Reflections of the Author's Personality in Different Characters of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wild

Reflections of the Author's Personality in Different Characters of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wild

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde remains an enigma in literary circles. Is it a scathing commentary about the philistinism of the Victorian time period? Is it a morality tale against allowing the influence of others to overcome one’s own individualism? Is it a criticism of a society that values youth and beauty over morality and substance? All of these have been the focus of scholarly inquiry in the century since the novel’s release. However, its most fascinating line of examination involves the author himself. The Picture of Dorian Gray is of particular interest as a an autobiographical portrait of the author in three alter egos, and provided eerie foreshadowing of Wilde’s own life even as the author argued that art did not mirror life.
Wilde is quoted as saying in regard to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps.” (Wilde, Letters 352) Later, Wilde is said to have elaborated that “Hallward represents suffering and a sacrificed artist; Lord Henry symbolizes a mature philosopher and wit; Dorian is equivalent to a youthful aesthete-about-town…” (Stayley 320) It is interesting to examine these statements in light of the characters in the story, and if they are autobiographical, what that says about Wilde’s real life.
Basil Hallward is how Wilde viewed himself. The character is a talented but common artist, conventional in his morality, and a person of caring, nature. He falls in love with the beautiful, vapid, vain Dorian Gray, and is instantly overcome by his feelings, calling them “idolatry” (Wilde, Reader 16). He insists that he can never show the portrait he has painted of Dorian, because, “I have...

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