Dorian Gray’s True Picture of Oscar Wilde

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Oscar Wilde is a widely known author, playwright, and poet infamous for his imprisonment for homosexuality that he portrayed in his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. This novel takes place during the late 19th century situated in London, England during the Decadent artistic movement, which was a time homoeroticism was practically demonized. The three main characters, Basil, Dorian, and Lord Henry, experience an enthralling wave of emotions as Dorian Gray’s overriding wish of youthfulness eventually overrides his life.

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After this story was published, many critics deemed this story as “immoral” and “indecent” due to its underlying message. Many people presume that Oscar Wilde’s novel was designed to represent a significant part of his life. It has been stated that either Oscar Wilde represents all three of the main characters in the story, or that each of them signifies a specific person that was dear in his life, demonstrating how The Picture of Dorian Gray is composed as his autobiography to describe his love affairs and how the world perceived him.

Oscar Wilde’s novel is known to be one of the best novels of homoeroticism even though it has never been stated in the book. Many people now believe that artists best works is his autobiography. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a perfect understanding of Wilde’s autobiography due to the homoerotic theme that he presented throughout the story. After Wilde completed the book in 1889, he submitted it to be published on “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.” Many people criticized the book for its supposed homosexual desires, which Wilde denied and eventually edited the novel to be published according to the public eye.

However, the additional 500 words in the uncensored version of the story give us clues to its accurate homosexual connotation. The most distinguished instance in this case is when Dorian explains why he cannot display his painting to the public. In the censored version, Basil says “I know you will laugh at me, but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it,” while the uncensored version says, “I have put into it all of the extraordinary romance of which, of course, I have never dared speak to him.” The last quote in the uncensored version implies that his love is so forbidden that he might as well never even speak about it. According to David Firrincieli article, “Homosocial and Homoerotic Bonda in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray,” he says that “Although these romantic feelings are only evidence of Basil’s prospective homosociality, they also provide a foundation of a homoerotic tone hat can be interpreted within Dorian as well.” 

Talking about the book, Oscar Wilde later wrote a letter to Ralph Payne saying, “Basil Hallward is what I [Oscar Wilde] think I am…” Basil’s fascination with Dorian gray is similar to Wilde’s fascination with Alfred Douglas. For example, present in the novel, Basil confesses his love for Dorian to Lord Henry by saying that he is “absolutely necessary,” to him and tells Dorian, “You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream”. Similarly, after a few years of writing the novel, Dorian writes a letter to Lord Alfred Douglas saying, “I can’t live without you” and “you are the atmosphere of beauty through which I see life. You are the incarnation of all lovely things.”

The second part of the quote Oscar Wilde wrote to Ralph Payne is “…Lord Henry is what the world thinks of me: Dorian is what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps”. Wilde has stated that he has always been fascinated with his star character, Dorian Gray. As Lord Henry mentioned in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly,” he bantered about this throughout his ethics, morals, and his hometown. Correspondingly, after Wilde became known people were fascinated by his alluring appearance, his humor, and his epigram, which explains why many citizens would view him as immoral, corrupt, and unethical–just like how many readers perceive Lord Henry.

Many people understand The Picture of Dorian Gray as a transformation that Oscar Wilde might have been going through with his sexuality, and since homosexuality was frowned upon back then, this was his only way of truly expressing himself. In her journal article, Luljeta Muriqi says that “Basil saying to Dorian something he will regret having said also indicates that he has uttered words he would normally not say to anyone else. Thus, it seems clear that his feelings for Dorian are something new and unfamiliar to him. Presumptions that this is some sort of sexual identity being awakened are easily made”. Although Wilde’s feelings towards Lord Alfred Douglas are nothing new and unfamiliar to him, he wrote explicit letters to Douglas confessing his forbidden love, letters in which he would never show or write to anyone else. It has been reported that Douglas has repeatedly betrayed Wilde by going to male prostitutes, giving them his clothes which often contained the love letters personally sent to him. In the novel, Basil (a representation of Oscar Wilde) had been trying to watch out for Dorian, making sure nothing changed his innocence. However, after Dorian had been introduced to Lord Henry, he continuously ignored Basil’s pleas to avoid him, for he is “a very bad influence over all his friends, with the exception of myself [Basil]’. Dorian stabbing Basil could be a representation of how Wilde had felt when he discovered what Douglas had been doing behind his back.

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Dorian Gray's true picture of Oscar Wilde. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from