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The Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a thought-provoking novel that vacillates between ambling, seemingly directionless conversation and a riveting narrative thread that eventually bubbles up to the surface with the intensity of a volcanic eruption. The Picture of Dorian Gray, though not much more than a century old, has already been deemed a “classic” by literature-lovers, and after reading the book, I can understand its status. Wilde’s command of the English language is almost unparalleled in recent literature.

Warning – Spoilers Follow

Here’s the gist of the book. Dorian Gray is a young man whose physical appearance is handsome and innocent. An aspiring artist paints a beautiful portrait of Dorian. Dorian wishes that he always look like his youthful appearance in the portrait. The wish comes true. Dorian remains the same – youthful and charming, but the portrait begins to transform itself into the image of his soul.

When Dorian embraces a life of hedonism, he uses his good looks and charm to obtain whatever he desires in life. His insensitivity drives a friend to suicide. The evil desires of his heart eventually cause him to murder a friend in cold blood. Over a period of twenty years, Dorian becomes a monster on the inside (reflected by the portrait of his soul) even as he remains youthful and innocent on the outside.

Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality is no secret, and the reader can easily discern certain homosexual overtones in the book (especially at the beginning). Perhaps Wilde’s subtle innuendoes of homosexuality have made his works so appealing to lovers of literature who tend to sympathize and approve of homosexual behavior.

Upon reading Dorian Gray, however, I could not help but notice how the lifestyle of hedonism is so implicitly condemned by the narrative’s outcome. If Dorian’s hedonism includes sexual relationships with men as well as with women (and Wilde does hint at this), then homosexuality comes under the same umbrella as the rest of Dorian’s sinful passions. One can hardly characterize The Picture of Dorian Gray as a pro-homosexual book.

Readers of this blog will find the picture of depravity in Dorian Gray to be intriguing. Throughout the story, Dorian, even in his hedonism, acts in a manner that forces the reader to desire justice and redemption. The book’s end emphasizes the need for punishment and retribution – pointing at death as the wages of sin.

What does the life of unbridled hedonism look like? What does it do to the soul? What happens to the human being who seeks to fulfill his every passion and desire? How does sin affect us physically? Do we age because we sin? These and more are the questions that Oscar Wilde raises in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog


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9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray”

  1. Kyle French says:

    I actually have some doubts about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality. The reason we “know” that he was a homosexual is because he was accused of it, sued for libel, and lost the suit. In other words, Wilde himself didn’t care to be known as a homosexual. It may have been that he lost his suit because the libel was true. It may also have been because the guy he was suing had nearly unlimited funds and was able twist the system and make his accusation stick.

  2. Brannon says:

    Trevin,
    Perfect critique of a great book.

  3. Brenn says:

    Thanks for this blog!

  4. Andy Deliana says:

    What does the life of unbridled hedonism look like? What does it do to the soul? What happens to the human being who seeks to fulfill his every passion and desire? How does sin affect us physically? Do we age because we sin?

    The answer to the questions should be seen on Lord Henry’s comments of life, love and people.
    Those turments us since our first sin! Love after youth starts having a menaing, a different one that we ever believe!

  5. Daniel says:

    That’s a very interesting thought, one that probably merits further investigation. I’m currently writing a paper on Wilde and this idea certainly adds an interesting twist. Do you have any sources that indicate that Wilde was not homosexual?

  6. Grace says:

    Actually, the evidence against him at the trial was pretty good: there was a whole list of young, male witnesses paraded against him, and while Wilde denied having commited sodomy, he admitted to having had close personal relationships with all of them.

    He also basically admits outright to being a homosexual in /De Profundis,/ which he writes in jail – in many ways his statement of rejecting society.

  7. Madonna says:

    Kyle

    It is well documented that Oscar Wilde was in fact a homosexual. You didn’t want people knowing in the outside world that you were gay as it was an offense punishable by goal and being kicked out of your social standing which was everything in those days. People accepted who you were but you weren’t suppose to allude to it or waive it in people’s faces. You are trying to put modern day values on time gone by where it just does not equate.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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