The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) Philosophical Novel (Original Version) - Oscar Wilde Summary
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde, first published complete in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. The magazine's editor feared the story was indecent, and without Wilde's knowledge, deleted roughly five hundred words before publication. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding the public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year. The longer and revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray published in book form in 1891 featured an aphoristic preface-a defence of the artist's rights and of art for art's sake-based in part on his press defences of the novel the previous year. The content, style, and presentation of the preface made it famous in its own right, as a literary and artistic manifesto. In April 1891, the publishing firm of Ward, Lock and Company, who had distributed the shorter, more inflammatory, magazine version in England the previous year, published the revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The only novel written by Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray exists in several versions: the 1890 magazine edition (in 13 Chapters), with important material deleted before publication by the magazine's editor, J. M. Stoddart; the "uncensored" version submitted to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for publication (also in 13 chapters), with all of Wilde's original material intact, first published in 2011 by Harvard University Press; and the 1891 book edition (in 20 Chapters). As literature of the 19th century, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an example of Gothic fiction with strong themes interpreted from Faust The Picture of Dorian Gray begins on a beautiful summer day in Victorian era England, where Lord Henry Wotton, an opinionated man, is observing the sensitive artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of Dorian Gray, a handsome young man who is Basil's ultimate muse. While sitting for the painting, Dorian listens to Lord Henry espousing his hedonistic world view, and begins to think that beauty is the only aspect of life worth pursuing. This prompts Dorian to wish that the painted image of himself would age in his stead. Under the hedonist influence of Lord Henry, Dorian fully explores his sensuality. He discovers the actress Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare plays in a dingy, working-class theatre. Dorian approaches and courts her, and soon proposes marriage. The enamoured Sibyl calls him "Prince Charming," and swoons with the happiness of being loved, but her protective brother, James, a sailor, warns that if "Prince Charming" harms her, he will kill Dorian Gray. Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, whose only knowledge of love was love of the theatre, forgoes her acting career for the experience of true love with Dorian Gray. Disheartened at her quitting the stage, Dorian rejects Sibyl, telling her that acting was her beauty; without that, she no longer interests him. On returning home, Dorian notices that the portrait has changed; his wish has come true, and the man in the portrait bears a subtle sneer of cruelty.