The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The picture of Dorian Gray is a morality tale since the entire story revolves around the degradation of Dorian's soul, which is reflected by his portrait. As Dorian stepped closer to immorality and corruption, the portrait changed in appearance which eventually gave form to a hideous, unrecognizable figure.

While a horror story focuses primary on scaring and unsettling the readers, The Picture of Dorian Gray is more like Oscar Wilde's insight of morality, or rather, immorality and its effect on human conscience. For Dorian, aging and immorality had absolutely no claim on his innocent and beautiful appearance; instead, they were vividly reflected through his portrait. Knowing that, Dorian at first showed no remorse or guiltiness of conscience as he sank lower in morality, this lack of guilt being apparent when he decided to attribute young actress Sybil's death - caused by his cruel words - to a personified tragedy of her own. For eighteen years Dorian lived his life in this depraved fashion, until the reappearance of James (Sybil's brother). Afraid that James would seek revenge for his sister's death, Dorian became wrecked with fear and guilt and decided to amend for his notorious life, only to find a new mark of hypocrisy in his portrait. During the course of novel, Dorian's cruel and unprincipled actions brought ruin upon him and many others. The contrast between his youthful appearance and the loathsome reality (the disfigured portrait) indicated how deep Dorian had sunk from human morality. His eventual self-destruction proved to be the only solution to his sins.

While the story mainly focused on the morality of Dorian, it did have a very dark and haunting air as much of the story occurred on dark London societies and some of the scenes in the book, such as the changing of the portrait and murdering of Basil, are particularly chilling. Wilde used these settings and brilliantly illustrated the corruption of Dorian and the consequences of immorality.
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