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The Picture of Dorian Gray: Reviewing the Masterpiece of Literature


After exploring some masterpieces of American literature, it is time to pay attention to one of the best English novels. This was the most famous literary work created by an outstanding and unusual author –Oscar Wilde, who wrote several fairy tales besides this novel, and they were quite popular as well.

Not only his novel but his unique personality and lifestyle attracts readers’ attention even nowadays. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is studied at literature classes at school and college, so students have to complete thousands of papers on this book. It may be quite difficult without some experience and knowledge, as the author reveals many complicated and controversial issues there. In addition, there are dozens of symbols and allusions in this book. So, researching this novel may be a real challenge.

Let us try to make out our attitude to the main hero and his actions. We are going to try to understand the major motifs and symbols demonstrated in this novel.

First Publication


This novel may seem immoral even nowadays, as there are lots of controversial issues, and many things can be interpreted in various ways. There is no wonder that some critics had a rather negative attitude to this literary work. Many of them claimed that it was propagandizing immorality and vulgarism. So, the first publication of this story was scandalous. It was revolutionary related to the established Victorian moral and rules.

Wilde completely changed these ideas and presented his personal attitude to art and its idolization. For the majority of authors, these things were inappropriate but he prioritized creativity and made it the most significant thing of his writing style. There was also a manifest for the artist and explanation what the true art should be. These ideas are presented in the preface to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

The Role of Preface

In this novel, the preface plays an important role which indicates the general ideas and purpose which Oscar Wilde wanted to highlight in the novel. However, it is necessary to understand these points correctly. Actually, the author presents them as the list of short aphorisms about art and an artist. Maybe, such strong statements, unusual for Victorian England, became the reason for critics’ remarks and blaming the author for immorality. Nevertheless, we can use these points as our main tool to indicate the philosophy of this book and its major sense. They present the main ideas of aestheticism as the main Oscar Wilde’s concept. The main point of this theory is art without responsibility. The follower of such philosophy is Lord Henry who seems to be the embodiment of bourgeois morality.

The Power of Youth and Beauty

The main idea of the novel is the power and impact of beauty and youth. The author also notes that these can be deluding and unfair. External and internal beauty are the two opposite things. Looking at Dorian Gray, we can easily understand that a handsome man can commit terrible crimes. However, no one can even think that it is he who does so many awful things. Even a brother of a dead actress does not believe that a person with an angelic appearance may kill anybody. The beauty can be an illusion.

On the other hand, the author talks not only about the appearance but also about luxurious and sophisticated items which Dorian surrounds himself with. In this way, he wants to hide all his sins. Hundreds of unique jewelry, rich clothes, and pieces of art can be found in his house. The hidden portrait is the only thing which shows Dorian’s real face. After his death, the man on this picture is still beautiful. It means that the beauty is the most powerful and infinite thing. It cannot disappear.

Sybil and James Vane

We might expect to see the happy end – Sybil and Dorian’s wedding. But the beauty of art played its role in this case. Although the girl had never experienced the feeling of love, she could easily show it on the scene. Nevertheless, after meeting Dorian Gray, she felt it and failed while trying to interpret one of Shakespeare’s female characters. As a result, the handsome young man had no interest in her anymore. When James, Sybil’s brother, tried to kill Dorian because of his unfair attitude to his sister, he could not do it. The beauty of Gray’s appearance deluded him. However, we can comprehend this character as the embodiment of Dorian’s sins and the ghost from his past.

Symbol of the Yellow Book

Man Reading Book

The book given to Dorian by Lord Henry reveals hedonistic philosophy and symbolizes its harmful influence on a young person. It is true that the main hero becomes addicted to this text. He bases his life on the statements written in this novel which is probably an allusion to the French book “Against Nature”. According to the descriptions, there are lots of things concerning satisfaction and unusual experiences. That is why Dorian is amazed by statements he reads there.

Summing up, this novel is truly outstanding, and it indicated the new epoch in the English literature. Although its author lived an unusual and difficult life, he created a real masterpiece without being afraid of using completely new approaches and concepts.

Oscar Wilde’s biography is a very interesting subject for the research too. His unique taste and style cannot leave any one cold. Some people appreciate him and claim that he is a genius who has been rejected by the society. Others say that he is a vulgar and immoral writer. Of course, everyone has a different attitude to him, but no one can ignore this artist and his works.

Without any doubts, some life experience is needed for the clear comprehension of his novel. That is why bibliophiles often reread it in different periods of their life. So, you should look at this story from several angles as well and indicate its true sense.

In the next article, we will present a book review of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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