Otázka: Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish writer and poet, but from 1878 he lived in England and then travelled to the continent. He is well known for his plays, epigrams and others, but also for his one-liners.
Wilde was a son of Irish eye and ear surgeon, but his father also wrote books about Irish archaeology and was considered to be a philanthropist. Wilde´s mother was active in literature as well; she wrote poetry for “Young Irelanders” and was Irish nationalist.
As a child Wilde was educated at home and became fluent in French and German. His higher education he completed at the Trinity College Dublin (1871-1874), where he read Greats and also met Bram Stoker. Then he continued in studying at Magdalen College Oxford (1874-1878).
In 1878 he returned to Ireland and found out that his childhood “love” Florence Balcombe became engaged to B. Stoker. So, he decided to go to England. From that point he visited Ireland only twice.
He spent 1880´s in London, Canada and in the USA where he was giving lectures on aesthetic values. Then he returned to London and worked as a journalist. He also became well known social figure. 1884 was the year when Wilde married Constance Lloyd; they had two sons Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886).
Another big change came when Wilde met Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. They started a homosexual relationship, which was illegal in that time in Britain. In 1895 Wilde as accused of sodomy and sentenced for two years of hard labour. When he was released he went to the continent where he travelled and then settled in Paris where he died.
Picture of Dorian Gray is the only novel Oscar Wilde wrote. It was published in 1890 in a magazine in the USA. This edition was censored by the publisher without Wilde even knowing it, but still it caused an outrage in the society. The second edition was published in 1891 with adjustments of controversial parts and the Preface, which tried to defend the novel.
Wilde once said that the main man characters a bit reflect him “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”
Dorian Gray was a handsome young man who let Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton, a decadent dandy with hedonistic views, to influence his life. We first meet Dorian as he is painted by Basil Hallward, for who is Dorian something like a “muse”. Basil is also the person that introduces Dorian to Harry. Harry influence grows stronger and strong and Gray change his style of life, by following the ways of new hedonism. Dorian is afraid of losing his beauty and youth and courses his new portrait for being so nice. He also wants to pledge his soul only if the painting can bear his aging instead of him.
Later Dorian falls in love with a poor young actress Sibyl Vane. She calls him “Prince Charming”, but her brother James doesn´t share her point of view and warns her. With her love for Dorian she loses her ability to act, to pretend the love on stage. Dorian realize that he loved her mostly for that ability of acting and that he is no longer interested in her – he breaks up the engagement. That has a devastating effect on Sibyl and she commits a suicide. After the break up with Sibyl Dorian goes home, where he finds out that the painting has changed. He realizes that his previous wish came true; he decides to hide the canvas.
After 18 years he spends without aging and with really decadent style of life, the rumours about Dorian are spreading in London. Basil comes to the Gray´s house to confront him. The two of them argue and Dorian shows Basil the portrait – now hideous, because of his sins and style of life. Then Dorian kills Basil and blackmails another friend to help him get rid of the body.
Night after the murder he goes to the opium den where he accidently meet brother of Sybil, who wants to kill him, but Dorian saves himself by saying he is too young to have affair with James´s sister. Then Gray escapes to his estate, but Vane goes there as well and is accidently killed by the hunting party. Dorian is troubled by his conscience and in fury he picks up a knife (the same one he used to kill Basil) and stabs the portrait. This action kills Dorian Gray and when his servants come they can say it´s Gray just thanks to his jewellery, because he is horribly wrinkled and disfigured. But the painting looks beautiful again.