"What if someone wrote a novel about homosexuality and no body [sic] came?" Ed Cohen writes of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (75). Actually, at the time the book was written, the term "homosexuality" was nonexistent. Wilde, himself, became one of the leaders of the movement that defined homosexuality. Oscar Wilde, one of the most (in) famous homosexuals of the nineteenth century, portrays through the three main characters in Dorian Gray, the difficulty of coping with the life of secrecy that unavoidably went hand in hand with being a homosexual male in nineteenth century England.
[...] These are simply a few of the many startlingly sensual portrayals of men in The Picture of Dorian Gray that shocked so many of its first readers. Like Oscar Wilde himself, Dorian Gray does not hold that critical distance from his passions that are so necessary to avoiding the dangerous consequences that he subsequently experiences. “Once the ‘Hellenic ideal' upheld by Lord Henry Wotton inspires Dorian to enjoy unabated pleasures, every turn the young man takes in his life is definitely for the worse” (Bristow 212). [...]
[...] As the title suggests, the plot of Dorian Gray revolves around a picture that is painted of Dorian by Basil Hallward. As the story progresses, the picture changes to reveal the increasing degeneracy of Dorian's soul. However, it is not only Dorian's soul that is revealed in this painting; it is also that of the artist. . ] every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter,” Basil says to Lord Henry. [...]
[...] In the original magazine version of the story, Wilde adds that Basil “‘worshipped' Dorian ‘with far more romance of feeling than a man usually gives to a friend.' quite admit,' adds the painter, ‘that I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly'” (qtd. in Bristow 212). Implications like these of Basil's love for Dorian are obviously abundant in the text. Even one by one, these quotes are suggestive, but taken together, they make it especially evident that Dorian Gray is a story of repressed homosexuality. [...]
[...] “Simultaneously, Basil inscribes this ‘look'—the object of both his artistic and erotic gaze—onto the canvas, thus doubly imbuing his aesthetic image with the representations of male homoerotic desire” (Cohen 79). Wotton's comments about secrets and forbidden passions, along with Hallward's portrait of him, reveal Dorian's to himself. The few words that Basil's friend has said to him [ . ] had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses [ . [...]
[...] Like the picture of Dorian Gray itself, the narrative that enshrines him both conceals and reveals the nature of the ‘friendship' that has such ‘fatal effects' (211). Dorian's “friendship” was fatal in that his lovers were estranged from their families and friends because society viewed homosexuality as outrageous and corrupt. In a society so intolerant of anything outside its perceived norms, homosexual desire was impossible to express without dire consequences. Thus, it is not surprising that The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel overwhelmingly concerned with secrecy. [...]
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