The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Art of Immorality: Character Fate and Morality in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

Murder, sex, scandal, and drug abuse-all of these sins of the main character thread together to shape Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, a dark tale of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth while his portrait bears the scars of his crimes. However, before Wilde's readers plunge into this dark immorality, they encounter the novel's preface, where Wilde claims that "all art is quite useless" and "there is no such thing as an immoral or a moral book" (Wilde 3-4). These statements support Wilde's position as a key player in the Aesthetic Movement, advocating "art for art's sake." They also demonstrate his position that morality simply has no place in art. Yet despite all of this, many critics have attempted to impose a moral on this novel. In the following paper I will examine both the novel and the arguments of those critics to determine whether or not Wilde presents his readers with a lesson in this particular piece of art.

There is little argument among contemporary critics that The Picture of Dorian Gray is truly a literary masterpiece. A 1990 review of the novel notes that "despite the dark theme, it gives us the peculiarly Wildean brand of flashing wit...

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