Wilde moving away from a strictly Christian interpretation
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Author:  Thrillwriter [ Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Wilde moving away from a strictly Christian interpretation

I am probably not the right person to lead a discussion on The picture of Dorian Gray, however, I would like to comment on the novel.

I don't know if you asked yourself why Mr.Wilde didn't give the Devil an active role in his novel-I think the 'Devil' was not present as a character who takes part in events. Goethe and Mikhail Bulgakov gave Devil a key role to act from the very beginning of their works.

I think Wilde was trying to move away from a strictly Christian interpretation. Since we all know the story of Faust, I think we're pre-programmed to just automatically assume Dorian sold his soul to the Devil. But there's little in the actual text that supports that. Whether or not it's the Devil that gives Dorian his eternal youth, the story is about Dorian's psychological decline - not some supernatural scare tactics.

I really truly think you can discuss the book without bringing questions of God and the Devil into it. I think one of the reasons Dorian Gray is such a great novel is because it's one of the earliest to show the sort of internal conflict and psychological decay that marks modern novels. The Devil is NOT Dorian's enemy; Dorian is Dorian's enemy.

Or, if you insist on seeing a Devil figure in the novel, I think you can look no further than Lord Henry. After all, one reading of the novel is that Dorian's decline is Lord Henry's fault. He's the bad influence that first makes Dorian realize his own him his vanity. Dorian is addicted to the man, even though he knows that Lord Henry isn't the best moral compass. I believe there are a few passages where Lord Henry is described in devil-like terms.

I would like to know your thinking on this theme.

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:39 pm ]
Post subject: 

Am I the only one who read The Picture of Dorian Gray? Does no one wish to discuss their interpretation of this classic story? I am shocked!

Author:  Boheme [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Will be reading it

Hello there! I will be reading Dorian Gray but since this discussion is open for March and April, I will be finishing another book I'm currently on (The Dress Lodger - for another discussion group) before getting started on Dorian Gray. Happy reading!

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:24 pm ]
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Wonderful! I can't wait to discuss this marvelous book. Thanks for your reply. I was beginning to think I was on an island all by myself. ;-)

Author:  lexley [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:03 pm ]
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I will also be joining in the discussion. I too have another book before this one. I've skimmed through the first few chapters and can already tell this will be an interesting book!

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:29 pm ]
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Author:  Boheme [ Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:58 pm ]
Post subject:  manuscript of Dorian Gray

Coincidentally, I will be in New York at the end of the month and hope to visit the Morgan Library and Museum, which has in its possession the earliest manuscript of Dorian Gray, as well as a number of other Oscar Wilde manuscripts and letters.

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:08 pm ]
Post subject: 

Oh how fascinating. I hope you will be able to take pictures to share with us.
Have a safe trip.

Author:  MeravTT [ Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wilde moving away from a strictly Christian interpretati

Unfortunately, I haven't finished the book yet, but I would like to contribute as far as can.
I believe the story, among other things, deals with losing ones innocence.
Dorian was living in a sheltered world, a world created by Basil Hallway, in which he is not conflicted by
anything, he is not touched by anything. He is the "body" of a picture.
Basil wants to keep him in such a way in order to get beautiful works done, but eventually causes him to fall
for the first person who approaches him as a human being.
Losing his innocence by opening his mind to ideas that everyone around him kept him from.
I haven't thought about the Devil concept- didn't occur to me. I might think differently when finished with the book.

(Please excuse any grammar mistakes, as English is not my native tongue).

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Sun Mar 22, 2009 2:10 pm ]
Post subject: 

"The supreme vice is shallowness" - Wilde wrote this in De Profundis. Somehow I think The Picture of Dorian Gray's theme is in this quote.

Lord Henry was a shallow person who cares about nothing but external beauty and almost-sadistic pleasure.

He corrupted Dorian and turns him into a shallow person obsessed with something as irrelevant as appearance. So in a sense I think it's to show how shallowness is the most evil of all vices. It stops us from looking deep within and see our soul. Does anyone agree or disagree?

Author:  Lawrence [ Sun Mar 22, 2009 5:14 pm ]
Post subject:  The elephant in the back seat of the volkswagen

Dear Thrillwriter,
Oscar Wilde was homosexual. The picture of Dorian Grey (in my belief), is the example of a person who has to live with a human condition that is an anathema to the society in which he/she lives. His (pervasion), is hidden from public view but the pain of his incompatibility with his society eats his soul. As I say in my essay, to restrict the complex nature of the human being to either male or female based on genitalia is to forfeit the contribution those souls can make to society and condemn them to total and permanent rejection as having any value. Love (chapter 4 ACFTH) Lawrence

Author:  Thrillwriter [ Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:59 pm ]
Post subject: 


I don't see what one's sexual preference has to do with the story itself. Although, I do get that connotation in reading the story. I felt it was more of an underlying detail. The Picture of Dorian Gray is yet another novel portraying evil. The theme is very much reflected by the book's setting, plot structure and characterization. It shows how individuals can slowly deteriorate because of the evil lying within themselves. The evil of this book is the evil created by one's self and thrusted upon one's self. The power of greed and selfishness take over Dorian Gray and create an ugly evil side to him. The mid eighteenth century was a very influential era, especially in England. This period judged much upon appearance and status. Dorian was a very wealthy, intelligent man with a very high status. He knew the very influential and rich people in his town as well. His beauty charmed the world. Basil was inspired to draw his portrait in order to preserve his beauty and youth. Dorian recognized that as long as he remained young he would be handsome. He dreaded the day that he would age slightly and starts to form wrinkles and such ugly (in Dorian's opinion) ugly things. He believed that that day would deprive him of triumphs that would result in him being miserable. The degree of evil within Dorian increases as the plot develops. By trading his soul for his youth, Dorian rids of the good inside of himself. The plot proves to us that evil does actually lie within an individual. From the moment that he becomes forever young he begins to deteriorate. Even once he reached his epiphany and saw his evil through the portrait he simply denied seeing it and continued his malicious deeds. The characterization of the book is one of the most important elements of this book. Dorian begins by being a very naïve lad. He is very easily influenced by others especially his two new good friends; Basil and Lord Henry. Basil, the painter of the portrait, influenced Dorian in more of a good, honest way. While Lord Henry, although not being evil himself, gave him a more evil insight on life. Both of them changed his life forever. How little they both knew what went on inside that man. Basil does not have any real direct influence on the youngster; without him the lad would have never been caught in his evil destiny. Basil was an inspired artist when he first met Dorian. He admitted that his picture of Dorian was the best picture he ever painted. To him it was more than a painting; it was as if he created another life. He put himself into it. He did not know that he was creating his own murder when he made the painting. He was always a good friend to Dorian. When Dorian talked about ageing being such a dreadful thing, something worth killing yourself for, Basil tried to calm him down. At the same time, Lord Henry was more of a directly harmful influence on Dorian. Within the couple of minutes in which he lectured Dorian about youth and living, he developed a whole other side to him. He had such a big cynical impact on Dorian and yet he did not realize it. It was because of him that Mr. Dorian Gray decided that he would like to remain young and exquisite. He is also the one who brings out Dorian's first bad deed with Sibyl Vane. With a multitude of different influences around Dorian Gray, he is still the one to blame for all his wrong doings. His character is a tragic one, much like Macbeth's. His flaw was excessive ambition. Even once he knew he was doing something wrong he could not control himself. He even yearned for self reformation but could not make it possible. He started off as one of the kindest, most modest and innocent men ever. That all changed once he traded his soul for his youth with the painting. He entered a life of gradual dissipation. It became easier and easier for him to sin because he always had a Maginot line; that he does not have a soul. In my opinion that was a poor excuse because his greediness and selfishness began before he abandoned his soul. His first act of covetousness was when he craved to be infinitely young. He wanted to be different, to be superior to others, to have something that the whole world would be envious of. He believed that to live a simple life was merely to live at all. When he first started his life of debauchery his uneasy conscious made him avoid those he knew. Although once he became regulated to a life of degradation he no longer cared what others thought of him. This is one of the biggest ironies of the story; that he no longer cared what people think of him. He originally wanted to stay young and lovely so others would recognize his greatness so he may still be able to do audacious things. His pride of individualism was half of his fascination of evil. The author was very successful in finding the right means to represent the evil in this book. The different aspects of the book made this possible. In Dorian's attempt to redeem himself he must terminate his life. The book ends on more of a good note than a bad; that there is hope in stopping evil, we just have to have a want for it.

Author:  Lawrence [ Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:30 pm ]
Post subject: 

I don't see what one's sexual preference has to do with the story itself.

Your wonderful review of the story Wilde wrote reveals to my eyes a subliminal projection of his own pain in living a closeted life in that era onto his characters using conventional "sins" because he couldn't use his secret sin. I'm not saying my conclusion is accurate. It is simply a different interpretation of the novel.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in an American magazine in 1890 to a storm of critical protest. He expanded the story and had it published in book form the following year. Its implied homoerotic theme was considered very immoral by the Victorians and played a considerable part in his later legal trials. In the summer of 1891, Oscar met Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was well acquainted with Oscar's novel “Dorian Gray” and was an undergraduate at Oxford. They soon became lovers and were inseparable until Wilde's arrest four years later. In April 1895, Oscar sued Bosie's father for libel as the Marquis had accused him of homosexuality. Oscar withdrew his case but was himself arrested and convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years hard labor. Constance took the children to Switzerland and reverted to an old family name, “Holland.”

Upon his release, Oscar wrote “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a response to the agony he experienced in prison. It was published shortly before Constance's death in 1898. He and Bosie reunited briefly, but Oscar mostly spent the last three years of his life wandering Europe, staying with friends and living in cheap hotels. Sadly, he was unable to rekindle his creative fires. When a recurrent ear infection became serious several years later, meningitis set in, and Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900." [/quote]

This quote if from the official Oscar Wilde site.

Author:  Boheme [ Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Just got the book from the library

and I can't wait to read it! Perhaps I shouldn't have read your discussions yet, but couldn't help it :smile:

I had assumed that Wilde's homosexuality would be one of the themes he'd deal with in Dorian Gray, albeit in a roundabout way, but I am not sure of that anymore after reading your posts Thrillwriter. Guess I shouldn't be assuming things before reading the book! I hope to start it this week on my way to New York, and hopefully when I'm at the Morgan Museum there will be some of Wilde's notes jotted in the margins of the Dorian Gray manuscript. That would be simply fascinating. I'll be sure to keep you posted, plus make my own small contribution to the discussion.

Author:  Raving Lunatic [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:45 am ]
Post subject: 

I would like to apologize as well. I voted for this title and have not had a chance to read it. I am in the process of moving houses and time is not a luxury I have. I have managed to read a bit of the first chapter. Basil and Lord Henry seem like they are very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to character. Basil, so far from what I have read, seems to be a caring and a person who sees the good in all. However, Lord Henry seems to be self-serving and callous. The conversation that they have about Lord Henry's life is just one example of how opposite they truly are.

As soon as things settle, I will be back to further discuss this. Happy Reading!

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