Okay, we might be a little dazed and confused and mixing up our quotes. But one thing we are sure of is how to teach The Picture of Dorian Gray, a difficult novel full of secret desires and sexual identity issues.
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Wilde, was an acclaimed doctor who was knighted for his work as medical advisor for the Irish censuses. William Wilde later founded St. Mark's Ophthalmic Hospital, entirely at his own personal expense, to treat the city's poor. Oscar Wilde's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet who was closely associated with the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, a skilled linguist whose acclaimed English translation of Pomeranian novelist Wilhelm Meinhold's Sidonia the Sorceress had a deep influence on her son's later writing.
The same can be said for Dorian Gray, the titular character from Oscar Wilde's one and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the century or so since its initial publication in 1890, the fate of poor Dorian Gray has taken hold of the popular imagination.
In the light of several subsequent reviews, this was a comparatively mild critique. Wilde himself was steadfast in defending his author's vision. He always maintained that the Faustian idea of Dorian Gray, "the idea of a young man selling his soul in exchange for eternal youth", was "old in the history of literature". But when he gave an archetypal story a striking contemporary spin, with strong homoerotic undertones, he stirred up a furore of hostility.
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Reread today, however, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a wonderfully entertaining parable of the aesthetic ideal (art for art's sake), and a sneak preview of the brilliance exhibited in plays such as and Lady Windermere's Fan. What began as an outré, decadent novella, now seems more like an arresting, and slightly camp, exercise in late-Victorian gothic, than the depraved fiction alleged by his outraged critics.
Dorian Gray is the impossibly beautiful young man who becomes the subject of a portrait by the fashionable society painter, Basil Hallward. When the artist, who has become infatuated with his model, introduces the "young Adonis" to Lord Henry Wotton, he is rapidly seduced by the peer's witty and corrupting devotion to fin-de-siècle hedonism, some of it inspired by Wilde's own experience.
Objective: Time for a cartoon break! Oscar Wilde was not only a witty chap—he was also pretty big on social commentary. So it's no surprise that his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has inspired its share of cartoons featuring both parody and satire.
What is even more intriguing is that Wilde’s life would eventually follow a path that was similar to Dorian Gray’s.Â Perhaps the greatest support to the rationale of Dorian Gray as representative of Wilde is in that Wilde clearly believed that only , and in this case art in the form of a novel, could reveal the person.
Its gestation was troubled, too. First commissioned in the summer of 1889 by an American editor for Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, Wilde initially submitted a fairy tale "The Fisherman and his Soul", which was rejected. Eventually, his typescript for The Picture of Dorian Gray was delivered in April 1890, whereupon Lippincott's editor declared that "in its present condition there are a number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to".
Wilde's version of this narrative is particularly notable for its embrace of the hedonistic lifestyle of the , a late nineteenth century artistic movement that prized beauty and aesthetic experience over pretty much everything else—even bacon. Dorian Gray and its protagonist have become synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure, regardless of its moral consequences.
Under the malign influence of Lord Henry – "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it", is one of many Wildean epigrams scattered through the text – Dorian Gray plunges into a decadent and sinister milieu, becoming a slave to drugs and debauchery. His fatal love affair with the actress Sybil Vane alerts him to the secret of his eternal youth: he will remain untarnished while his portrait reflects the hideous corruption of his soul.
Eventually despairing, the young man blames the artist Hallward for his fate, and murders him. But Dorian Gray can never "be at peace". Finally, in a horrifying climax, he takes a knife to his own portrait. When his servants find him, the picture depicts their youthful master as they had once known him. The corpse next to it is as "withered, wrinkled and loathsome of visage" as the portrait had been. Art and life are back in harmony, as Wilde intended, and his brilliantly allusive moral tale is complete.