Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In order to understand The Picture of Dorian Gray as an expression of Wile a the man, as well as Wilde the artist, it is necessary not only to compare the first version of the novel as it appeared in Lippincott1s Monthly tagazine with the later expanded version published in book form, but it is also necessary to trace the development of Wilde’s themes and symbols, tnd his use of form in his earlier work, particularly in his fairy talt 3—stories which are closely allied with Dorian Gray in the aforementimed aspects.
Wide's use of symbols to denote guilt and doom increases through the years, and almost all of the symbols used in Dorian Gray reflect these feelings. His use of form (mechanical structure) is almost mathematically jrecise, and illustrative of his themes. The balancing of episode wit 1 episode, character with character, clearly illustrates the Lord Henry-Basil Hallward-Dorian relationship as well as Wilde's interest in the dichotomy of soul and body. The soul-and-body theme runs through hi! work as does the Tannhatiser theme. Both serve to make us cognizant if Wilde's inner conflicts and feelings of guilt as do the other their is in the novel—the Faust, Pygmalion, and marriage themes.
Tie novel can be interpreted on three levels. Superficially it is a vari ition of the Faustian myth. On a second level it is the autobiograph: cal statement of Wilde, the artist, and Wilde, the hedonist, who influences young men. On a third level it is also autobiographical; it is the confessional tale of the conflict within Wilde of the two aspects of his nature—the artist and hedonist—and of how he has attempted to reconcile these aspects with himself, as Dorian. As such, it is an admission of defeat.
The second and expanded version of Dorian Gray reflects increased feelings of guilt, and animosity toward women and marriage. It also shows evidence that Wilde attempted to erase homosexual references, and that he had a greater propensity for decorative prose. Finally, there is a marked increase in the witty dialogue for which Wilde later became so famous.
The earlier version of the novel is superior to the later version. The pier is not strong in either version, but it is tighter in the original. Characterizations are more believable in the original, and form is more illustrative of meaning. While witty conversation is amusing in the later version, decorative description tends to be overdone. Both versions reflect Wilde's feelings of guilt, his need to atone, and his inner conflict—the later version to a greater extent than the original.
Stephenson, Muriel L., "A Critical Examination of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1972). Theses and Dissertations. 3408.