Oscar Wilde, who was an Irish poet and writer, lived between 1854 and 1900. He was one of the most popular playwrights in London after writing several works. His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is his most famous work of art, which he is remembered for even today, but many critics argue that he wrote the novel from a psychoanalytic point of view (Gomel 75). According to some critics, literature should boost morality within society and not immorality.
This novel, according to them, did not hold on to the values of society (Kennedy and Gioia 98). His intellectualism can be directly associated with his parents who had achieved much of it by the time he was born. Due to the influence he had from his intellectual parents, he was able to follow suit, making him an excellent student, especially during his time in the university, where he used to read widely.
His interests were based on aesthetic theme and, after his university education, he moved to London to further his career on the same subject (Gray 13; Riquelme 87). Due to his love of beauty, he published several poems, dialogues and essays that bring out his interests in beauty. His most famous work, a novel titled The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published in 1890, and it expresses his interests more precisely since he is able to combine the beauty he likes with wider social themes.
Apart from this novel, he wrote several others, including Salome and the Importance of being Earnet, which was also a masterpiece, among others. He was imprisoned for two years when he assaulted a man, making him a homosexual. Nevertheless, in prison, he did not stop being a writer. He wrote one book while in jail and when he was out, he left for Paris, where he died at the age of forty-six (McKenna 29; Wilde 14).
Some critics have argued that Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray from a psychoanalytic viewpoint, defining his life, rather than how he would have loved his life to be during his existence on the earth. This paper analyzes this claim and shows whether there was some secret connection between Wilde and his characters.
Biography about Oscar Wilde
As an introduction to a later version of the novel, Wilde wrote a quote that can be translated to mean that he believed that the character, Basil Hallward, is what he thought he was. According to him, the world thinks he is Lord Henry, yet another character in the novel, while Gray is the character that carries the title of the novel, is what Wilde would like to be in other times. From this quote, several critics have argued in and out of favor with Wilde. Some critics have, however, tried to show Wilde’s connection with all these characters.
As the novel begins, we are introduced to Basil, who is an artist, and he is first meeting Gray, a very beautiful young man. The beauty of Dorian Gray triggers Basil’s artistic imagination and he decides to draw him. He completes the portrait of Dorian as he is, and he introduces Gray to Lord Henry, who is a friend of his that he thinks is not morally upright (Riquelme 27). He warns Henry against influencing Gray, but this does not work out as Henry does exactly what he does the contrary.
Lord Henry affirms his desire to have Gray’s portrait, but Basil gives it to Gray, who curses it, believing that over time, it was going to remind him of his lost beauty. He was, however, granted his wish that the portrait will age, instead of him and when he does anything wrong, it would affect the portrait and not him. Gray becomes a follower of Henry, who is clearly misleading him and the morally upright Gray changes to an immoral person, who is no longer feeling guilty about the situation.
During this time, he falls in love with a beautiful actress that has never fallen in love with anybody else, but her acting. The actress feels so good to have fallen in love with the charming man and she decides to quit acting to concentrate more on the new relationship. Gray breaks her heart by saying that her only attraction was in the theater, but out of it, he cannot look at her twice. As a result of this, the actress commits suicide and her brother swears to revenge (Joseph 8).
Gray goes home after the heartbreak and discovers that the portrait had changed, and it was no longer beautiful. He decides to go back and apologize, but it is too late. He hides the portrait in a place that nobody else will see it, and notice the changes and continue with his immoral life. Later, he kills several people.
When he cannot hold onto this life anymore, he kills Basil and stabs the portrait. He dies on behalf of the portrait. The portrait becomes young and beautiful again, and when people come into the room, they found Dorian Gray’s body hoary and stabbed.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The question that most critics would ask when analyzing the characters of this novel would be to determine whether they are used symbolically to represent Wilde and his life or to represent some other aspects in the real world. When critically analyzing Gray, the central character of the novel that is charming and morally upright, one cannot stop admiring him. However, this changes as the plot progresses, making the young man ugly from inside due to the influence by Henry and, to some extent, by Basil.
As the novel progresses, he does not change physically, but also in his worldview, whereby he no longer believes that sin can be seen on one’s face. After his wish is granted, he is able to do what he has always wished. Nonetheless, the feeling does not persist for long. Readers can see him trying to change his life after he discovers that this life cannot go on like this in the long-term. He resolves that the only way to cleanse himself is by destroying the portrait, and this marks the end of his life.
Some critics argue that all these have a direct connection with Wilde in one way or another. From the quote discussed above, Wilde says that Gray is the person that he would wish to be in another life. In real life, Wilde is a homosexual. He is even convicted of the act. He lives a life in which he cannot not reveal his true feelings to society because cultural values do not allow among people.
Just like Gray, he hides his actions in the portrait. Wilde has to hide his real feelings to escape criticism from other members of society. Wilde marries at an advanced age, showing that he cannot hide his true self. He wishes he could engage in homosexual acts without hiding from people (Gray76).
Connection between Oscar Wilde and Gray
From the novel, Gray gets the portrait that would suffer on his behalf. He goes full blast to what he had wished, which are Wilde’s wishes to be like Gray in another life. This means that he would like to live without people seeing the differences in his life, just like how Gray lives in the novel.
From the story, Gray has some given some hints regarding homosexuality, which are illustrated due to the fact that he could get any woman he wanted to make him look for more immoral, but attain pleasure, which might have been homosexuality (Joseph12). His homosexuality is not directly portrayed in the book, but Wilde hints at it severally, such as when Basil comes to ask Gray about the rumors he is hearing about Gray and Gray’s fatal relationship with young men.
From this discussion, it is clear that Wilde’s declaration of wanting to be Gray in the next life was in line with his homosexuality behavior, which he could not openly practice. Apart from Gray, the other principal characters in the novel have a connection with Wilde, though not a direct one. Wilde declares that Basil is him in a real life as an artist. This might be true as we see Basil obsessed with beauty, just like Wilde. Homosexuality is also debatable in the connection between the two persons.
Basil admires Gray so much that he cannot believe anything negative about him. The admiration, to some extent, shows some signs of homosexuality, associating the piece of information with the author. Wilde is Lord Henry in real life, which is according to his quote. Henry seduces a young man, Gray, and this is what Wilde is convicted of in court.
In conclusion, Wilde uses literature the way it should be used, i.e., to reflect happenings society and most importantly to express his feelings. His creation of Gray as a character in his book can be seen as his fantasy since he declares this in his quote of his wish.
Gomel, Elana. “Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the (Un) Death of the Author.” Narrative 12.1 (2003): 74-92. Print.
Joseph, Paul. Oscar Wilde and his characters (The Picture of Dorain Gray). 2013. Web.
Kennedy, Joseph., and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Sage, Hoboken, NJ: (2007). Print.
McKenna, Neil. The secret life of Oscar Wilde. London, United Kingdom: Basic Books, 2006. Print.
Riquelme, Paul. “Oscar Wilde’s Aesthetic Gothic: Walter Pater, Dark Enlightenment, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 46.3 (2000): 609-631. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. Three Tials: Oscar Wilde Goes to Court 1985. 2013. Web.