The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Image source: Google

Rating: 4.4/5

Author: Oscar Wilde

Pages: 272 pages

Publisher: Harper Press; Reprint edition

Publishing Date: 01 April 2010

Language: English

Genre: Classic fiction

ISBN-10: 0007351054

ISBN-13: 978-0007351053

Cost: Rs. 161 (Paperback), Rs.135 (Hardcover)


The Picture of Dorian Gray (Collins Classics) is gothic fiction written by Oscar Wilde. The story begins on sunny day when Lord Wotton, a man of strong views observes an artist, Basil Hallward, painting the picture of a good looking young man named Dorian Gray. Lord Wotton tells Dorian that beauty is the only and ultimate virtue and as time passes by, he hopes that Dorian's portrait ages instead of him. Dorian worries that he will not remain as beautiful as he is forever. He decides to barter his soul in return for eternal youth and beauty and wants his portrait to age instead of him.

After this, Dorian lives a life of debauchery. The aging of his portrait shows the effect of each sin that he commits on his soul. The first time he realizes that he would not age is when he breaks the heart of a loving girl, Sibyl. On returning home, he sees a slight change in the portrait and understands that his wish has been fulfilled for the next eighteen years, he goes on a journey filled with lust, until he understands the futility of it and begins to despise himself.


Oscar Wilde uses a formal tone in The Picture of Dorian Gray. At the beginning of the book, the narrator is neutral towards the character's ideas and attitudes. However, as the story progresses, the narrator's tone towards the characters becomes increasingly judgmental .

Coming to the characterisation, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde delves into human nature while presenting a thought provoking conflict within the protagonist. There was a specific  development of the characters, like from Dorian's descent to Lord Henry's manipulation. All the women were two-dimensional. They were assisting to develop the male characters further.

This literature explores themes like;

Art as a Mirror: This theme is exemplified by the titular portrait. Dorian Gray's image reflects his conscience and his true self, and serves as a mirror of his soul.

The Art of Living :This theme is expressed most prominently in the character of Lord Henry, and in the "new hedonism" he espouses. Lord Henry openly approaches life as an art form, seeking to sculpt Dorian's personality, and treating even his most casual speeches as dramatic performances.

Vanity as Original Sin: Dorian's physical beauty is his most cherished attribute, and vanity is, as a consequence, his most crippling vice.

The Value of Beauty and Youth: Lord Henry claims to value beauty and youth above all else. It is this belief, when imparted to Dorian, that drives the protagonist to make the wish that ultimately damns him.

Influence and Corruption: Dorian begins the novel as an innocent youth. Under Lord Henry's influence he becomes corrupt, and eventually begins corrupting other youths himself.

Homosexuality: This is the theme that Wilde was alluding to when he wrote of the ‘note of Doom that like a purple thread runs through the cold cloth of Dorian Gray’ in a letter to his young lover, Bosie, following his ruinous court appearances.

Wilde states that "it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”

One of the major philosophical questions raised by this novel is that of where to locate the responsibility for a person's misdeeds. If one engages in a moralistic reading, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ can be seen as a lesson in taking responsibility for one's actions.

Facts related to book:

Fearing the story was indecent, the magazine's editor deleted roughly five hundred words before publication without Wilde's knowledge. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year.

Milestones of the book:

Listed below is the chronological order of release or broadcast:

  • Dorian Grays Portræt (1910) - Directed by Axel Strøm
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1913) - Directed by Phillips Smalley
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1915)  - Directed by Eugene Moore.
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey (1916) - Directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold and Mikhail Doronin
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1916) - Directed by Fred W Durrant; screenplay by Rowland Talbot
  • Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (1917) - Directed by Richard Oswald; screenplay by Richard Oswald
  • Az Élet királya (1918) - Directed by Alfréd Deésy; screenplay by József Pakots
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - Directed by Albert Lewin; screenplay by Albert Lewin
  • Armchair Theatre: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1961) - Directed by Charles Jarrott
  • Golden Showcase: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1961) - Directed by Paul Bogart; screenplay by Jacqueline Babbin and Audrey Maas
  • El Retrato de Dorian Gray (1969): A telenovela produced by Televisa - Directed and produced by Ernesto Alonso
  • Dorian Gray, also known as The Evils of Dorian Gray or The Secret of Dorian Gray (1970) - Directed by Massimo Dallamano; screenplay by Marcello Coscia; Massimo Dallamano and Günter Ebert
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973) - Directed by Glenn Jordan; screenplay by John Tomerlin
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976) - Directed by John Gorrie; screenplay by John Osborne
  • Le Portrait de Dorian Gray (1977) - Directed by Pierre Boutron; screenplay by Pierre Boutron
  • The Sins of Dorian Gray (1983) (made-for-television) - Directed by Tony Maylam; screenplay by Ken August and Peter Lawrence
  • Pact with the Devil, also known as Dorian (2004) - Directed by Allan A. Goldstein; screenplay by Peter Jobin and Ron Raley
  • Dorian (2004) - Written and Directed by Brendan Dougherty Russo
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2004) - Directed by David Rosenbaum; screenplay by David Rosenbaum
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2006) - Directed by Duncan Roy; screenplay by Duncan Roy
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2007) - Directed by Jon Cunningham; screenplay by Jon Cunningham and Deborah Warner
  • The Picture (of Dorian Gray) (2009) - Directed by Jonathan Courtemanche; script by Neal Utterback
  • Dorian Gray (2009) - Directed by Oliver Parker; screenplay by Toby Finlay

About the Author:

Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer and poet born in 1854. He was known for his one-liners and dark sense of humor. He first studied at the famous Trinity College in Dublin and then at Oxford. His parents were influential Dublin intellectuals. He toured USA and Canada and lectured about the renaissance of British Art. In 1890, he wrote his only novel the Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1891, he wrote the famous tragic French play ‘Salome’ which was denied permission to be staged in Britain. In 1895, he wrote the Importance of Being Earnest which is considered to be a masterpiece. He died in 1900.