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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title  ·  The Picture of Dorian Gray

author  · Oscar Wilde

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Gothic; philosophical; comedy of manners

language  · English

time and place written  · 1890, London

date of first publication  · The first edition of the novel was published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. A second edition, complete with six additional chapters, was published the following year.

publisher · The 1891 edition was published by Ward, Lock & Company.

narrator  · The narrator is anonymous.

point of view  · The point of view is third person, omniscient. The narrator chronicles both the objective or external world and the subjective or internal thoughts and feelings of the characters. There is one short paragraph where a first-person point of view becomes apparent; in this section, Wilde becomes the narrator.

tone  · Gothic (dark, supernatural); sardonic; comedic

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · 1890s

setting (place)  · London, England

protagonist  · Dorian Gray

major conflict  · Dorian Gray, having promised his soul in order to live a life of perpetual youth, must try to reconcile himself to the bodily decay and dissipation that are recorded in his portrait.

rising action  · Dorian notices the change in his portrait after ending his affair with Sibyl Vane; he commits himself wholly to the “yellow book” and indulges his fancy without regard for his reputation; the discrepancy between his outer purity and his inner depravity surges.

climax  · Dorian kills Basil Hallward.

falling action  · Dorian descends into London’s opium dens; he attempts to express remorse to Lord Henry; he stabs his portrait, thereby killing himself.

themes  · The purpose of art; the supremacy of youth and beauty; the surface nature of society; the negative consequences of influence

motifs  · The color white; the picture of Dorian Gray; homoerotic male relationships

symbols  · The opium den; James Vane; the yellow book

foreshadowing  · The illegitimacy of Sibyl and James, as well as Sibyl’s portrayal of Juliet from Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, foreshadow the doomed nature of Sibyl’s relationship with Dorian Gray.

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*Spoiler*

by Aecio, April 14, 2013

In the end of the book, when Dorian stabs his cursed picture: Does it mean his soul is pure again, for his dead body now endures his age and sins while the picture that represented his soul is young again, or it's just about his curse being broken?

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41 out of 46 people found this helpful

Sparknotes is pissing me off today

by GrammarJunkie18, April 20, 2014

First of all, there are only 3 important characters in this book. They probably either represent the id, the ego, and the superego (obviously Lord Henry being the id, Dorian Gray being the ego, and Basil being the superego) or represent Dorian as a normal person with Lord Henry as the devil and Basil the voice of reason. I can't believe you're not even going to discuss this possibility at all!

Second of all, one of the major themes of the novel is paradoxes. Obviously. I mean, that's what Lord Henry does, starting with his very first ... Read more

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40 out of 44 people found this helpful

Selling his soul

by estefy913, April 29, 2014

Would Lord Henry, or maybe the subject of "influence", play the part of the devil in a sense since he did sell his soul? I am having difficulty determining who or what he sold his soul to?

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1 out of 2 people found this helpful

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