The Picture of Dorian Gray
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About the Author
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde was a popular literary figure in late Victorian England. After graduating from Oxford University, he lectured as a poet, art critic and a leading proponent of the principles of aestheticism. In 1891, he published The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel which was panned as immoral by Victorian critics, but is now considered one of his most notable works. As a dramatist, many of Wilde’s plays were well received including his satirical comedies Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), his most famous play. Unconventional in his writing and life, Wilde’s affair with a young man led to his arrest on charges of "gross indecency" in 1895. He was imprisoned for two years and died in poverty three years after his release at the age of 46. (From Biography.com)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it ﬁrst appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting inﬂuence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.”
Questions for The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dorian rationalizes Basil's accusations, saying that every individual is responsible for his or her actions, and therefore for his or her downfall. Do you believe this? Likewise, is Dorian responsible for his own ruination, or is Lord Henry?
Is Lord Henry's belief in the freedom of the individual truly evil? Or does Dorian misconstrue it? Does Lord Henry actually practice the ideas he espouses? Does he understand the real life consequences his ideas would have, or does he exhibit a sort of naivete?
Discuss Dorian's portrait. What does it represent? What does it suggest about the effect of experience on the soul? Why does Dorian hide it in the attic?
Dorian's scandalous behavior shocks his peers, yet he remains welcome in social circles. Why? What is Wilde suggesting about "polite" London society?
Discuss the ending: what does it mean?
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