To What Extent Should We Consider The Picture Of Dorian Gray To Be A Gothic Novel? English Lit Essay

2891 words - 12 pages

ESSAY 5: To what extent should we consider The Picture of Dorian Gray to be a Gothic novel?
Oscar Wilde’s first, and only, novel published in 1890 in Lipincott’s Magazine. Despite the censorship that the editor made unbeknownst to Wilde, his text still largely offended its bourgeoisie audience due to its critique on moral sensibility and public morality in the upper-class society. Wilde, irrefutably, includes many stereotypical conventions and clichés of the gothic genre, for example the curse of the painting, and the derelict room that it sits in in his house, however to simply brand the text a gothic novel or even a gothic horror novel would insult its complexity. Wilde manages to comment and carefully critique the idleness of the British aristocracy through the intricacy of his narrative and characters, which he uses to represent the different aspects of British hierarchy and therefore almost give a Marxist type view on art, culture and society.
Although Wilde begins his novel far from any clichés of the gothic genre it is undeniable that the story echoes countless conventions of the genre. Beginning set in the studio “Selby Manor”, a large manor house with an idyllic garden, the novel commences with the scene of Dorian’s portrait- arguably the primary factor in categorising Wilde’s only novel as gothic. This categorisation can be made due to the fact that through Wilde’s attempt at exhibiting Dorian Gray’s immorality, he displays one of the most stereotypical and recognisable gothic tropes; a changing expression of a lifeless object- in this case Dorian’s portrait- which he discovers upon his return from causing he fiancé to commit suicide after severely berating her for her terrible stage performance. Dorian's moral transformation begins to exhibit itself in the portrait for the first time here. It acts as his conscience, and he realises that he has terribly wronged Sibyl. Wilde describes the painting as “being a little changed” referring to “a touch of cruelty in the mouth”, the reference to the mouth being an obvious indication that the altering appearance resulted directly from the ruthless words which he spat at Sybil Vane. This stereotype of the act of animating a lifeless object can be widely seen throughout the genre and has often been shared with other genres to produce the harrowing effects; the most renowned example being Frankenstein (created from the lifeless parts of dead bodies), however this idea is timeless- proved through modern examples such as Stephen King’s Rose Madder (where Rose’s painting both alters it’s appearance and acts as a portal), or ancient examples such as Prometheus. However ultimately, they all share the similarity of feeding into humans’ psychoanalytic fear of death or absence of life, fuelled over human existence by the belief in the sublime and the instilment of religion in culture. Therefore, through all of these examples, focusing primarily on The Picture of Dorian Gray, the use of the abolishment of...

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