The Picture Of Dorian Gray
The story of the writing of the famous novel by Oscar Wilde - "the picture of Dorian gray". Description of characters and images in the work. Symbolism, imagery, and allegory in the text. The basic setup of theme, genre, tone and style of writing.
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The picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. The magazine's editors feared the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without Wilde's knowledge, before publication. But even with that, the story was still greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend the novel aggressively in letters to the British press. Wilde later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters, and including an aphoristic preface that has since become famous in its own right. The amended version was published by Ward Lock & Co in April 1891. Some scholars, however, favor the original version he originally submitted to Lippincott's. wilde character symbolism allegory
The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than him. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, and when he subsequently pursues a life of debauchery, the portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.
Although we see the story mainly through the lens of Dorian's opinions, we also dip into the minds of other characters here and there, from Lord Henry to Mrs. Vane. We're able to see everyone's thoughts and perspectives, but that doesn't mean we have an objective, or even necessarily fair narrator - in fact, this narrator is way harsh sometimes (see "Tone" for more on this). However, the narration is really thorough and complete, if nothing else.
Dorian Gray - the young man allocated with improbable beauty. Getting under influence of ideas of the new hedonism preached by lord Henry, devotes the life to thirst of pleasures and defect. It is a figure dual. In it the thin aesthete and even the romanticist and the vicious, ruthless criminal are combined. These two opposite sides of its character are in constant struggle with each other. The given duality of the hero is characteristic for many Gothic novels.
Bezil Holluord - the artist who has written a portrait of Dorian Gray. Extreme attachment distinguishes from its other heroes to Dorian Gray, in which he sees a beauty and person ideal. In other words, it is the lost angel keeper Dorian Gray.
Lord Henry - the aristocrat, the preacher of ideas of new hedonism, "Prince Paradoksov". Its paradoxical, inconsistent thinking is got by criticism on all Victorian English society. Is original Mephistopheles for Dorian Gray.
Sibila Vejn - the actress, one of the most surprising images of the novel. To a meeting with Dorian lived in the invented world, the theatre world, was the talented actress. The love has shown it all artificiality of its world where she did not live but only played. With love the talent as she tries to escape from the world of illusions in the world present will be gone in her soul. But it also leads to its destruction.
James Vejn - brother Sibily, the seaman. The person of the martial bearing who has almost lost meaning of the life after suicide by Sibily. Finds rest in desire to sweep.
The portrait is the main symbol at work here. It's a kind of living allegory, a visible interpretation of Dorian's soul. Basically, the picture represents Dorian's inner self, which becomes uglier with each passing hour and with every crime he commits. It is the image of Dorian's true nature and, as his soul becomes increasingly corrupt, its evil shows up on the surface of the canvas. It seems that Dorian is not completely free of the picture's influence: as it becomes uglier and uglier, Dorian pretty much loses it. It becomes a kind of conscience, and it reminds Dorian constantly of the evil at the heart of his nature. (Check out our "Character Analysis" of Dorian Gray for more about the man and the portrait.)
The action takes place in London, England, in the late nineteenth century. The narration also says Dorian Gray spent time at a villa in Trouville, at a house in Algiers, and at a house he maintained in Nottinghamshire.
The novel. This short novel is an interesting combination of elements - Wilde wrote it in a sort of high literary mode (that is to say, with ornate, self-consciously artistic language and heightened sense of style), but it also has elements of the classic horror story, like the suspenseful build to the final twist. In other words, it's a kind of horror story that's ascended to the level of literary horror story - other examples are Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, or basically any short story by Edgar Allan Poe. In terms of the "literary" part, you might consider Wilde's concern with showing Dorian's thoughts in depth, as well as his exploration of Basil and Lord Henry. While it shows some levels of psychological detail, the novel is also highly symbolic and allegorical; Wilde was no stranger to metaphor. On the "horror" side, we've got the grotesque descriptions of the portrait, the terrible murder and consequent, um, disappearance of Basil Hallward, and the general ick-factor of the opium den - and, of course, the dramatic ending, shrieks and all.
Hmm…well, this sounds complicated, but we'll stick to it. We get the distinct feeling that the narrator here is torn between fascination and disgust - Lord Henry and Dorian's depraved philosophy is both appealing and revolting at the same time. This narrator is certainly interested in the beliefs espoused by the decadent characters here - the descriptions of Lord Henry's brilliant wit and rhetorical skill (see Chapter 3) express a complete admiration and fascination with this character. The descriptions of Dorian's incredible physical beauty are likewise invested with the same kind of near-obsessive, swooning admiration. However, because this was a book intended for publication and sale, the narrator has to come down pretty harshly on these immoral characters - the tone grows increasingly judgmental and critical towards the end of the novel. We start to see that Lord Henry is a truly warped and flawed being, and that Dorian himself grows less and less compelling as he gets more paranoid (after all, as we overheard on an episode of America's Next Top Model, desperation is not sexy). The tone of the narration is also extremely judgmental throughout with regards to characters who aren't worthy of praise - ones that are either too stupid or too uncultured to merit Wilde's interest, or are just women (for example, Mrs. Vane and Lord Henry's wife, Victoria).
Narration. Wilde really unleashes the rabid hounds of ornamentation on this piece of work. His prose is almost visibly sparkling with gems and gilded bric-a-brac; reading Dorian Gray is like watching an all-out, massively expensive period film. Just take a look at this, the second sentence: From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion.
You know how some titles are little mysteries in themselves, how they can make you wonder, "Man, what was that darn author thinking?" Well, rest easy, because this is not one of those titles. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" refers quite straightforwardly to two portraits: first of all, the very literal picture of Dorian painted by Basil Hallward, and secondly, the literary "picture" Wilde creates in the novel. Both of these works of art show us what the so-called "real" world can't see - the truth of Dorian's soul. The painting itself is at the center of the whole novel; while Dorian's physical beauty remains untouched, the Dorian captured in the painting changes horribly to reflect the corruption of his soul. Just as this picture shows viewers (well, there's really only one viewer - Dorian himself) the true nature of its subject, so too does Wilde's novel reveal Dorian's increasingly evil inner self to us, the readers.
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Dorian is (literally) a model of youth and beauty (Chapters 1-2)
Dorian's nature is unspoiled and his exquisite outer beauty mirrors the pure inner beauty of his soul. He's as innocent as the day he was born…until a certain young Lord enters the picture.
Trouble in paradise - art conflicts with life in Dorian's relationship with Sibyl Vane (Chapters 3-10)
To cut a long story short, Dorian idealistically falls in love with Sibyl, and, upon realizing the fact that she doesn't live up to his expectations, he dumps her. She kills herself, and instead of mourning her and learning a lesson, Dorian reads the yellow book, listens to Lord Henry, and gets over the whole thing.
"Poisoned by a book" (Chapters 10-11)
We're not exactly sure what Dorian's up to over the next decade or so. He's deeply influenced by the yellow book, and consequently changes his mode of living. Though things look peachy keen on the surface, rumors start to emerge about Dorian's secret, evil deeds. We don't know any details, but it seems like our hero has gone completely over to the dark side.
Dorian is now all evil, all the time (Chapters 12-15)
All bets are off - Dorian seems to have lost all vestiges of his former self. He doesn't even have any feelings left for Basil, formerly his best friend; in fact, even after he kills Basil in a fit of passion, he pretty much feels like B. brought it upon himself. Like Lord Henry, Dorian seems mostly to be filled with a vague sense of pity and contempt for everyone else. To top it all off, he blackmails another ex-friend, Alan Campbell, into covering for his crime.
Fear and self-loathing in London, then the countryside (Chapter 16-17)
Dorian is understandably shaken by Basil's murder, but not for reasons we'd expect; rather, he's terrified that he'll get caught. To make matters worse, he discovers that James Vane (brother of Sibyl) is back in town and on the murderous prowl for him. Dorian is wracked with fear of death, first in London, then when James follows him to his country home at Selby.
Life lessons from Oscar Wilde - if you're stalking someone during a hunt, don't hide out in the line of fire (Chapter 18)
It seems as though everything has worked out for old Dorian Gray - James Vane is accidentally killed at Selby, which means that there's nobody out looking for him. He feels a profound sense of relief, and wonders if he should change his ways after all.
The inevitable happens (Chapter 20)
After thinking that he should turn over a new life, Dorian basically says, "Screw it!" and decides to keep on going the way he's been going. He loves being evil, and realizes that even the thought of becoming good makes him a hypocrite, a new sin to add to his catalogue. However, morality triumphs, and Dorian finally gets his comeuppance - by trying to destroy his portrait (read: his soul), he kills himself.
Allusions or direct references to persons, places, and things from history, myth, and legend play an important role in the novel in that they help to reveal the interests of Dorian Gray and, in some instances, those of Lord Henry and other characters. For example, the following paragraphs tell of one of Gray's interests.
On one occasion he took up the study of jewels, and appeared at a costume ball as Anne de Joyeuse, Admiral of France, in [an ensemble] covered with five hundred and sixty pearls. This taste enthralled him for years, and, indeed, may be said never to have left him. He would often spend a whole day settling and resettling in their cases the various stones that be had collected . . . . He discovered wonderful stories, also, about jewels. In Alphonso's Clericalis Disciplina a serpent was mentioned with eyes of real jacinth. . . . When the Duke de Valentinois, son of Alexander VI, visited Louis XII of France, his horse was loaded with gold leaves, according to Brantome, and his cap had double rows of rubies that threw out a great light. Charles of England had ridden in stirrups hung with four hundred and twenty-one diamonds. Richard II had a coat, valued at thirty thousand marks, which was covered with balas rubies. Hall described Henry VIII, on his way to the Tower previous to his coronation, as wearing "a jacket of raised gold, the placard embroidered with diamonds and other rich stones, and a great bauderike about his neck of large balasses." The favourites of James I wore ear-rings of emeralds set in gold filigrane. Following is a sampling of allusions and other references in the novel.
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