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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Today, Oscar Wilde is remembered as one of the greatest authors in the English literature. At the turn of the 1890s, Oscar Wilde refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays; and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).


The Picture of Dorian Gray first began as a short novel submitted to Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The first version was published as the lead story in the July 1890 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, along with five others. Numerous changes were made to the original novel before it was published as an independent novel in 1891.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of Dorian Gray, an extremely beautiful young man who has a “face like ivory and rose leaves”. Basil Hallward, an artist becomes infatuated with Dorian’s beauty and creates his portrait which is noticed by the hedonistic, libertine Lord Henry Wotton, who desires to meet him. After hearing Lord Henry’s worldly views, Dorian begins to think beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life.

When Gray sees his finished portrait, distraught that his beauty will fade but the portrait remains beautiful forever, he wishes the portrait age in his place, inadvertently making a Faustian bargain (bargain with the Devil). As portrait begins to age for each of sins while he remains unaffected, Dorian’s morals and life go from bad to worse, till he has not even a shred of conscience left.

Main characters of The Picture of Dorian Gray

1. Dorian Gray is a handsome, narcissistic young man who is impressed with Lord Henry’s ideas of hedonism. He and begins to indulge in every kind of pleasure, moral and immoral.

2. Basil Hallward is an artist who becomes infatuated with Dorian’s beauty. He creates Dorian’s portrait, which proves to be his finest work. He is later murdered by Dorian to preserve his secret.

3. Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton is a hedonistic libertine and a decadent dandy who espouses the view of indulgent hedonism. Initially friend to Basil, he later becomes more intrigued with Dorian’s beauty and naivety. His worldly views ultimately corrupt Dorian as he attempts to emulate him.

4. Sibyl Vane is an exceptionally talented, beautiful but extremely poor actress who falls in love with Dorian, but her love for Dorian destroys her acting abilities. She commits suicide when she realizes Dorian no longer loves her. She is Dorians one and only true love.

5. James Vane is Sibyl’s brother. He is extremely protective of his sister, does not trust Dorian and promises to kill him if anything should happen to Sibyl. After Sibyl’s death, he becomes obsessed with killing Dorian and begins to stalk him. He is later killed in a hunting accident.