Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s one novel, published originally in 1890 (as a serial) and then in book form the following year. The novel is at once an example of late Victorian Gothic horror and , in some ways, the greatest English-language novel about decadence and aestheticism, or ‘art for art’s sake’.

To show how these themes and movements find their way into the novel, it’s necessary to offer some words of analysis. But before we analyse The Picture of Dorian Gray , it might be worth summarising the plot of the novel.

The Picture of Dorian Gray : summary

The three main characters in The Picture of Dorian Gray are the title character (a beautiful young man), Basil Hallward (a painter), and Lord Henry Wotton (Basil Hallward’s friend).

The novel opens with Basil painting Dorian Gray’s portrait. Lord Henry Wotton takes a shine to the young man, and advises him to be constantly in search of new ‘sensations’ in life. He encourages Dorian to drink deep of life’s pleasures.

When the picture of Dorian is finished, Dorian marvels at how young and beautiful he looks, before wishing that he could always remain as young and attractive while his portrait is the one that ages and decays, rather than the other way around. When he proclaims that he would give his soul to have such a wish granted, it’s as if he has made a pact with the devil.

Basil’s finished portrait is sent to Dorian’s house, while Dorian himself goes out and follows Lord Henry’s advice. He falls head over heels in love with an actress, Sibyl Vane, but when she loses her ability to act well – because, she claims, now she has fallen in love for real she cannot imitate it on the stage – Dorian cruelly discards her. He had fallen in love with her art as an actress, and now she has lost that, she is meaningless to him.

Sibyl takes her own life before Dorian – who has observed a change in his portrait, which looks to have a slightly meaner expression than before – can apologise to her and beg her forgiveness. But Lord Henry consoles Dorian, arguing that Sibyl, in dying young, has given her last beautiful performance.

Dorian, shocked by the change in the portrait, locks it away at the top of his house, in his old schoolroom. Inspired by an immoral ‘yellow book’ which Lord Henry gives to him, Dorian continues to experience all manner of ‘sensations’, no matter how immoral they are. When he next takes a look at the portrait in his attic, he finds an old and evil face, disfigured by sin, staring out at him.

The novel moves forward some thirteen years. Dorian, of course, is still young and fresh-faced, but his portrait looks meaner and older than ever. When Dorian shows the portrait to Basil, who painted it, the artist – who had worshipped Dorian’s beauty when he painted the picture – is shocked and appalled. Dorian stabs Basil to death, before enlisting the help of someone to dispose of the body (this man, horrified by what he has done, will later take his own life).

Dorian slides further into sin and evil, until one day, the brother of the dead actress, Sibyl Vane, bumps into Dorian Gray and intends to exact revenge for his sister’s mistreatment at the hands of Dorian. But when he follows Dorian to the latter’s country estate, he is accidentally shot by one of Dorian’s shooting party.

Dorian becomes intent on reforming his character, hoping that the portrait will start to improve if he behaves better. But when he goes up to look at the painting, he finds that it shows the face of a hypocrite, because even his abstinence from vice was, in its own way, a quest for a new sensation to experience.

Horrified and angered, Dorian plunges a knife into the canvas, but when the servants walk in on him, they find the portrait as it was originally painted, showing Dorian Gray as a youthful man. Meanwhile, on the floor, there is the body of a wrinkled old man with a ‘loathsome’ face.

The Picture of Dorian Gray : analysis

The Picture of Dorian Gray has been analysed as an example of the Gothic horror novel, as a variation on the theme of the ‘double’, and as a narrative embodying some of the key aspects of late nineteenth-century aestheticism and decadence.

Wilde’s skill lies in how he manages to weave these various elements together, creating a modern take on the old Faust story (the German figure Faust sold his soul to the devil, via Mephistopheles) which also, in its depictions of late Victorian sin and vice, may remind readers of another work of fiction published just four years earlier: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which we’ve analysed here ).

Indeed, the discovery of the body of Dorian Gray as a wrinkled and horrifically ugly corpse at the end of the novel recalls the discovery of Jekyll/Hyde in Stevenson’s novella.

To find the novel’s value as a book of the aesthetic movement, we need look no further than Wilde’s preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray , in which he states, for instance, that ‘there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book’ (what matters is whether the book is written well or not) and ‘all art is quite useless’ (art shouldn’t change the world: art exists as, and for, itself, and no more).

Lord Henry Wotton is very much the voice of the aesthetic movement in the novel, and many of his pronouncements echo those made by the prominent art critic (under whom Wilde had studied at Oxford), Walter Pater. But whereas Pater talked of ‘new impressions’, Lord Henry (or Wilde, in his novel) took this up a notch, calling for new ‘sensations’.

We tend to speak conveniently of ‘periods’ or ‘movements’ or ‘eras’ in literary history, but these labels aren’t always useful. Both Oscar Wilde and Elizabeth Gaskell, the author of Mary Barton and North and South , were ‘Victorian’ in that they were both writing and publishing their work in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).

But whereas Gaskell, writing in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, wrote ‘realist’ novels about the plight of factory workers in northern England, Wilde wrote a fantastical horror story about upper-class men who are able to stay forever young and spotless while their portraits decay in their attic. They’re a world away from each other.

Wilde’s novel is a good example of how later Victorian fiction often turned against the values and approaches favourited by earlier Victorian writers. It was Wilde who, famously, said of the sad ending of Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop , which Dickens’s original readers in the 1840s wept buckets over, ‘one must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without’ – what, crying?

No. Wilde’s word was ‘laughing’. The overly sentimental style favoured by mid-century novelists like Dickens had given way to a more casual, poised, nonchalant, and detached mode of storytelling.

At the same time, we can overstate the extent to which Wilde’s novel turns its back on earlier Victorian attitudes and values. Despite his statement that there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a highly moral work, as the tale of Faust was. Dorian’s life is destroyed by his commitment to a life of pleasure, even though it entails the destruction of other lives – most notably, Sibyl Vane’s.

Far from being a book that would be denounced from the pulpits by Anglican clergymen for being ‘immoral’, The Picture of Dorian Gray could make for a pretty good moral sermon in itself, albeit one that’s more witty and entertaining than most Christian sermons.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is, at bottom, a novel of surfaces and appearance. We say ‘at bottom’, but that is precisely the point: the novel is, as many critics have commented, all surface. Lord Henry is so taken by the beauty of Dorian Gray that he sets about being a bad influence on him.

Dorian is so taken by the painting of him – a two-dimensional representation of his outward appearance – that he makes his deal with the devil, trading his soul, that thing which represents inner meaning and inner depth, in exchange for remaining youthful on the outside.

Then, when Dorian falls in love, it’s with an actress, not because he loves her but because he loves her performance. When she loses her ability to act, he abandons her. Her name, Sibyl Vane, points up the vanity of acting and the pursuit of skin-deep appearance at the cost if something more substantial, but her first name also acts as a warning: in Greek mythology, the Sibyls made cryptic statements about future events.

But there’s probably a particular Sibyl that Wilde had in mind: the Sibyl at Cumae, who, in Petronius’ scurrilous Roman novel Satyricon (which Wilde would surely have known) and in other stories, was destined to live forever but to age and wither away. She had eternal life, but not eternal youth. Dorian’s own eternal youth comes at a horrible cost: without a soul, all he can do is go in pursuit of new sensations, forever chasing desire yet never attaining true fulfilment.

It will, in the end, destroy him: in lashing out and trying to destroy the truth that stares back at him from his portrait, much as he had destroyed the artist who held up a mirror to his corrupt self, Dorian Gray destroys himself. In the last analysis, as he and his portrait do not exist separately from each other, he must live with himself – and with his conscience – or must die in his vain attempt to close his eyes to who he has really become.

About Oscar Wilde

The life of the Irish novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is as famous as – perhaps even more famous than – his work. But in a career spanning some twenty years, Wilde created a body of work which continues to be read an enjoyed by people around the world: a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray ; short stories and fairy tales such as ‘ The Happy Prince ’ and ‘ The Selfish Giant ’; poems including The Ballad of Reading Gaol ; and essay-dialogues which were witty revivals of the Platonic philosophical dialogue.

But above all, it is Wilde’s plays that he continues to be known for, and these include witty drawing-room comedies such as Lady Windermere’s Fan , A Woman of No Importance , and The Importance of Being Earnest , as well as a Biblical drama, Salome (which was banned from performance in the UK and had to be staged abroad). Wilde is also often remembered for his witty quips and paradoxes and his conversational one-liners, which are legion.

5 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray”

‘Genius lasts longer than beauty’ – a very appropriate quote from Chapter 1

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The “yellow book”, referred to is probably Huysmans’s A Rebours, which was sold in a yellow jacket. It is not the Yellow Book quarterly (a publication featuring poetry, prose and illustrations from followers of the Aesthetic movement), which came later, and which probably took its title from the reference in Wilde’s novel.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Basel and lord henry's influence on dorian anonymous 11th grade.

In Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the concept of influence is clearly reflected in two different characters and in two different forms, and juxtaposes them though the main character and his reaction to the two clashing ideologies projected upon him throughout the novel. The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890 by renowned author Oscar Wilde follows the protagonist, young and incredibly beautiful Dorian Gray through the life stages of young adulthood and culminates as he matures into adulthood at the end of the novel. The novel is a manifestation of Wilde's own ideas and attitudes of the time, his admiration of art and expression, while at the same time rejecting a great deal of art and expression, generating a complex personal stance at the concept and a supremacy complex, projected into the character of Dorian Gray. Through Wilde's own attitudes and experiences, the character of Dorian comes to life and is used as a tool to broadcast his ideas into the world. The book encompasses as well as rejects many values of the upper class Victorian society from which it stems, such as the importance of art and supremacy of youth, however rejecting the strict religious beliefs of the time and the notion of...

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the picture of dorian gray influence essay

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Essays on The Picture of Dorian Gray

Prompt examples for "the picture of dorian gray" essays, the nature of beauty and corruption.

Discuss the central theme of beauty and corruption in "The Picture of Dorian Gray." How does Dorian Gray's obsession with physical appearance lead to moral decay? Analyze the symbolism of the portrait and its role in the story.

Morality and Consequences

Explore the moral dilemmas faced by the characters in the novel. How do their choices and actions reflect the consequences of their moral beliefs or lack thereof? Analyze the role of Lord Henry's hedonistic philosophy in influencing Dorian's decisions.

The Portrait as a Reflection of the Soul

Analyze the concept of the portrait as a reflection of Dorian's inner self. How does the portrait's transformation mirror Dorian's moral corruption? Discuss the symbolism of the portrait's deteriorating appearance.

The Influence of Society and Peer Pressure

Discuss the influence of society and peer pressure on Dorian Gray's character development. How do societal norms and the expectations of his peers contribute to his descent into decadence? Analyze the role of conformity and rebellion.

Oscar Wilde's Critique of Victorian Society

Examine how Oscar Wilde critiques Victorian society in "The Picture of Dorian Gray." How does the novel challenge conventional moral values, social hypocrisy, and the repression of desires? Discuss Wilde's use of wit and satire.

The Theme of Art and Aestheticism

Analyze the theme of art and aestheticism in the novel. How does Dorian's pursuit of aesthetic experiences and his rejection of morality reflect the aesthetic movement of the late 19th century? Discuss the tension between art and ethics.

Morality and Immorality in a Streetcar Named Desire and The Picture of Dorian Gray

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A Theme of Beauty and Appearance in The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The Symbolic Use of Art in The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Depiction of The Victorian Society in The Picture of Dorian Gray

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1890-1891, Oscar Wilde

Novel; Philosophical fiction

The story begins in the art studio of Basil Hallward, who is discussing a current painting with his witty and amoral friend Lord Henry Wotton. Dorian Gray, the subject of the painting, arrives, and he is fascinated as Henry explains that beauty and youth are fleeting and that he believes one should live life to the fullest by indulging one’s impulses. Dorian declares that he would give his soul if the portrait were to grow old and wrinkled while he remained young and handsome. Basil gives the painting to Dorian, who spends the next 18 years in pursuit of capricious excess and is increasingly drawn to evil.

The Picture of Dorian Gray presents the conflict between good and evil sides of humanity, where individuals are highly influenced and weak against the temptations of youth, love, pleasure and secrecy. This emphasizes the uglier side of a life all about the pursuit of pleasure and beauty.

Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward, Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton, Sibyl Vane, James Vane, Alan Campbell, Lord Fermor, Adrian Singleton, Lord Henry's wife

Wilde's only novel, it was subject to much controversy and criticism in its time. Even bowdlerized, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, to the extent, in some cases, of saying that Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding public morality. However, the novel became a classic of English literature and was adapted into a number of films, most notably a 1945 version.

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

1. Baker, H. A. (1969). A tragedy of the artist: the picture of Dorian Gray. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 24(3), 349-355. ( 2. Oates, J. C. (1980). " The Picture of Dorian Gray": Wilde's Parable of the Fall. Critical Inquiry, 7(2), 419-428. ( 3. Carroll, J. (2005). Aestheticism, Homoeroticism, and Christian Guilt in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Philosophy and Literature, 29(2), 286-304. ( 4. Gillespie, M. P. (1995). The Picture of Dorian Gray:" what the world thinks me". ( 5. Seagroatt, H. (1998). Hard Science, Soft Psychology, and Amorphous Art in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 38(4), 741-759. ( 6. Davis, M. (2013). Mind and Matter in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Victorian Literature and Culture, 41(3), 547-560. ( 7. Rashkin, E. (1997). Art as Symptom: A Portrait of Child Abuse in" The Picture of Dorian Gray". Modern Philology, 95(1), 68-80. ( 8. Paglia, C. (1990). The Beautiful Boy As Destroyer: Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray. In Sexual Personae (pp. 512-530). Yale University Press. ( 9. Simion, M. O. (2015). A new hedonism in Oscar Wilde's novel the picture of Dorian Gray. Annals Constantin Brancusi U. Targu Jiu, Letters & Soc. Sci. Series, 55. ( ) 10. Keefe, R. (1973). Artist and Model in" The Picture of Dorian Gray". Studies in the Novel, 63-70. (

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the picture of dorian gray influence essay

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The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary and Analysis

Home » Literature Explained – Literary Synopses and Book Summaries » The Picture of Dorian Gray » The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary and Analysis

Dorian Gray Introduction

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel written by Oscar Wilde and published in 1890. Having been no stranger to scandal in his personal life, Wilde’s novel brought the philosophy of aestheticism to the public eye.

Dorian Gray is in part gothic fiction, but it is also a comedy of errors, following a young and attractive socialite as he trades his soul for eternal youth and beauty. His descent into sin and hedonism lead him to question where one finds the real source of beauty in life.

Dorian Gray Literary Elements

dorian gray plot summary

Type of Work: Novel

Genres : Gothic; comedy of manners

Published Date: 1890

Setting: Late nineteenth century in London, England.

Main Characters: Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton, Sibyl Vane

Protagonist: Dorian Gray

Antagonist: Dorian Gray; James Vane

Major Thematic Elements: Art’s purpose; youth and beauty as vehicles of influence; superficiality of society; the dangers of social influence

Motifs: The picture of Dorian Gray; white colors; homoerotic relationships

Exposition: Celebrated artist Basil Hallward meets Dorian Gray and, enthralled by his beauty, asks Dorian to sit as a model for his paintings.

Plot: chronological, through the eyes of an anonymous third person omniscient narrator

Major Symbols: Opium dens, James Vane, the yellow book

Climax: Dorian kills Basil

Literary Significance of Dorian Gray

the picture of dorian gray setting

At this point in Victorian England, this sort of attitude towards art was unusual and somewhat revolutionary. Until this point, art was expected to uphold and reinforce morals and so stripping art of that responsibility was bold and uncomfortable. In many ways, aestheticism failed to really uphold its core purpose because it did influence a social and artistic movement.

One of the reasons why The Picture of Dorian Gray is so widely studied to this day is because it brings this puzzling aspect of aestheticism to light. The novel is partly gothic fiction, partly a comedy of manners, and partly a philosophical engagement. The is much to be picked apart from this novel and just as Victorian audiences felt confused, many literary scholars still find areas to continue to disagree about in terms of deeper meaning.

The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary

the picture of dorian gray summary short

In chapter two, Dorian woos the guests of the party with his charm and beauty. Dorian is going to sit for another portrait for Basil and he invites Lord Henry to stay and keep him company while he models. Basil dislikes the idea, saying that Lord Henry will be a bad influence on him. While Dorian models and Basil paints, the three discuss their personal philosophies. After the portrait is finished, Lord Henry admires it, but Dorian feels sad looking at it, suddenly aware that his youth and beauty will not last forever.

In chapter three, Lord Henry does some sleuthing into Dorian’s background. He finds out that the young man has an unhappy past, coming from a family with a troublesome social background. Lord Henry realizes that he could probably have great influence over Dorian because of this. The two go on to develop a friendship and when, weeks later, Dorian falls in love with a beautiful young woman, he is eager to tell Lord Henry all about it. The young lady is named Sibyl Vane and she is an actress who does Shakespeare plays. Dorian and Sibyl waste no time before getting engaged.

As Sibyl continues her acting career, she finds that her acting is terrible now that she is in love. She feels that pretend emotions are no longer interesting to her now that she has the real thing. Despite her acting career taking a hit, she is still happy. Dorian is appalled and no longer feels that he is in love with Sibyl. Distressed, Dorian wanders the streets of London alone. At this point in chapter seven, Dorian returns home to find that the portrait that Basil painted of him has developed a faint sneer. Dorian feels ashamed of himself and goes to bed with plans to make amends with Sibyl the next day.

The next morning, Dorian finds that the face in the painting has started to look even crueler than before. Lord Henry arrives and informs Dorian that Sibyl committed suicide after Dorian left her the previous night. Dorian resolves to live a life of hedonistic values and that he will maintain his youth and beauty while his portrait bears the marks of age and experience instead. Basil is hurt to find that this change has come over Dorian and blames Lord Henry’s influence. Basil requests to show the portrait at an art show, but Dorian refuses to allow it, instead keeping it hidden for himself behind a screen. In chapter ten, Dorian’s madness starts to really show. He has some men help him move the portrait into an abandoned school room near his apartment so that it can be kept away from prying eyes.

As years pass, Dorian maintains his youth and beauty as he falls more and more down a rabbit hole of hedonism. Rumors develop that he engages in sinful and dark behaviors and has made a pact with the devil. In chapter eleven, Dorian notices with delight the growing contradiction between his dark and corrupted soul and his youthful and innocent appearance. Dorian becomes paranoid that someone will find and steal his portrait.

Chapter twelve sees Dorian about to turn 38. While he is out the evening before his birthday, he passes Basil on the street. Basil follows Dorian home and confronts him about his behaviors, warning him that nobody can escape their sins. Basil asks Dorian about the rumors that trail him and why all of his relationships end in disaster. It is revealed that one young man who Dorian befriended committed suicide and others had their entire careers ruined. Basil laments that he wishes he could see Dorian’s soul, which amuses Dorian. He takes Basil to the painting to show him how he has maintained his beauty. Basil begs Dorian to pray for forgiveness but instead Dorian murders Basil by stabbing him repeatedly.

Overwhelmed, Dorian begins to seek out solace in opium dens. He knows that he cannot be forgiven for his sins, so he opts to forget them instead. In chapter sixteen, James Vane, Sibyl’s brother, has tracked Dorian down and threatens him at gunpoint. Dorian tricks James into thinking that he is not the right person, since it has been eighteen years since Sibyl’s death, but Dorian is clearly not old enough to have been responsible all those years ago. James lets Dorian leave but soon discovers that he had the responsible person all along.

Over the next couple of chapters, Dorian falls more and more paranoid and miserable. Terrified that James will catch up with him and kill him, Dorian can hardly leave his house. When he finally does, he feels that he sees bad omens and realizes that he has lost any ability to love. He wishes that he could feel anything.

In chapter nineteen, Dorian has finally had enough. He wants to try and find a way to live a life of virtue. He tells Lord Henry that he murdered Basil, but Lord Henry laughs and says that Dorian is not a vulgar enough person to have committed a murder. Finally, utterly lost and feeling trapped by a life of sin, in the final chapter of the book, Dorian takes a knife to the painting. When noises are heard by servants, they enter the room finding the portrait showing a young a beautiful Dorian and an old, ugly man on the floor with a knife through his heart.

The Conflict Between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

Patrick Duggan

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Oscar Wilde prefaces his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a reflection on art, the artist, and the utility of both. After careful scrutiny, he concludes: “All art is quite useless” (Wilde 4). In this one sentence, Wilde encapsulates the complete principles of the Aesthetic Movement popular in Victorian England. That is to say, real art takes no part in molding the social or moral identities of society, nor should it. Art should be beautiful and pleasure its observer, but to imply further-reaching influence would be a mistake. The explosion of aesthetic philosophy in fin-de-siècle English society, as exemplified by Oscar Wilde, was not confined to merely art, however. Rather, the proponents of this philosophy extended it to life itself. Here, aestheticism advocated whatever behavior was likely to maximize the beauty and happiness in one’s life, in the tradition of hedonism. To the aesthete, the ideal life mimics art; it is beautiful, but quite useless beyond its beauty, concerned only with the individual living it. Influences on others, if existent, are trivial at best. Many have read The Picture of Dorian Gray as a novelized sponsor for just this sort of aesthetic lifestyle. However, this story of the rise and fall of Dorian Gray might instead represent an allegory about morality meant to critique, rather than endorse, the obeying of one’s impulses as thoughtlessly and dutifully as aestheticism dictates.

In the novel, Lord Henry Wotton trumpets the aesthetic philosophy with an elegance and bravado that persuade Dorian to trust in the principles he espouses; the reader is often similarly captivated. It would be a mistake, however, to interpret the novel as a patent recommendation of aestheticism. To the aesthete, there is no distinction between moral and immoral acts, only between those that increase or decrease one’s happiness; yet, Dorian Gray refutes this idea, presenting a strong case for the inherent immorality of purely aesthetic lives. Dorian Gray personifies the aesthetic lifestyle in action, pursuing personal gratification with abandon. Yet, while he enjoys these indulgences, his behavior ultimately kills him and others, and he dies unhappier than ever. Rather than an advocate for pure aestheticism, then, Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale in which Wilde illustrates the dangers of the aesthetic philosophy when not practiced with prudence. Aestheticism, argues Wilde, too often aligns itself with immorality, resulting in a precarious philosophy that must be practiced deliberately.

Dorian Gray is often read as an explicit proclamation of the worthiness of living life in accordance with aesthetic values. This is due in part to the flourishing Aesthetic Movement of Victorian England at the time of the novel’s publication, as well as Oscar Wilde’s association with the movement itself (Becker 660). The Aesthetic Movement, which coincided with the Industrial Revolution at the end of the nineteenth century, emphasized the artistic aspect of a man’s work in producing a variety of goods, from furniture to machines to literature (Becker 660). Oscar Wilde, however, proposed that the principles of the Aesthetic Movement extend beyond the production of mere commodities. In Joseph Pearce’s biography, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde , Pearce recalls Wilde’s own perspective on the popular movement. Speaking of aestheticism, Wilde is quoted:

It is indeed to become a part of the people’s life . . . I mean a man who works with his hands; and not with his hands merely, but with his head and his heart. The evil that machinery is doing is not merely in the consequence of its work but in the fact that it makes men themselves machines also. Whereas, we wish them to be artists, that is to say men. (qtd. in Pearce 144)

In his exposition of aestheticism, Wilde applies the philosophy in a more universal sense, stressing the positive influences of aestheticism in one’s life beyond mere craftsmanship. Just as the machines that mass-produce materials with the intervention of human thought are labeled “evil,” Wilde similarly condemns men who act as metaphorical machines, programmed to behave in accordance with society’s ideas of propriety rather than allowing themselves to act freely and achieve the greatest amount of happiness. Wilde’s eloquent advocacy of an aesthetic lifestyle is paralleled in his depiction of Lord Henry in Dorian Gray . Lord Henry lectured to the impressionable Dorian, “We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. . . . Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden itself” (Wilde 9). Wilde, through Lord Henry, laments the stifling nature of his contemporary Victorian society and how the supposed morality it boasts necessitates self-denial and rejection of life’s most beautiful aspects. Lord Henry warns that without an enthusiastic embrace of aestheticism, one will perpetually anguish with the desire of precisely what he must deny himself, all for the sake of propriety. This philosophy espoused by Wilde and Lord Henry often leads, not surprisingly, to the conclusion that Dorian Gray is a declaration of Wilde’s, promoting the adoption of purely aesthetic lives without qualification. This, however, is too shallow of an interpretation.

Opponents of a purely aesthetic lifestyle will certainly cite what they consider an inevitability: one’s desires and impulses, though when acted upon result in a more pleasurable life, will at times be undeniably immoral. It is at these times that the virtues of the wholly aesthetic life become questionable. The ruination of Dorian Gray, the embodiment of unbridled aestheticism, illustrates the immorality of such a lifestyle and gravely demonstrates its consequences. Wilde uses Dorian Gray not as an advertisement for aestheticism, but rather, he uses Dorian’s life to warn against aestheticism’s hostility toward morality when uncontrolled. Wilde himself admits, in a letter to the St. James’s Gazette, that Dorian Gray “is a story with a moral. And the moral is this: All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment” (Wilde 248). Aestheticism does well to condemn the renunciation of desires, but it is an excessive obedience to these desires that is subversively dangerous. Therefore, in the practice of Wilde’s aestheticism, forethought and constraint are necessities, yet too often lacking, and without them, one is doomed to suffer the same fate as Dorian Gray.

The character of Dorian Gray and the story of his profound degeneration provide a case study examining the viability of purely aesthetic lives. Dorian lives according to what Lord Henry professes without hesitation, and what Lord Henry inspires Dorian, through persuasive rhetoric, is an attitude indifferent to consequence and altogether amoral. As Wilde writes, Dorian’s newfound position is “never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they may be” (Wilde 125). Under Lord Henry’s mentorship, Dorian, once the epitome of wide-eyed youth, behaves with no regard for the ramifications of his actions, diligently pursuing instant gratification without thought of its implications, whether they be “sweet or bitter.”

Dorian’s relationship with the actress Sibyl Vane plainly illustrates this marked change in personality. Dorian pursues Sibyl from first sights, intent on acquiring her before he ever attempts to truly know her. Indeed, Dorian’s love for Sibyl is overtly superficial, as evidenced by Dorian’s own description of his infatuation with Sibyl: “I loved you because you were marvelous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art” (Wilde 101). Dorian is not attracted to Sibyl’s character of personality, but rather her acting talent and enthralling performances; this is what enchants the aesthetically inclined Dorian. When Sibyl leaves the stage, then, she no longer serves a purpose in Dorian’s aesthetic life, and thus, Dorian abandons her unceremoniously. Dorian does not regret informing Sybil that, “Without your art, you are nothing” (Wilde 101). The tragedy of Sybil’s later suicide, brought about by utter despair at her desertion, is lost on Dorian, who instead enjoys the dramatic intrigue of the occasion. For Dorian, whose uncontrolled aestheticism rejects the concept of morality, the immorality of his actions goes unrecognized. In fact, Dorian declares excitedly, “It seems to me to be simply like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play. It has all the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy in which I took a great part, but by which I have not been wounded” (Wilde 114). Here, the adverse consequences of aestheticism surface in Dorian’s life. In his pursuit of his own pleasures, a distinctly narcissistic attitude emerges, and the incompatibility of morality and unconditional aestheticism becomes all the more apparent.

The emergence of narcissism in Dorian and its correlation with his newly adopted aesthetic philosophy is integral to Wilde’s novel as it emphasizes the frequent hostility between aestheticism and morality that Wilde cautions against. Dorian Gray exposes the immorality of self-absorption, as Dorian’s portrait becomes more disfigured with each one of Dorian’s selfish acts. This self-absorption, then, appears to be an inevitable consequence of aestheticism. Only a more deliberate practice of aestheticism may harness this egotism and avoid the immorality Dorian embodies. Interestingly, in his essay “Come See About Me: Enchantment of the Double in The Picture of Dorian Gray ,” Christopher Craft recognizes a mirroring of the Greek myth of Narcissus in the life of Dorian Gray. According to mythology, Narcissus, upon catching a glimpse of his reflection in a pool, becomes so enraptured by it that he stood and admired it endlessly, unmoving for the rest of his life. As Craft notes, this self-absorption “is a commitment that, like Dorian’s, graduates fully until death” (Craft 113). Narcissus becomes so infatuated with himself that the rest of world effectively ceases to exist or affect him and, as Craft argues, “it is into precisely this silent delirium that Dorian unwittingly steps” when he allows Lord Henry’s aesthetic philosophy to so dominate him (Craft 113). Dorian enjoys a life of eternal youth, with only his portrait aging in parallel with Dorian’s immorality; so, as Dorian sinks into the depths of narcissism, he maintains his external beauty, and his portrait degenerates instead. Eventually, as in the myth of Narcissus, such egotism has its consequences. When Dorian, disgusted with the decrepit picture of the supposedly “real” him, destroys it in a fit of anger, Dorian too is destroyed. Wilde writes that after Dorian’s death, “it was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was” (Wilde 220). In the end, as a testament to the purely aesthetic life, the only legacy Dorian leaves behind—everything that identifies him as who he was—is his superficial jewelry.

There is an argument, then, made by Wilde for a new aestheticism, approached with more constraint than Dorian employs. This argument is based not only in the moral obligation of the individual, but with the betterment of all of society in mind. Matthew Arnold, in his essay “Culture and Anarchy,” provides reasoning against the ethos of Lord Henry’s aestheticism and an unconditional application of it. Arnold focuses on its detrimental effects on society and the possibility for societal improvement when aesthetic tendencies are properly controlled. There appears to be agreement, then, between Wilde and Arnold; Wilde’ novel provides a failed example of the purely aesthetic life, and when scaled to a larger society, a similar result is understandably expected. As Arnold views his contemporary society, it is arranged hierarchically, dividing the aristocrats, the middle-class, and the working-class, all of which, Arnold laments, are inclined to live hedonistically, pursuing pleasure and only what is comfortable and easy. Dorian Gray embodies just his defect in Arnold’s society. Arnold argues, however, that “there are born a certain number of natures with a curiosity about their best self with a bend for seeing things as they are . . . for simply concerning themselves with reason and the will of God, and doing their best to make these prevail;—for the pursuit, in a word, of perfection” (Arnold 277). Arnold is optimistic that some may pursue beyond the immediately pleasurable and act to perfect themselves both morally and intellectually. This pursuit of perfection, however, is likely an arduous and uncomfortable task, and is therefore incompatible with pure aestheticism. Some concessions must be made for the absolute aesthete, then, for such transcendence occur.

Dorian Gray, for much of Wilde’s novel, fails to embody Arnold’s ideal, as in his hedonistic life he is seen “creeping at dawn out of dreadful houses and slinking in disguise in the foulest dens in London,” despite being once too honorable for such debauchery (Wilde 118). Dorian exemplifies a regression in social intellect from his beginnings rather than the kind of transcendence hoped for by Arnold. Dorian displays no such pursuit of intellectual perfection as he is slowly corrupted and in turn corrupts others, luring them with him into the slums and opium dens of London. Arnold refers to those able to transcend social classes in society as “aliens,” hinting at their rarity to the point of foreignness and to their almost mythical quality (277). The mere existence of these aliens, however, provides hope that the utter hedonists of society may learn to harness their damaging tendencies, and in doing so, better the intellectual and moral state of humankind.

Wilde, too, recognizes this ability to control the hedonistic temptations associated with aestheticism, as demonstrated by the last stages of Dorian’s life. Mitsuharu Matsuoka, in his essay “Aestheticism and Social Anxiety in The Picture of Dorian Gray ,” notes that, as Dorian’s death approaches, “Dorian ultimately reacts against his lifestyle, choking on his New Hedonism,” at which point “a great sense of doom hangs over Dorian” (Matsuoka 78). Indeed, Dorian appears to realize the consequences of his unbridled aestheticism; however, he is much too far gone to salvage. Dorian reveals his epiphany to Lord Henry: “The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned or made perfect. There is a soul in each one of us. I know it” (Wilde 211). Unfortunately for Dorian, this realization comes too late to save his soul from its degradation, long-nurtured by a purely aesthetic life, and he is destroyed. The realization itself, however, is indicative of Wilde’s argument woven throughout Dorian Gray . Despite Wilde’s publicly advocating the principles of aestheticism, Dorian’s demise illustrates Wilde’s recognition that aestheticism needs to be properly controlled. While the pursuit of beauty and happiness in life is always Wilde’s ideal, he also implies that the consequences of one’s actions must be thought out and the impact of one’s decisions, beyond oneself, must also be carefully considered before acting on any impulse.

The Aesthetic Movement in fin-de-siècle England, as interpreted by Oscar Wilde, revolved around the ideal that the utility of one’s actions should be to create the maximal amount of beauty and pleasure in one’s life, and nothing more. Wilde’s Dorian Gray appears, at first glance, to promote this philosophy unequivocally. Indeed, a lifestyle based on this aestheticism is espoused in Wilde’s opening preface as well as throughout Lord Henry’s professorial lectures. Upon closer inspection, however, Wilde’s novel is not as wholly embracing of aestheticism as this implies. Wilde realized and depicted in the life of Dorian Gray, a need for a more controlled and deliberate approach to aestheticism, without which morality will inevitably be elusive. The adoption of unrestrained aestheticism, as exhibited by Dorian, results in a lack of remorse, self-absorption, and intellectual regression. For the sake of preserving morality, a concept proven incompatible with pure aestheticism, more deliberation is necessary from the aesthete in deciding upon action. If, in the pursuit of one’s desires and of the beautiful aspects of life, the condition of others’ or of one’s own intellect is jeopardized, the enjoyment garnered must sometimes be sacrificed for the greater good. As Wilde makes clear, it is only through a more restrained philosophy that aestheticism and morality may eventually align.

Works Cited

Arnold, Matthew. “Culture and Anarchy.” The Picture of Dorian Gray . Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. NY: Pearson Longman, 2007. 276–279.

Becker-Leckrone, Megan. “Oscar Wilde (1854–1900): Aesthetic and Criticism.” The Continuum Encyclopedia of Modern Criticism and Theory 20 (2002): 658–665.

Craft, Christopher. “Come See About Me: Enchantment of the Double in The Picture of Dorian Gray .” Representations 91 (2005): 109–136.

Matsuoka, Mitsuharu. “Aestheticism and Social Anxiety in The Picture of Dorian Gray. ” Journal of Aesthetic Education 29 (2003): 77–100.

Pearce, Joseph. The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde . NY: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray . Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. NY: Pearson Longman, 2007.

Theme Of Influence In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

This sample essay on Theme Of Influence In The Picture Of Dorian Gray reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.

The two books that will be compared In the following are very different books Indeed. Having said this, two things are consistent throughout; the theme of Influencing others with certain Idealism, and the consequences this can bring about. However, the ways In which Gilding and Wiled express this are very different.

The following will discuss the characters and objects used to express influences, how they go about this influence, and the ultimate corruptive effect they have on their victims’. It will also discuss the rather contrasting ideals imposed and implied, while making parallels between them with their similarities.

Idealism, in this essay, will refer to the moral code and values which are held by a character, collective, or concept. Initially, the theme of influence is portrayed by the character of Henry Watson in Dorian Gray.

Even in the opening chapter of the book. He Is seen to have an influence over Dorian with his musical language, charm, and unconventionality. The Ideals he stands for, the value of beauty and youth over any socially accepted moral code, grabbed Doorman’s attention with their uniqueness, while Watson himself allowed his words to enrapture Dorian.

Dorian admits that “The few words that [Watson] had said o him… Had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before. ” This is an immediate reaction upon their first meeting, and the influence of Watson on Grays psyche is equally immediate: “Life suddenly became fiery-colored to him”.

the picture of dorian gray influence essay

Proficient in: Moral

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

With this astounding impact on Doorman’s mentality, it is not surprising that he should become spellbound by Whatnot’s influence and become his little science experiment. As a parallel, the theme of influence in The Lord of the Flies is not set on one character throughout, but on the key object being the conch.

Themes Picture Of Dorian Gray

The conch is a tool of influence, In hat the person who holds it is the person who speaks. Initially, Ralph is made the ‘chief’ on the Island due to him rallying up all of the children using the conch. It Is an item which Is symbolic of law and order throughout the novel; It sets the holder apart from the rest of the children. “The being that had blown that, had sat walling for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart. ” Piggy, who is the greatest advocate for reason and intellect on the island, values the conch in this way above all, and hence Gilding coincides his destruction with that of he conch.

There is another influence on Dorian in Wild’s book, being the Yellow Book, a tale of a young Parisian who encounters all the debauchery of life which Dorian relates to immensely. We find that Dorian is handed this book by Watson as another psychological experiment to discover how Dorian will react to this external Influence other than Watson, and It works disturbingly well; Dorian lives out his entire life seeking the pleasures and sensations which the book entails: “For years, Dorian Gray could not free himself from the Influence of this book.

Throughout Wild’s novel as a hole, there is the impression that Dorian is most strongly influenced by ideals which and beauty must affect Dorian since he himself is young, beautiful, and, most fatally, vain. Once this egotistical mentality has set in, the Yellow Book reveals to Dorian what is possible with this indulgent lifestyle: “The Parisian… Became to him a kind of prefiguring type of himself. ” An external influence on the children in Lord of the Flies is the environment in which they were living. Being marooned on a lost island was a key factor in the boys’ increasing tendency towards savagery.

Without adult prevision and with no social norms other than what they had learned during their upbringing, the boys literally “ran wild” (with their conformity degenerating over time). They lost their regard for rules, as Jack exclaims when he is breaking them, “Who cares? ” The island did not cause the boys to become this way, but the fact that they were there, isolated from any other human contact, did indeed give ample opportunity for their primitive instincts to run full course. The idealism represented by Lord Watson is a form of Hedonism, wherein beauty, youth, and pleasure seeking are the main points of existence for an individual.

These ideals are made evident from where he discusses the fact that Doorman’s youth and beauty will fade in the future, and so he needs to make the most of his every waking moment in his pursuit of debauchery: “We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us…. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden itself”. This ideal is also followed through in the Yellow Book, where the Parisian pleasure seeker wishes to make the most of his existence by delving deep into the ‘sins’ of this world.

However, according to Watson, sin is merely a matter of perspective, and so Dorian holds no regard for the real socially accepted morality of his actions throughout the novel. This is amplified, in a sense, by Doorman’s ageing and sin being projected onto the portrait rather than himself, meaning if nobody sees the portrait, he might live a secret alter-ego life of debauchery and sin while maintaining his pleasant, civilized fade in the public eye. There are several different ideals represented by different characters in Lord of the Flies: Piggy is the voice of intellectualism and rationality;

Ralph represents a teleological moral system; Jack seems to portray a reign of terror (Utilizing the threat of the ‘beasts’ to his advantage and promising protection from them); and Simon, perhaps the most insightful character, represents compassion, innocence, a naturalistic existence, and a form of spirituality. Simony’s spiritual idealism is brought across when he realizes that the ‘beasts’ are really the original sin dwelling inside of the boys, an impurity which cannot be cleansed but still resides inherently in man’s nature: “Maybe there is a beast… Maybe it’s only us. “

Both of the novels seem to imply a theme of corruption throughout. In Dorian Gray, the obvious corruption is that of Doorman’s previously pure soul. Before he met Watson, untarnished by his influence, Dorian was a “sweet, shy, innocent boy who did not know sin. ” On the contrary, once he meets Watson, the corruptive influence he has on Dorian is shown in a manner most graphic and explicit, with the effect of Doorman’s sins being shown on the portrait as he lives his life: “Sometimes loathing it and himself”. In Lord of the Flies, there is the idea that the environment is one of the

As discussed previously, the boys’ lack of rules and social norms means that there is no need to comply to any since there will be no immediate consequences, according to them: “The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away. ” However, the fact that Doorman’s sin and objectively worse nature was more unlocked than anything, and the fact that the boys on the island were not directly influenced or corrupted by anyone and simply allowed themselves to get this way, implies that there is an inherent evil within man, and that in certain circumstances, this evil can e released and allowed to run wild.

A common factor in the two books regarding the corruption discussed in the previous paragraph is that the corruption and loss of innocence in the two novels is due to a lack of consequence. Dorian values his good looks over everything; this is from the direct influence of Lord Watson. Since his looks cannot be affected by any sin he may accrue throughout his grossly indulgent existence, he does not believe that there is a real consequence for his actions, as what matters most to him remains safe: “Smiling, with a secret pleasure, at the misshapen shadow that had to bear the ruder that should have been his own.

Somewhat similarly, in Lord of the Flies, the lack of rules among the society makes for a lack of punishment and discipline. Children of their age would be used to having a structure in their lives, and living by their own rules without consequence, everything descends into chaos. The lack of consequence from adults means that the children indulge in the fact that they can get away with pretty much anything. Both of these books have a climax that is a result of the corruption of Dorian and the boys separately; murder. In Dorian Gray, the arguable climax is the murder of

Basil Hallways after he witnesses the portrait which haunts Dorian and is the only real reminder of how human he really is. Since Hallways was the creator of the portrait, Dorian holds him somewhat responsible for the portrait’s sins rather than cursing himself for committing them: “An uncontrollable feeling of hatred for Basil Hallways came over him, as though it had been suggested to him by the image on the canvas”. Murder is seen as one of man’s greatest sins, and so to kill the creator of the picture which displays a man’s sins has something of an irony about it.

When the sys kill Piggy, they are descending into true savagery by killing off the last remaining voice of reason and intellect which effectively kills off order. This, coinciding with the destruction of the conch, shows that murder is the point at which innocence and order are totally lost beyond the point of return. Therefore, both novels consider murder to be the result of corruption of the soul and a loss of innocence due to the corruptive influences surrounding the concerned parties. In summarization of the question, influence and idealism are two major themes in Lord of the Flies and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

There are corruptive influences in both books and ideals which are corrupted in both also. There is also the implication of an inherent evil, an original sin of man that rears its ugly head when there are no immediate consequences to cause it to remain internal. The influences, whether in are vulnerable and susceptible to such influences by appealing to the vanity of the young man, or to the rebelliousness and unruliness of the castaway children. There are plenty of contrasting ideals that appear, however, it always seems that the most negative ones are prevalent.

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Theme Of Influence In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Corruption In Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel by Oscar Wilde that tells the story of a young man, Dorian Gray, who becomes corrupted by his own vanity. The novel explores the themes of morality, corruption, and art. The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 and has been adapted into various forms of media, including film and stage.

The novel has been controversial since its publication due to its explicit content and because it promotes a lifestyle that many people find objectionable. However, it remains one of Wilde’s most popular works and continues to be studied by scholars and students today. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic example of a novel that explores the dark side of human nature. The story’s protagonist, Dorian Gray, is a young man who is consumed by his own vanity.

He believes that his good looks will last forever and that he can never grow old or die. As a result, he leads a life of decadence and luxury, indulging in all sorts of vices without consequences. The only thing that remains unchanged throughout Dorian’s life is a portrait of himself that he keeps hidden away. The portrait gradually becomes more and more corrupted as Dorian’s soul grows blacker.

The novel culminates with Dorian realizing the true extent of his corruption and the destruction that it has wrought on his life. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity and the corrupting influence of power. It is also a unique and timeless work of literature that continues to be relevant today.

According to the nurture theory of human behavior’s development, a child is born without any understanding of how to interpret things and has no experience. The youngster is innocent and pure. It leans on others for direction and trusts them to show it the way.

When a kid is delivered, most are greeted by attentive nurses, doctors, and parents who care for them. The first encounter between this kid and these other people has an impact on him or her. Their parents and classmates have an influence on their personalities, as well as who they become over time.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde tells the story of corruption. The novel is a study of the power that corrupt influences have not just on individuals, but also on society as a whole.

Dorian Gray is a young, handsome man who lives a life of luxury. He has everything he could ever want and more. However, what he doesn’t realize is that all of his possessions come at a cost. As he indulges in his pleasures, he gradually becomes more and more corrupt. The novel addresses the idea that when someone has everything they could ever want, they become bored and start to look for new ways to entertain themselves. This often leads to them engaging in activities that are harmful to both themselves and those around them.

One of the things that makes The Picture of Dorian Gray so interesting is the way it addresses the issue of corruption. It doesn’t just focus on how someone can be corrupted, but also on how that corruption can spread to those around them. The novel shows how a corrupt individual can influence those around them and ultimately lead to the downfall of society as a whole.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an important work not just because it is a well-written story, but also because it highlights a very real issue that is still relevant today. Corruption is something that can start small, but if left unchecked, can quickly spiral out of control. The novel is a cautionary tale about the dangers of corruption and the need for people to be aware of its dangers.

While The Picture of Dorian Gray is a work of fiction, it contains many elements that are based in reality. The issue of corruption is something that is all too real and it is something that people need to be aware of. The novel highlights the importance of maintaining a sense of morality and being aware of the corrupting influence that those around us can have. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a timeless work that is still relevant today. It is a story that everyone should read and learn from.

In the United States, cannabis possession is a misdemeanor in some states and a felony in others. In other places, it’s not considered as harmful as alcohol or tobacco. However, there are severe penalties for those who break the law: jail time or fines.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the corruption and consequences are represented by Lord Henry Wotton’s influence on Dorian Gray as well as his painting. Wilde emphasizes Dorian’s attractiveness and youth to imply his incorruptibility. Throughout the book, Dorian is characterized as attractive, good-looking, and beautiful.

The Dorian Gray we are first introduced to is an innocent, naïve young man who knows very little about the world. However, as the novel progresses and Dorian becomes more corrupt, his physical appearance changes to match his inner ugliness. The once beautiful and handsome youth is transformed into a hideous creature. The portrait of Dorian Gray becomes an accurate representation of his soul, which has become corrupted by evil.

The physical changes that take place in the portrait show the progression of corruption in Dorian’s soul. The picture reflects every sinful deed that he commits, and as a result, it becomes increasingly ugly. Wilde uses the contrast between Dorian’s actual physical appearance and the appearance of his portrait to demonstrate the power of corruption. The portrait serves as a representation of Dorian’s true self, which has been corrupted by evil.

While Lord Henry does not necessarily corrupt Dorian directly, his words and actions have a profound influence on the young man. Lord Henry is a hedonist who lives for pleasure and believes that one should pursue any desire in order to achieve happiness. He encourages Dorian to live life to the fullest and to never let anything stand in his way. In other words, he teaches Dorian to be selfish. As a result of Lord Henry’s influence, Dorian becomes obsessed with pleasure and pursues it relentlessly. He becomes careless and reckless, leading to his eventual downfall.

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Review: Sarah Snook Is a Darkly Funny Dorian Gray

In a stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Snook plays all the characters — with the help of screens.

Five large screens hang above a dark stage, displaying different angles of Sarah Snook with a blond quiff. Onstage below, people dressed in black operate camera machinery.

By Houman Barekat

The critic Houman Barekat saw the show in London.

A large, rectangular screen hangs from the top of the stage at the Theater Royal Haymarket in London. It is, rather appropriately, in portrait mode.

Beneath it, the Australian actress Sarah Snook (“ Succession ,” “ Run Rabbit Run ”), sporting a Johnny Bravo-style blonde quiff, is encircled by a small team of black-clad camera operators who broadcast her every move onto the screen in real time as she simultaneously narrates and performs the title role of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Later, several more screens descend, playing prerecorded footage of Snook in no fewer than twenty-five other roles. Over the course of the next two hours, the onstage Snook interacts seamlessly with these digitalized selves. There are no other actors involved.

Wilde’s 1890 novel, in which a handsome rake makes a Faustian bargain with the cosmos by trading his soul for eternal youth (and comes to regret it), lends itself to stage adaptation: It is dialogue-heavy, punctuated by witty, morally intelligent exposition; its allegory of human hubris is timeless.

This adaptation, by the Sydney Theater Company, directed by Kip Williams and running through May 11, is a formally ambitious but playful multimedia production. The single-actor format and clever use of camerawork give visual expression to the novel’s themes of overweening egotism and existential dread.

In the show’s most memorable scene, Snook holds up a smartphone in selfie mode, which is synced to the big screen above her. While continuing to narrate the story, she plays around with a filter, altering her facial features to generate a much younger visage — a cartoonish parody of youthful sexiness. She then capriciously turns the filter off and on several times, heightening the contrast with weird scrunched-up faces when the filter is off. This segment, with its implicit allusion to the everyday narcissism of Instagram culture, brings Wilde’s tale into our century.

Snook plays the male characters with a winkingly ironic haughtiness, drawing appreciative titters from the audience. Her Dorian is a caricature of self-regard, inviting judgment but also eliciting mirth; when his pride gives way to anxious ennui, he’s like a rat trapped in a maze. (The voices are naturally tricky, but the fake sideburns go a long way.)

The aesthetic palate here is a blend of period and contemporary — somehow neither and both. While certain props evoke a fin-de-siècle opulence — a chaise longue covered in flowers, a set of luscious blue curtains — we are occasionally yanked back to a generic modernity: An opium den is rendered as a nightclub; the distinctive strains of Donna Summer’s 1977 hit, “I Feel Love,” soundtrack one scene.

There is also something vaguely tongue-in-cheek about much of the period garb, by Marg Horwell. Dorian’s libertine friend, Lord Henry Wotton, who eggs him on in his hedonistic endeavors, wears a purple jacket with a blue bow tie. At one point, he and the Duchess of Monmouth receive Botox injections while languidly sipping on Martinis and dragging on cigarettes.

The show’s true stars are the production team — and, in particular, the video designer, David Bergman — who achieved the feat of making this one-woman show feel positively busy. Crucially, the multimedia format doesn’t feel like a gimmick because it helps tease out the play’s themes: Vanity and its accompanying psychic turmoil are both evoked through relentless use of extreme close-ups, and the multiple screens create a sense of visual cacophony that correlates to psychological disturbance.

Gradually, Dorian’s terrible behavior — most egregiously, his treatment of poor Sibyl Vane, who takes her own life after he cruelly breaks off an engagement with her — catches up with him, culminating in a powerful denouement, in which five screens show Dorian from multiple angles while he writhes in anguish.

Multimedia productions can sometimes carry a whiff of self-importance, but this show is disarmingly playful. There are two faux glitches, in which the onstage Snook and her prerecorded self get in each other’s way, narrating the same lines simultaneously. (The latter graciously gives way, which is how we can be sure it’s scripted.)

Dorian’s knifing of Basil Hallward, the hapless artist responsible for the titular painting, is rendered in darkly comic fashion, with Snook pausing between stabs to check herself in a hand mirror. Shortly afterward, she signals to the audience to temper their laughter: “I’m trying to get away with murder!”

This “Picture of Dorian Gray” is, on its own terms, a triumph. And yet, a bit of doubt remains. The technical wizardry enhances the story — but does it also overshadow it? The eye is always drawn upward, to the screen, such that the physical presence of the actor feels almost incidental. One suspects that many audience members at such a production are never fully in the story.

Instead of pondering the moral vicissitudes of life, we’re thinking about the screens, and the novelty of being in a hallowed auditorium dating back to 1821, looking at digital faces instead of flesh-and-blood people. It works, with Wilde’s material — but I hope it doesn’t catch on.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Through May 11 at the Theater Royal Haymarket in London;


Cappies Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray At Justice High School

By Anneliese Odegard of Wakefield High School

Button down your waistcoats and lace up your corsets, because Justice High School whisks audiences back to a Victorian-era London full of both virtue and vice in their production of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Originally based on the 1891 novel written by Oscar Wilde, the story has since been adapted for the stage by Neil Bartlett. The play is lifted from the text of the novel, which follows the tale of a charming Dorian Gray, who grows a vehement obsession with preserving his youth and beauty after receiving a painting of himself-leaving a path of death, destruction, and insanity in his wake.

The production was stunningly haunting in all regards, from the sweeping musical ambiance to the miniscule-yet-impactful facial acting of the leading cast. Supporting this was the striking immersion of the performance; the small space was transformed into something far more than simply a theater with the help of the unique cross-shaped stage and intricately designed movement of the cast. Their proximity allowed the performers to interact intently with the audience using as little as a well-placed glance or nod. While the show stayed gorgeously faithful to the historical setting and characterization, both cast and crew brought an original charm to the performance that rendered it exquisite.

Elijah Kassa, as Dorian Gray, delivered a truly riveting performance. Kassa opened with warmth and naiveté, making the character's descent into wicked insanity all the more striking. This transition from spirited glamour to murderous vanity never once faltered in its portrayal. Through serpentine strides, obsessive fiddling with the gaudy rings adorning the character's fingers, and infectious, convincing panic, it was clear as Gray's crystal decanter that Kassa committed entirely to the role and executed it with the same vigor.

Acting as Gray's corrupting elder was Lord Henry Wotton, played by Sofia Hemmens. Hemmens' influence both on Gray and the audience was extraordinary, enrapturing all present with a charismatic prowl and an entrancing, metronomic accent. Embodying the contrast to this presence was Valeria Peterson as Basil, who brought a wide-eyed youthfulness to the stage that only served to emphasize the heart-wrenching agony of the character's longing stares and salient confession of affection toward Gray. Abigail Leegwater as Gray's fleeting love interest, Sybil Vane, also demonstrated an ethereal innocence that wonderfully contrasted the sharpness of Kassa's characterization, but which was soon replaced by a disdainful vengeance as she joined the list of Gray's unwitting victims.

A highlight of the show was the costuming, by Emy Fase, Abigail Leegwater, Bailey Farkas, and Laryssa R. Wilkins, which was clearly both conceptualized and created with care. As years passed throughout the story, the costuming evolved to match-not just in the impressively quick age transformations of the characters, but also in the period-accurate styles which shifted seamlessly from decade to decade. Also integral to the show was the myriad of props, by Jasper Geer, Ellie Juarez, Laryssa R. Wilkins, and Nour Abbas. Standouts in this department were the glinting dagger, eye-catchingly real-seeming cigarettes (lit with an actual match), and an antique wheelchair. The sound production, headed by Ketan Kane, supplied the show with an apt selection of classical music that played throughout each scene transition, mirroring the events of the story and preventing any break in the captivating production.

Through its cohesive ensemble cast, beautifully produced visual arrangement, and bold presentation in both performance and technical endeavors, the show was a production in which each aspect felt perfectly in its element. Justice High School's The Picture of Dorian Gray used Victorian wit and charm to remind the audience of the painful, beautiful necessity of ephemerality.

The article Cappies Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray At Justice High School appeared first on Falls Church Patch .

From left to right: Rahel Kassa, Nour Abbas, Jasper Geer and Habib Kamara perform in The Picture of Dorian Gray at Justice High School.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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‘the picture of dorian gray’ theater review: sarah snook is phenomenal in bravura oscar wilde adaptation.

The Emmy-winning 'Succession' star steps into all 26 roles in Kip Williams' lauded Sydney Theatre Company production on London's West End, with rumored plans in the air for a Broadway run to follow.

By Demetrios Matheou

Demetrios Matheou

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

If Sarah Snook felt at all concerned about how to follow her career-defining, award-winning turn as Shiv Roy on Succession , a fear of ever reaching such heights again, of even coming close to filling that professional hole, then she must now feel rather blessed — if also, every night, unbelievably exhausted.

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The show itself arrives with a big rep to live up to. Williams, the Sydney Theatre Company’s artistic director, stages his own adaptation, which received great acclaim when it premiered in 2020, playing three sell-out seasons in Sydney and touring Australia. (Snook has taken the acting baton from Eryn Jean Norvill, credited here as dramaturg and creative associate.)

Not only does Williams draw Wilde’s themes into the contemporary light, as bitingly prescient, but he presents the story itself — of a young man whose portrait reveals the age and moral decay that his own visage does not — through a dazzling orchestration of actor, on-stage live cameras and pre-recorded performance. The result survives the hype, as an imaginative, witty, thought-provoking, exhilarating piece of storytelling.

It begins quite calmly. The stage is empty, save for a large, vertical screen that will dominate the action (later to be accompanied by others). Behind it, Snook enters with some of the crew who will be with her throughout the night — operating cameras, moving sets, handing her props, or assisting in her many costume changes. For now, she is dressed in black blouse and blue trousers — as the story’s narrator and looking, for the only time, like herself.

In fact, poor Dorian is the victim of a simultaneous seduction: on one side, Wotton’s amoral and hedonistic philosophy (atmospherically administered here as something like hypnotic suggestion), on the other Basil’s painting, capturing an impossible beauty that even Gray must acknowledge. This results in the youth’s ill-fated exclamation that he would rather see his image age than his own face.

Once Dorian is seduced, Williams escalates his multilayered action. Sometimes Snook is acting directly to the audience, at others in front of a combination of cameras (handheld, on a body rig, on a tripod), her image sent live to one of the screens; sometimes these live images co-exist with pre-recorded ones, allowing multiple characters to be presented at once. All, including Hallward and Wotton, will be fully costumed and bewigged.

At one point, Snook acts alongside some tiny marionettes; as Dorian starts to lose his mind, she uses a smartphone and a face editor to create hideous distortions of herself, also transported to the screen. Once or twice, Dorian and the narrator argue with each other over who is to take up the storytelling.

Williams’ approach allows Snook to utilize both camera and stage muscles: acting into the camera and exploring her face in clinging close-ups, at times wet with effort and emotion; but also using every inch of the stage, pursued by the camera and costume team, who swarm around her, nudging her physicality this way and that. At one point, as Dorian descends into an opium den, Snook actually walks beneath the theater , unseen were it not for the camera on her shoulder.

There’s a sense in the early scenes of Snook’s own enthusiasm, caught up with Dorian’s; just as, two hours later, the actor’s physical exertions, magnified onscreen, are indistinguishable from the character’s increasing mania. In between, she conjures her many other characterizations — from high society dolts to doting servants to underworld denizens, from Sibyl Vane, the actress whose death propels Dorian into his life of decadence, to the brother who vows vengeance.

At the same time, perhaps her most striking character change is within Dorian himself: not simply that the curls have been replaced by a cocky quiff, but the voice has changed, becoming much more like Wotton’s, who was so very keen to influence him.

Influence is one of the key themes of the piece, one of the many mooted by Wilde that Williams cannily reverberates across time, bringing to mind today’s would-be “influencers,” whose effect too often occupies an unfortunate zone between banal and malign.

The obsessions with youth, beauty and status, the preference of outward show and contrived experience over genuine connection, are all magnified by the play’s approach, epitomized by Dorian’s face-edited selfies, splattered across multiple screens. And Wotton’s many aphorisms invariably ring true. “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about,” would apply to almost anyone seeking the public eye, as might the buffer that social media offers between action and responsibility.

Rather than an affectation, the use of a single actor is true to Dorian’s split personalities — the outward beauty and inner ugliness, the youthful and decayed, the unrepentant and the tortured. In an appropriate twist, Williams never reveals the portrait itself, underlining the fact that of all Dorian’s images, the one denied to the public would be the true reflection of his soul.

Venue: Theatre Royal Haymarket, London Cast: Sarah Snook Playwright: Kip Williams, adapted from the novel by Oscar Wilde Director: Kip Williams Set and costume designer: Marg Horwell Lighting designer: Nick Schlieper Music and sound designer: Clemence Williams Video designer: David Bergman Dramaturg and creative associate: Eryn Jean Norvill Presented by Sydney Theatre Company, Michael Cassel, Adam Kenwright, Len Blavatnik and Danny Cohen, Daryl Roth, Amanda Lipitz and Henry Tisch, Jonathan Church

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  1. Influence Theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Influence Theme Analysis Next Women and Men Themes and Colors LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The power of one to affect another is a theme that pervades the novel. At first, Basil is influenced by his model Dorian.

  2. The Influence of Lord Henry and Basel on Dorian Gray: [Essay Example

    In Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the concept of influence is clearly reflected in two different characters and in two different forms, and juxtaposes them though the main character and his reaction to the two clashing ideologies projected upon him throughout the novel.

  3. A Theme Of Beauty And Appearance In The Picture Of Dorian Gray: [Essay

    Published: Dec 16, 2021 In The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde many different themes are shown throughout. But the theme I feel is most important is beauty and appearance. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Basil, a painter, he paints a portrait of Dorian Gray.

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    The Picture of Dorian Gray: Mini Essays | SparkNotes The Picture of Dorian Gray Study Guide Literary Devices Themes Motifs Symbols Other Literary Devices Questions & Answers Questions & Answers Why is the preface considered a manifesto? How does Lord Henry influence Dorian Gray? What does Basil represent? Does Dorian Gray love Sibyl Vane?

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    Questions & Answers Why is the preface considered a manifesto? How does Lord Henry influence Dorian Gray? What does Basil represent? Does Dorian Gray love Sibyl Vane? How does James Vane die? Important Quotes Explained By Theme Appearances Art Good vs. Evil Mortality Influence By Section The Preface & Chapters 1 & 2 Chapters 3 & 4 Chapters 5 & 6

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    Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, explores the themes of influence, corruption and conscience. "The obvious influence of Lord Henry upon Dorian shows how one may corrupt another to such an extent that one's own conscience withers and dies" (Weintraub 116).

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    The Picture of Dorian Gray has been analysed as an example of the Gothic horror novel, as a variation on the theme of the 'double', and as a narrative embodying some of the key aspects of late nineteenth-century aestheticism and decadence.

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    Includes two essays on The Picture of Dorian Gray, a contemporary (1891) review of the book by Walter Pater, "A Novel by Mr. Oscar Wilde," and a 1947 treatment by Edouard Roditis, "Fiction as...

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    In Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the concept of influence is clearly reflected in two different characters and in two different forms, and juxtaposes them though the main character and his reaction to the two clashing ideologies projected upon him throughout the novel.

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    Pater, however, and critic Julian H. Hawthorne (1846-1934), had written favorable reviews. Over the years, The Picture of Dorian Gray has been viewed as gothic entertainment, a cautionary tale ...

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  13. The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary and Analysis

    The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel written by Oscar Wilde and published in 1890. Having been no stranger to scandal in his personal life, Wilde's novel brought the philosophy of aestheticism to the public eye. Dorian Gray is in part gothic fiction, but it is also a comedy of errors, following a young and attractive socialite as he trades ...

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    Mitsuharu Matsuoka, in his essay "Aestheticism and Social Anxiety in The Picture of Dorian Gray," notes that, as Dorian's death approaches, "Dorian ultimately reacts against his lifestyle, choking on his New Hedonism," at which point "a great sense of doom hangs over Dorian" (Matsuoka 78). Indeed, Dorian appears to realize the ...

  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray: Themes

    Throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray, beauty reigns. It is a means to revitalize the wearied senses, as indicated by the effect that Basil's painting has on the cynical Lord Henry. It is also a means of escaping the brutalities of the world: Dorian distances himself, not to mention his consciousness, from the horrors of his actions by ...

  16. Theme Of Influence In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

    This sample essay on Theme Of Influence In The Picture Of Dorian Gray reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay's introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below. The two books that will be compared In the following are very different books Indeed.

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    In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde takes pains to establish Sibyl Vane as a multidimensional character with ambitions, allegiances, and a past. Yet to Dorian, she is merely a source of entertainment, an ornament that quickly loses its shine. Like Sibyl, several other characters serve only to amuse Dorian, suffering tragic fates when ...

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  19. The Novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray English Literature Essay

    Oscar Wilde absorbed Walter Pater's words and let himself be influenced by their charm and power. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, at the outset of the novel, Dorian Gray is corrupted by the Pateresque sermons of Lord Henry. Like Oscar Wilde cannot avoid being influenced by Pater's philosophy of life, Dorian Gray cannot resist being attracted by ...

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  21. Review: Sarah Snook Is a Darkly Funny Dorian Gray

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  22. Cappies Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray At Justice High School

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  23. The Picture of Dorian Gray: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

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