Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and Henry James' The Turn Of the Screw are key examples of the way in which gothic texts use and adapt the conventions of the genre. These changes occur due to the author's own personal context and values. The inexorable link between text, context and values is expressed through the way in which both authors choose to manipulate, redefine and introduce new conventions to the gothic.
Oscar Wilde's first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was written in 1890 and was first published in the Lippincott’s monthly magazine. Published before Wilde would reach the height of his career through his critically acclaimed plays, The Picture Of Dorian Gray was received to much scandal and uproar, many claiming the book was immoral. The gothic tale tells the exploits of Dorian Gray, a young man who is the subject of a painting by Basil Hallward. In one of his sitting, he meets Lord Henry who tells Dorian that only things worth pursuing in life is beauty and pleasure. These words have a profound affect on Dorian, realizing he will once grow old and his beauty will fade, he wishes that he could sell his soul in order that the portrait would grow old and he would remain young and beautiful forever. Dorian wish is granted which pushes him into the world of immorality and sin. Every corrupt action shows itself as a mark or sign of aging on the Portrait.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a key example in the way in which we can uncover the authors context and values. Much of Wilde's literary work was concentrated in expressing the lives of upper class Londoners – a elitist group in which Wilde was apart of. Dorian Gray, though being of a gothic genre still continues to represents this group of people. It is clear that many of the characters in the novel must be based upon various types of people that Wilde came across in everyday life. These late Victorian era socialites, obsessed with the superficial, the physical, wealth and wit are well expressed in the characters found in Dorian Gray.
Though their remains discrepancies and various differences between The Picture of Dorian Gray to other texts, Dorian Gray largely is a gothic tale that uses many of the typical conventions of Gothic Fiction.
One such convention used is the mood or atmosphere created in the text. An essential element of Gothic fiction, Wilde utilizes this convention to build up tension in particular scenes. As the setting differs from previous works of gothic fiction, Wilde creates this by expressive imagery, the tone of the writing and highlighting the sense of confinement and tension in specific places where the action is taking place. This is evident in the the scene is which Dorian shows Basil the room in which the Portrait is placed: They walked softly, as men do instinctively at night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase. A rising wind made some of the windows rattle. Such imagery as this creates an atmosphere of tension. After Dorian kills Basil in this room, we begin to recognize the room as a place that the horror of the novel will unfold, thus, building up terror before the horror occurs in the novel.
Another key convention used in the novel is elements of the supernatural. This element is conveyed through the portrait itself. Wilde gives the reader no rational explanation as to why the Portrait ages yet is it is this mystery that is the centre of the novel and such supernatural element is what creates the horror in the novel. Whenever that be the horror of the aging painting or the horror of the characters action in the novel. The most supernatural scene is the end of the novel in which Dorian dies, his body wrinkled and withered yet the painting goes back to its former glory of showing Dorian in all his youth and beauty: When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen them, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth...
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