The Picture of Dorian Gray
The novel is set in London at the end of the 19th century. The protagonist is Dorian Gray, an handsome man, who realizes how handsome he is only after looking at his portrait, painted by Basil Hallward. While his desires become true, including that of eternal youth, the signs of age, experience and vice appear on his portrait. Little by little, Dorian becomes insensitive, makes use of people and lets people die. When Hallward sees the corrupted image of the portrait, Dorian kills him. Dorian can’t see his picture damaged and stabs it, killing surprisingly himself. When he dies, the picture return to its original purity.
The poet uses the third-person narration; the perspective adopted is internal, allowing this way a process of identification between the reader and the character. The settings are vividly described, the characters reveal themselves through what they say or what other people say of them, according to a technique which is typical of drama.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a 19th century version of the myth of Faust. The Portrait represents Dorian’s soul and records the signs of his experience, corruption, horror and sins. Wilde plays on the idea of the correspondence between the physical and spiritual realms: beautiful people are moral people, ugly people are immoral people. His variation on this theme is in his use of magical portrait. The picture represents the dark side of Dorian’s personalities. The corrupted picture can be seen as a symbol of the immorality of the Victorian middle class, while Dorian is an example of the Victorian hypocrisy. The picture, restored to its original beauty, express Wilde’s theories of art: art survives people, art is eternal.