader and therefore denies the interpretations of the text by the author and comes up with his own interpretation that he was only enacting Wilde’s ideas. Wilde therefore thinks that in real criticism, it is the recording of one’s soul subjectively and getting a way to reveal its secrets. Dorian reads the text in a violent manner that makes the painter of the picture feel that the modifications done in the narrative were an attack of his work. As much as Dorian does not want to accept the author’s interpretation, it is evident that when reading a text the reader creates anxiety in him that influence his life.

Towards the conclusion of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian tries to avoid the dangers of the text to preserve his image as an individual. Dorian is not able to ignore the idea that Basil’s picture represented his creation but to overcome that kind of knowledge he translates the interpretation in his own language as a creative reader. He therefore creates a relationship between him and the text as well as the interpreting the information in the text and the protagonist independently. As much as he tries to free himself from the author, the fact is that the text builds him and not him constructing the text. The picture influenced Dorian’s life because under such influence, he copied characters that were very different from his natural behaviours. This kind of experience that Dorian undergoes can actually happen to any reader.

Oscar Wilde’s trial in England made the court understand homosexuality together with its language that the gay people used when communicating with each other. After the death of Wilde in the year 1990, many legends came up that described him such as Wilde, the homosexual martyr. In New York, the gay and lesbian bookshop was named after him. In the year 2009, this bookstore was closed because many young gays could obtain information from other sources, and they never needed a store anymore. The new writers on homosexuality were inspired by the work of Oscar Wilde. Wilde, therefore, describes the art of literature as either good or bad but not moral or immoral. In his writings, Wilde once wrote that it is not wise for an author to expose his/her heart to the public and therefore says that readers should not assume that he is revealing his gay act in his writings.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, October 30). "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-picture-of-dorian-gray-by-oscar-wilde/

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StudyCorgi. (2020) '"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde'. 30 October.

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