Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1918) is a classic example of Gothic fiction, despite being not frightening. Gothic literature was named because many Gothic examples were created during the Gothic or late-medieval period. It became popular in England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many people are unaware that Gothic novels often draw inspiration from Romanticism, which is a way to express strong emotions and imagination. Gothic novels are psychologically based and combine horror and romance. A Gothic novel refers to a story that involves supernatural or scary objects. This makes it obvious that the story will end tragically.
Gothic novels often take place in dark and sombre settings. Dorian, who is trying to kill Basil by visiting the opium sanatorium, clearly shows this. “Cold rain started to fall and the street-lamps were ghastly under the mist. Dim men and woman were crowded around the doors of their public-houses as they were about to close. There was terrible laughter coming from some bars. Some bars were filled with drunkards who screamed and brawled.” (Wilde 128) The secret room where the yellow book is kept is another haunting environment. It is home to old books, mice and faded tapestries as well as mildew-smelling mold. It is a spooky place that most people don’t like. Lord Henry, the devil, uses his wisdom to corrupt Dorian. Dorian then loses innocence and eventually becomes a killer. Henry is also known as Harry. This could refer to Old Harry (Zakes), another name for Satan. “I would trade my soul” for the privilege to stay young for the rest (Wilde 19,). Dorian sold his soul to devils, unbeknownst to him. Dorian eventually realizes that his desire to be normal again fails. He is then sentenced to death.
Female characters are often faced with events that leave them sobbing, terrified, fainting, screaming and terrified. This appeals to the reader’s sympathy and empathy. Junger states that the protagonist is often lonely, pensive, or oppressed and she becomes the centre of attention. Women suffer more when they are abandoned or left alone, either intentionally or accidentally. Dorian is Sybil’s “Prince Charming.” Wilde 46. This connection shows that Prince Charming saves his damsel, a beautiful young lady who needs a hero. Sybil believes Dorian has saved her from acting. This was her passion and the only way she could be in love. She is finally free. Dorian has a different opinion. Sybil is no longer his girlfriend. Dorian lost his passion for Sybil because of her stunning acting.
Science is often used to bad ends in Gothic novels. Dorian tricks Alan Campbell, an aspiring scientist, into dissolving Basil’s dead body. His equipment can be described as “a large mahogany container of chemicals.” Wilde 120. Lord Henry is the main user of science, treating Dorian as a subject for an experiment. “And certainly Dorian Gray seemed to be a subject that he could manipulate and promise rich and fruitful returns.” (Wilde43) Lord Henry further states, “I hope Dorian makes this girl his wife …..” He would be fascinated by another person. “He would make a wonderful student.” (Wilde 53) We believe Lord Henry is entertained at the hands of Dorian. He has become a friend of him.
The novel also contains supernatural elements. This would include anything that is related to or above the natural world (Andersson). The events often occur without explanation. As Dorian can’t stay young forever, it is almost impossible for a photo to change. These things happen despite the fact that they do. Dorian’s death instantly makes his body old and the picture is restored to its original form.
The elements of a Gothic novel are many. These elements include eerie environments and the devil. While some might argue that this novel doesn’t represent Gothic literature, the key elements of The Picture of Dorian Gray are obvious. Although it isn’t very scary, this novel can be considered a Gothic Horror classic.
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Poteet, L. J. (1971). “Dorian Gray” and The Gothic Novel. Modern Fiction Studies, 17(2), 239-248. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/26279102)
Scheible, E. (2014). The Picture of Dorian Gray, Imperialism and Aesthetics. New Hibernia Review, 18(4), 131-150. (https://www.pdcnet.org/nhr/content/nhr_2014_0018_0004_0131_0150)
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