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Oscar Wilde: was he ahead of his time?

A Picture of Dorian Gray

I’ve seen Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray described as Gothic fiction. It could also be classified as fantasy today.

Oscar Wilde sex quote


Dorian Gray is enthralled by his own exquisite portrait painted by his friend Basil Hallward. Realising his good looks would fade as he grows older, Dorian Gray expresses the desire to sell his soul (to the Devil ?)  to ensure that the portrait, rather than he, will age and fade.

Eternal youth and beauty

After exchanging his soul for eternal youth and beauty, Lord Henry Wotton draws Dorian into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. This is probably a reflection of Oscar Wilde’s life. Married with a wife but is secretly gay.

Crime and excess

As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and excess, his portrait becomes an old and evil face, disfigured by Dorian Gray’s sinful ways.

As the novel moves through time, Dorian is still young and fresh-faced, but his portrait looks meaner and older than ever. When Dorian shows the picture to Basil Hallward, the artist who painted it and worshipped Dorian’s beauty, Hallward is shocked and appalled. Dorian stabs Basil to death. Dorian then slashes the painting with the knife that killed Basil. The destruction of the image ends Dorian’s life.  By destroying the painting, Dorian commits suicide.

So would the story be classified as fantasy today?

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