VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Born October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, Oscar Wilde wrote several poems and plays, including "The Importance of Being Earnest." Though he only wrote one novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," it's now considered a classic of English literature, especially in the genre of Urban Gothic fiction. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and in this installment of Mojo Notes, we'll be exploring ten things you should know about Oscar Wilde's “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
It’s the only published novel by this 19th century Irish writer and poet. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and in this installment of Mojo Notes, we’ll be exploring ten things you should know about Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
#10 – About the Author
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854, Oscar Wilde was exposed to the worlds of medicine and culture by his successful parents. While studying the classics and reading the Greats during college, he joined artistic and literary movements. He became known for his writing, especially his poems, plays and sole novel during the late 19th century. After being imprisoned for his lifestyle choices, Wilde succumbed to illness in 1900.
#9 – Influences and Inspirations
As his writing style developed, Wilde’s aesthetic ideas also grew. This was evident in his first and only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” in which he contrasted art’s beauty with the beauty of real life. The novel contains elements of gothic fiction with a strong Faustian tone, as demonstrated by the temptations that Dorian Gray yields to that eventually corrupt his soul.
#8 – Settings and Era
First published in 1890, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is also set in the late 1800s when the Decadent movement was in full swing. However, as part of this movement, Dorian Gray’s indulgence in life’s pleasures above all else was contrary to the ideals of Victorian society. By living his life in both London’s West and East Ends, we’re shown the two parts of Gray’s personality: the outgoing, notorious socialite aspect versus his dark and seedy side.
#7 – Plot
Told from the third person point of view of an anonymous narrator, the book follows Dorian Gray’s downward spiral from a beautiful, young man to a selfish, pleasure-seeking, criminal. After Basil Hallward paints Gray’s portrait, Lord Henry Wotton persuades him that beauty is the only thing in life worth pursuing. He breaks the heart of a young actress and spends the next two decades doing whatever he pleases. But with every sin he commits, Hallward’s portrait becomes more and more hideous – revealing Gray’s true nature and driving him mad.
#6 – Dorian Gray
Even in his youth, Dorian Gray is good-looking and vain. But once he’s introduced to Lord Henry Wotton’s immoral opinions, he becomes focused only on pleasure. As the years pass and his immorality increases, Gray discovers he’s ageless and hasn’t had to pay for his crimes – instead, it’s Hallward’s painting that grows older and more horrifying. Though he tries to destroy the painting, Gray ends up destroying himself.
#5 – Basil Hallward
Basil Hallward is an artist who makes his friend Dorian Gray the subject of his artistic masterpiece. Unlike Gray, Hallward has a strong moral conscience and expresses concern for his friends. Unfortunately, this concern leads to his demise when Gray kills him in anger.
#4 – Lord Henry Wotton
Also known as Harry, Lord Henry Wotton is Basil Hallward’s friend. After meeting Dorian Gray, he doesn’t hesitate to push his opinions on the young man and manages to convince him to adopt a life of pleasure over pain. As a member of the Decadent movement, he is in stark contrast to Victorian ideals and can be seen as the catalyst that triggers Gray’s downfall.
#3 – Values and Themes
One of the novel’s main themes revolves around aestheticism and Dorian Gray’s double life: in the West End, he’s a celebrity reveling in wealth and life’s pleasures, while in the East End, he associates with lowlifes. Since Gray has essentially sacrificed his soul for eternal youth and beauty, there’s a Faustian element to the tale, which leads to tragic results. Other themes also explored include good versus evil, mortality and the corruption of innocence.
#2 – Modern Popularity
Though it was initially criticized for its lack of ethics, the story’s literary merits eventually won out. Wilde did have to make some modifications, but even so, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is now considered a classic of Urban Gothic fiction and has a strong message that resonates with many.
#1 – Adaptations
Many of the novel’s themes, especially Dorian Gray’s pursuit of the Fountain of Youth, have been a human preoccupation for centuries. So it comes as no surprise that the novel has inspired ballets, operas, music, books and screen adaptations. The most well-known and well received film version is perhaps the Oscar-winning 1945 flick.
Do you agree with our list? What are your favorite pieces of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” trivia? Be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more entertaining top 10s.