The Picture of Dorian Gray

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words: The Role of Art in The Picture of Dorian Gray College

Throughout history, art has played a major role in portraying the structure of society and the different roles people play in it. In Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, art seems to dictate the life of young Dorian Gray to the point of moral insanity, and eventually death. In the preface of the novel, though, Wilde states that “All art is quite useless.” This statement is refuted as the novel progresses, as it becomes clear that art indeed does have the ability to control one’s actions and define one’s overall personal identity. Because of the effect the portrait of Dorian Gray has on its subject matter, it is revealed that art certainly plays an important role in the life of its spectators.

There are several statements made by characters throughout the novel that seem to refute claims made in the preface of the novel. One such statement is made in chapter seven, as Dorian contemplates the relationship between his actual life and the life portrayed by the portrait: “But the picture? What was he to say of that? It held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul? Would he ever look at it again?” (99). Through this psychological...

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