The only novel by Oscar Wilde, one of the well-known characters of British literature, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a brilliant work from the end of the 19th century containing horror features. The narrative is set in London and the main characters are: Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, who wishes to be young forever; Lord Henry Wotton, a witty and very sociable man, who plays a vital role in Dorianâ€™s life; an artist, Basil Hallward, who is extremely fond of Dorian. Other characters are Sibyl Vane, a young beautiful actress, and her brother, James.
The story begins in a studio where the artist finishes his masterpiece, the portrait of Dorian Gray. Basil is amazed by Dorianâ€™s beauty ...view middle of the document...
Many literary works were concerned with contemporary social problems, for instance, the effects of the industrial revolution, the influence of the theory of evolution, movements of political and social reform. Wilde also used these features in his novel. Even the "poisonous book" that spoils Dorian exists. The book, called A Rebours, was published in 1884, during the French decadence. Although the cult did not catch on much in England, it influenced Wilde's literary imagination a lot.
A similar topic of good and evil can be seen in Robert Louis Stevenson's fiction called The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. While Dr Jekyll's alter ego is Mr Hyde, Dorian finds his other self in his picture. While Dr Jekyll kills his evil `double`, Mr Hyde, therefore himself, Dorian stabs the picture. However, it is Dorian who dies as a wrinkled loathsome man and the picture which shows youth and beauty again. Both works have inspired many artists from all around the world to various adaptations.
In the 19th century, the work was criticised for its features of homosexuality. Wilde had to revise his work so that it could be published in a book form. Nowadays, the work is surely considered to be one of the most remarkable pieces. It is colourful and full of epigrams and symbols.
Youth and beauty are themes that appear in the book from the very beginning. But what is beauty? Is it only physical beauty or can we talk about inner beauty as well? According to the Cambridge Advanced Learnerâ€™s Dictionary, beauty is described as â€œthe quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially by being looked atâ€. Lord Henry describes this word as a â€œform of Geniusâ€œ. â€œ...Beauty is a form of Genius - is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. ... It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it. ... To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders.â€ (45) And he adds: â€œIt is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible...â€ (45) Can we also judge beauty according to what we are interested in, what we study? In a higher society, beauty is often associated with wealth. No matter if it is a piece of art or jewellery.
Lord Henry has a great influence on Dorian. At their first meeting, he tells Dorian about the importance of being young and beautiful. He says that it is the key to happiness. â€œ...youth is the one thing worth having. ... When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, ... You will suffer horribly...â€ (45-46) At the end of the book the Duchess of Monmouth points out that he appraises beauty too much. Nevertheless, Dorian is too scared of losing his youth and...