Novel Analysis: the Picture of Dorian Gray

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Provide an in-depth analysis of “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The piece will cover key themes like aestheticism, moral duplicity, and the supernatural. It will also discuss character development, narrative style, and the novel’s critical reception, along with Wilde’s commentary on art and society. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about Analysis.

Category: Analysis
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Pages:  3
Words:  764
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The main idea of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” is to show us the superiority of the inner self of us over the outer one. It is dangerous to judge people only by their face, without consideration of inner world. Whatever amazing beauty of the face is, it can never replace the beauty of the soul. It warns that the ugliness of thought and heart kills the flesh, makes the charm of forms lifeless. Even eternal youth will not bring happiness to inner ugliness.

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One of the most important moral laws is not to raise the visible into the status of the only significant. If a person is beautiful, this does not mean that his soul corresponds to the appearance. On the contrary, many handsome men are selfish and far from smart, but society continues to value them more than people gifted with genuine virtues. This kind of worship leads to absurd love of heartless and empty mannequins, while truly beautiful personalities remain in the shadow. Basil was one of the victims of that blind love for beauty. “Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candor of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil worshipped him” (description of Dorian appearance). Oscar Wilde was trying to explain how ridiculous Victorian era was. People were keeping good faces while couldn’t remain good behavior behind the close doors. “Society – civilized society, at least – is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possession of a good chef”.

Sybil Vane was killed by falling in love with beauty and admiration for it. The main character, who dive into the vicious world of pleasure, fell from his own hand too. The moral of the story is that any absolute worship carries danger. You can love, create, enjoy, but at the same time leave room for realistic reflection of oneself actions. The characters are impulsive, this is their misfortune. After the break up, Sybil kills himself, Dorian, with triumphant rage, throws himself at the picture with a knife. They all became victims of their ideals. Within reasonable limits, skepticism helps people not to make such mistakes. So, the author gives Lord Henry as a perfect example of that. He is the only character that doesn’t get carried away with idealism and stays happy throughout the whole story.

The novel show the problem of seeing beauty and ugly. These two extremes helps us in understanding the integrity of this world. To the “beautiful” belongs the tragic and pure love of the actress Sybil, Basil’s sincere affection for the young man and, of course, the main character himself, as the embodiment of genuine beauty. The ‘ugly’ is a soul of Dorian. With every crime, it decays losing sensitivity and the capacity for compassion. And all these changes takes on a magical canvas, turning the person depicted on it into an ugly old man. But society is blind to the thin lines between beauty and ugly, it sees only the external attributes of personality, completely forgetting about the internal ones. Everybody knows about Dorian life, but still they don’t stop to love and respect him. Some people are only cowardly afraid of losing their fake virtue, so they do not accept him to official events. The lack of intelligibility of people, their hypocrisy and cowardice are another big problems pointed in the novel. Lady Narborough is a proof of the society judging only by appearance. ‘Don’t tell me that you have exhausted life. When a man says that one knows that life has exhausted him. Lord Henry is very wicked, and I sometimes wish that I had been; but you are made to be good — you look so good.’ So, till Dorian looks good nobody would question his morals, since beautiful people “can’t” be bad.

In his work, Oscar Wilde describes the danger of separating ethical and aesthetic principles. In order to feel and enjoy beauty, and at the same time save your face and virtue, you must always observe moral norms and not bring yourself to fanaticism, even if there is eternal life in reserve. 

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Novel Analysis: The Picture of Dorian Gray. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from