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Free Study Guide-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde-Free BookNotes
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THEMES

Main Theme

The main theme of The Picture of Dorian Gray is the relationship between beauty and morality. Oscar Wilde plays on the Renaissance idea of the correspondence between the physical and spiritual realms: beautiful people are moral people; ugly people are immoral people. His twist on this theme is in his use of the magical contrivance of the portrait. The portrait of Dorian Gray bears all the ugliness and age of sin while Dorian himself remains young and beautiful no matter what he does. The portrait even holds Dorianís guilty conscience, at least until he kills Basil Hallward.


Minor Theme

The minor theme of the novel is the idea of the amorality of art. If something is beautiful, it is not confined to the realm of morality and immorality. It exists on its own merits. This idea is expressed by Lord Henry in its decadent aspect and by Basil Hallward in its idealistic aspect. Dorian Gray plays it out in his life.

MOOD

The mood of the novel is a counterbalance between the witty, ironical world view of Lord Henry and the earnest and straightforward world view of Basil Hallward. Dorian Gray goes back and forth between these two poles. The novel does too. At times, it is the world of urbane wit making light of the moral earnestness of philanthropists. At times, it is the melodramatic world of lurid opium dens and tortured suicides.

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