Life and Literary Contributions

Critical Summary Response to the Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, was a dramatist and poet who authored, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” in 1891. Other critical work of the same author includes; “The Importance of Being Earnest” created in 1895 and “Lady Windermere`s Fan” -created in 1892. He was also a spokesman of the Aesthetic Movement in the late 19th century in England. This movement promoted the arts for art`s sake. He was imprisoned between 1895 and 1897 for being the object of celebrated criminal and civil suits that involved homosexuality (McCormack, 1997). He composed critical essays, poetry works, short stories, plays, letters, and book reviews. However, only The Picture of Dorian Gray was published as per Wilde (2008). This writing first appeared as a 'novelette' in a monthly magazine by Lippincott in July 1890, and it was made up of about 30,000 words making a total of thirteen chapters. A year after that, he went on to expand it for publication as a novel (McCormack, 1997).

From the begging, the theme of influence and corruption is well depicted in the novel. From the tale, Dorian is portrayed as an innocent youth. However, under the reign of Lord Henry as well as his influence, he becomes corrupt. This ultimately results in the corrupting of other youths which is an indication that the novel can be a lesson taking responsibility for an individual's actions. Besides, the novel points Lord Henry as corrupt and a source of his corruption. However, it’s also questionable on who to behave on change of behaviour. Bandura's theory suggests that behaviour can be observed, though at last, Dorian blames himself for being corrupt.


Dorian still has the same appearance as he did when he was only eighteen years old after about twenty years of countless extravagances. On the other hand, the portrait looks worn out, which is a disgusting depiction of his drying up, soul. The novel, therefore, rings the theme of

the art of living in this section. Looking at the theme of art versus life, it is more complicated in the novel, though regardless of individual beauty is a simple lie, the art of living is something more. For instance, once Sibyl loses her artistic ability because of Dorian's love, Dorian is also lost. This reveals that Dorian loved her partly due to her art. This is an indication that the absence of this art would indicate the disappearance of Dorian to Sibyl. Besides, it reveals that art in the novel reshapes reality. For instance, sickened by the picture that he once revered and aware of, the thing that he had become Dorian stabs the portrait through the heart in the process, killing himself. When his body is found, the portrait is once more perfect.

An analysis of the story depicts three key themes that have been highlighted. The theme of secrecy, love, and temptation. Secrecy is depicted on several occasions, like when Dorian hides his portrait. This statement is further supported by considering that all of us have something that we want not to be seen and more so by ourselves. Many forms of love have been depicted in this essay. Oscar Wilde has a unique and wide view of love. He sees love as many things and refuses to tie it down to a singular definition of what it might be and what it might not be. When exposing Dorian in the story, Wilde reconstructs the encounter that Eve had with the tempting serpent. This he likens to Lord Henry`s enticing charms.

Even though numerous people have criticized Dorian Gray for applauding and condoning immorality, vice, and others, it should be viewed as a richly ambiguous story. One-time Dorian Gray stepped up to Lord Henry in a Dias and asked him whether lord henry had a bad influence. In return, Lord Henry answered that, there is no good influence and that, and all influence was immoral as per the scientific perspective. This observation is further supported by Sherlock Holmes's creator Arthur Conan who saw it as a great moral tale that did not leave sin unpunished. Wilde encouraged critics to focus on the artistic masterpiece that the book was made of, which proved to be a hard task as many found difficulty in intellectually detaching what the piece was about (McCormack, 1997).

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The novel is based and revolves around the tussle for the affection that Dorian has between Henry and Basil. Basil believes that wickedness and beauty can be able to exist in the same form (McCormack, 1997). This brings out the theme of beauty, youth, and originality of sin. For instance, when Dorian gets to know that he will keep his youthful appearance regardless of immorality, he considers himself free of the moral constraints faced by ordinary men. Moreover, he considers his physical appearance compared to his soul’s state which shows the ever-increasing degradation of the portrait. This is an indication that the novel may be read as a moralistic tale that warns people against the risks associated with beauty and sin. Moreover, his obsession with aesthetic beauty prevents him from attending to the pangs of his own conscience. Moreover, based on these themes makes him considers life to be an intellectual exercise in which experiences are undergone and treated as they come and not to be considered in terms of what one might learn from them. Henry offers advice tom Dorian not to take too much time looking after other people but to follow new feelings. Moreover, these themes are also revealed where Henry wins the argument over Basil because he had humour, wealth, a beautiful voice and intelligence (McCormack, 1997). This makes Dorian crueller and more selfish.

The essay shows Dorian Gray continuously having questions as to how life relates to art. It also goes further and looks into the conflict between an individual’s inner self and arbitrary norms and rules which controls various behaviours which humans are engaged into daily without necessarily noticing that, they push them to specific attitudes and roles. Lastly, it has philosophical discussions that are outlined in a stylistic comic manner that contradicts ethical and moral concerns.


McCormack, J. (1997). Wilde's Fiction (s), The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde, Edited by Peter Baby.

Wilde, O. (2008). Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Graphic Novel. Sterling Pub.

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