The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Trevor Kinblom

AP English

The Picture of Dorian Gray Essay


Relevance a novel has to today’s society does not hinge on the year that the book was written, but if the novel’s topic is still pertinent to the problems society faces.  This is the case for Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Even though Dorian Gray was first published in, 1891 over a hundred years ago several of the evils of society Wilde explores in Dorian Gray still exist today.  Two of society’s downfalls that Wilde brings to light in Dorian Gray are the topic of homosexuality and the veneration of youth and beauty.  Wilde was a homosexual himself when he wrote this book; and being a homosexual at the time was outlawed.  Wilde used the topic of homosexuality in Dorian Gray to show Victorian society that homosexuality was more wide spread than people would admit and that homosexuals are people too.  The topic on homosexuality is still relevant today because lawmakers are constantly debating on how homosexual rights and liberties.  Wilde’s view on the veneration of youth and beauty also holds true today, there are always people buying products that are marketed as ‘beautifying creams’ and ‘wrinkle removers’, people also will have plastic surgery performed to remove deformities or the toll aging has taken on their body.  Those are just two ways out of several that people today use to help prevent aging and to hold on to their youth and beauty for as long as possible.  

        Wilde uses different quotes in The Picture of Dorian Gray to show how homosexuals are treated by society.  “I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a summer's day.”  This is a quote taken from Basil in the novel and can be interpreted to mean that in life, Wilde was the “flower” and society is the man who uses the flower as “decoration”.  Wilde was saying that if you are homosexual you will be tolerated as long as you are useful and do not express your sexual preference.  In addition, Wilde was saying that gays are flaunted and used, just like an “ornament for a summer’s day”, when it was not a summer’s day, or a good times society will just put you away and forget that you exist.  Just as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, there were gay men who committed themselves to a mental hospital because they were gay.  According to society in which the book was, set being gay was not acceptable and if someone was gay, there had to be a mental dysfunction present.  Kasey like Wilde was trying to show society its downfalls relating to the treatment of gays.  Kasey used a different approach than Wilde, Kasey’s approach to addressing the mistreatment of gays is a more pertinent approach to today’s society, than Wilde’s approach.  

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Wilde’s approach to showing the mistreatment of homosexuals could have been improved.  The two main characters in Dorian Gray: Dorian, and Lord Henry, who were portrayed as homosexuals in the novel, were also gluttons, drug abusers, and murders.  This portrayal could have been harmful to the gays of the time because very little was known about the homosexual lifestyle at the time and society at the time might have applied the portrayal of Dorian and Lord Henry to the gays at that time.  It would be logical to think if Wilde wanted to help the gays of the time, he ...

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