Oscar Wilde as Dorian Gray

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Oscar Wilde as Dorian Gray
‘I have put too much of myself in it’ (Wilde 12), commented Basil Hallward, a fictional artist, about his newly completed masterpiece. Just like Oscar Wilde, the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890, revised 1891), who put so much of his life into his novel; his experience, surroundings, and the global happenings of his time, strongly influenced the production of the speculative, philosophical, gothic novel. The author’s homosexuality, the ridiculous social standards of Victorian England, and the Aesthetic Movement throughout Europe in the late 19th century, gravely inspired the creation of the Faustian fable. Oscar Wilde’s most well-known literary work – The Picture of Dorian Gray – had been greatly affected by his personal life, the environment he lived in, and the world during his time. Homosexuality, by definition, is the sexual attraction to one’s own gender. Oscar Wilde’s unique sex life had roused numerous debates about his sexual orientation, but many came to a consensus that Oscar Wilde was homosexual. Most biographers believed that Wilde was introduced to homosexuality in 1885, a year after marrying his beloved wife, Constance Lloyd. It was said that his first serious male-to-male relationship happened somewhere during that time. Wilde’s sexual timeline confirms that he had homoerotic behaviours during the writing of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was released in 1890. Homosexuality in 19th century England was illegal; as a highly regarded figure in the public eye, Wilde was forced to keep his sexual orientation a mystery. Being unable to exhibit his true nature was a wicked torment. As an attempt to liberate himself from the bonds of misery, he expressed himself by incorporating homosexual characteristics in his literary work. A line from the novel by Basil Hallward, “As long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me.” (Wilde 23), is one of the many examples of Wilde’s pseudo confession. In the story, Basil Hallward plays an average painter, who created the most magnificent piece of art after meeting a handsome, young person – Dorian Gray. The quote signs the secret homosexual affections Dorian and Basil had for each other. This resembles the writer’s personal life because he had to conceal his own homosexual relationships and homoerotic behaviours. This line is also significant because it was adopted from Constance Lloyd’s answer to his marriage proposal – “As long as I live, you shall be my lover” (Seymour). Wilde puts Basil Hallward’s love for Dorian Gray on the same level as his wife for him, which further tightens the intertwinement between reality and fiction. The production of this novel is surely a manifestation of Oscar Wilde’s sexual repression. The Victorian Era was a time when morals and ethics were matters of utmost importance in the English society. The country was packed with observant critics who saw debauched demeanor as malevolent acts; having said that, the rich and wealthy possess the power to justify their actions regardless of the degree of evilness in their conduct. Oscar Wilde was living in Britain during the Victorian era, and as a prisoner of morality, he was shackled by public scrutiny. Wilde released The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1890 as a literary analogy about the world he was living in, and although the novel was censored by the publisher before releasing (The Censorship of “Dorian Gray”), it infuriated many critics due to the lack of morality the content held. He revised the novel and released the second version the next year, with seven extra chapters and altered wording, to appease the public. Society – civilized society, at least – is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating. It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possessions of a good chef. (Wilde 160)

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