Parallelism That Exists Within The Fates of Oscar Wilde & Dorian Gray

I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensations. What the paradox was to me in that sphere of though, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at end, was malady, or madness, or both. I grew careless of the lives of others, I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes a character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has someday to cry aloud on the housetops. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.” 

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1897)

The quotation above is an excerpt taken from De Profundis, the published love letter written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment to his lover “Bosie” (Lord Alfred Douglas) in 1897. In comparison to his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, one may consider his work to be the prognostication of Wilde’s “horrible disgrace”, as he was tried for homosexuality merely 5 years after the publication of the novel. The parallelism that exists between the two is uncanny, as Dorian Gray in many ways embodies the identity and fate of Oscar Wilde – a man that initially was driven by the wonders of art, however then plagued by the grips of “perversity” and “sensual ease”, and ultimately led to his own unfortunate downfall. The resemblance of two seems more than coincidental, however, was it the publication of The Picture of  Dorian Gray that acted as the catalyst for Wilde’s self discovery, or was it merely used as a ploy for Wilde to admit to such “sins”, and thus pursue the life of indulgence he already desired publicly, rather than in secret?

The likeness of Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde is evident as within the passage, Wilde writes, “I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths to search for more sensations”. Being that Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray lived a lives driven by Hedonism, this quotation directly refers to his pursuit of pleasure in the forms of artistic expression and sexual discovery, such as Wilde’s homosexual love affair.  Wilde was never a man that lacked social status or wealth, and neither did Dorian Gray, and yet in his novel it was for that reason that Dorian was so intrigued by Lord Henry’s epigrams (which were epigrams that came from the mind of Wilde himself). This similarity between the two is clearly autobiographical, as the upbringing of the two is linked. To further prove this, when Oscar Wilde says that he was “tired of being on the heights”, that can be compared to Dorian’s boredom with his wealth and status, leading him to remaining so innocent, as if Wilde was writing about about a previous version of himself in his novel, before he too “went to the depths to search for more sensations.” In chapter 11, when Dorian dives into the many passions of life (by visiting Opium dens and orgie parties), he becomes disconnected to the the world around him and to the lives of others as he grew intoxicated with the indulgence of pleasure. This path that Dorian follows very well may have been Wilde’s way of expressing his own indulgences in such pleasure as well. Although his homosexual relationships were not publicized at the time. The “perversion that became to [him] in a sphere of passion” likely came from his own protagonist Dorian Gray, as he was able to discover such passions while writing the novel. It is clear that the initial parallels between the two stem from an autobiographical sense, as Wilde used his own hidden beliefs of pleasure and society, as well as his own experiences to shape Dorian’s character in the years prior to his trial. It is not clearly known whether his homosexuality surfaced before or after the writing and publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray, however it is clear that the version of himself that Wilde writes in De Profundis greatly mimics the character of Dorian that he had created.

The protagonist of his novel, Dorian Gray, also parallels Oscar Wilde greatly in the sense that the fates of the two are similar as well. This arguably causes an even greater semblance between the two as the similar fate of Oscar Wilde came after that of Dorian Gray, thus creating a prophetic quality of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. In a metaphorical sense, the haunting presence of the portrait in the novel (that acted as a persecutory delusion for Dorian) paralleled the fate of Wilde himself as he too was persecuted for his own crimes of Homosexuality. The cautionary feelings of guilt that Dorian had that suggest impending harm drove him to destroy his own painting, and this concept also applied to Wilde as he “let pleasure dominate [himself]” as he pursued a homosexual love affair, which led to his execution – his “horrible disgrace”. This passage provided depicts the path that Oscar Wilde was led down that introduced him to the indulgence of sin. Although we know not exactly who or what introduced him to such things, one may argue that the writing of The Picture of Dorian Gray was the influence that did so. Wilde had written himself his own version of the “yellow book”, and in a way, it was his innermost thoughts that exerted their influence on his being, much like Lord Henry did with Dorian. In De Profundis Wilde claims to have forgotten the fact that “every little action of the common days makes or unmakes the character”, which is ironic because in his own novel, it was exactly that same idea that drove the protagonist Dorian to his own doom. It can be argued then that as Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, it was this idea that was suppressed as the theme of hedonism dominated both his writing and his own life, therefore leading to both Dorian and himself forgetting such a virtue, and creating paralleled fates between the two. Unlike Dorian however, Wilde was not able to publicize his pleasure, whereas his character Dorian could, explaining his reasoning that “what one has done in the secret chamber one has someday to cry aloud on the housetops.” Five years after, as Wilde wrote De Profundis in prison during his trial, that notion still existed, although the roles of the two were reversed; The Picture of Dorian Gray was condemned within a “secret chamber” from the world due to its “immorality”, where as Wilde’s homosexuality and evidences of of his sins were “cried aloud on the housetops” of France for the public to know during his trial. Oscar mentions that during his time of enlightenment due to pleasure he “ceased to be lord of himself”, just as his character Dorian had. He claimed that he was “no longer the captain of [his] soul, and [he] did not know it.” Again, this greatly relates the already predetermined fate of Dorian Gray as he lost his soul to the portrait, and did not accept the fact until it wast too late. His own novel acts as a forecast for Wilde’s fate as his own indulgence (perhaps stemmed from the writing of his novel) led to him to a fate of “horrible disgrace” as he allowed “pleasure to dominate [himself]”, just exactly as Dorian had.

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray was in many ways written to mirror the parts of Oscar Wilde’s life that were kept secret from the world. In particular, the description of influence Dorian is exposed to greatly parallels the same of Oscar Wilde, giving his novel a clear autobiographical sense. However the novel also acts as an omen to Wilde’s future as, due to his stark resemblance to Dorian Gray, their fates ironically end up much the same.

Image citations:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 thoughts on “Parallelism That Exists Within The Fates of Oscar Wilde & Dorian Gray

  1. Dearest Yasmeen,

    Your choices of diction and syntax in this piece, from beginning to end, was orchestrated so thoughtfully that by the end, every point you made all came into full circle. Reading your post has definitely left me with newfound insight. I love how you focused on the connection of a fictional and nonfictional character; by not only describing their similarities but how their fates were connected, I believe this is shown strongly through the sentence, “In a metaphorical sense, the haunting presence of the portrait in the novel, that acted as a persecutory delusion for Dorian, parallels the fate of Wilde himself as he too was persecuted for his own crimes of Homosexuality.” Not only that, the parallelism and importance of the “yellow book” to Dorian and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for Oscar Wilde was such a “WOW” moment! Lastly, the strong and precise evidence you provided all backed up your arguments; along with your choice of diction with words such as “prophetic quality”.

    To build upon, I think that the beginning of the third paragraph could have been shortened just a bit to avoid some repetition to statements you previously mentioned. Otherwise, brilliant job girl!


    1. Dearest Judy,

      Thank you so much for your comment! It humbles me to know you have been inspired by what I’ve written in any way. Thank you so much for your kind words and your appreciation of some of the connections I’ve made. As for your suggestion – thank you! I will make sure to take a look and make some adjustments. I am forever thankful for your advice.

      With love!

  2. Dear Yas,

    As usual, your exploration of the parallels in Wilde’s life and the life of his character, Dorian Gray, left me quite impressed! It gave me something to think about, namely whether Wilde’s first, and only, novel was the stimulant of his self-discovery or if it was a public confession of a desire he already harboured in the depths of his heart. I thought it was very interesting, and I admire the way you explored this idea of parallelism throughout your post. I also discussed the similarities between Wilde and Dorian in my blog post, but aside from using the novel and what other people said about him, I like how you took it one step further and expanded upon the understanding of who Wilde was through the analysis of a letter Wilde wrote about himself. This allowed me to get a fresher look at Wilde’s perception of himself and how he eventually brought his character to life through his own life.

    I found much of what you wrote to be brilliantly insightful, especially when you described Dorian becoming “disconnected to the world around him and to the lives of others as he grew intoxicated with the indulgence of pleasure.” This line, at least to me, proved to be very powerful; in a way, you associated drunkenness with the loss of connection, and I thought that that was brilliant because not only does Dorian become detached from reality, he also loses a connection with himself. You follow this up in your third paragraph, where you cite Wilde’s letter in saying that in following his hedonistic ideals, he “ceased to be lord of himself,” making him “no longer the captain of his soul and he did not know it.” His ignorance of the loss of control over his soul was akin to how Dorian was blinded by opium dens and scandalous love affairs, up to the point where both Wilde and Dorian end up in horrible disgrace. On this note, your exploration of how their fates were intertwined was, in my opinion, woven so beautifully that it caused me to wonder if Wilde wasn’t truly talking about his own portrait when he wrote his novel.

    In terms of improvement, there are some sentences that could be potentially re-worded to allow for a smoother flow. For instance, the last sentence in the first paragraph might make more sense if you wrote: “The resemblance of [the] two seems more than coincidental. However, was it the publication of…” There were also a couple of repeated words, like “the” in “he becomes disconnected to the the world around him” or the “as” in the last sentence of your concluding paragraph. However, these do not, in any way, take away from the power in your message, as I found it quite a thought-provoking read!

    On the whole, I truly enjoyed your post on Wilde’s love letter to his lover, as it is one of those little things that make one question if there is truly a difference between truth and fiction. Maybe, and just maybe, Wilde allowed Dorian to escape from the confines of his pages and find freedom in the fleeting pleasures of the world, even if he knew he could never truly run away from the consequences. After all, Wilde was, like all of us in our own lives, the author of his fate. But, that’s just my two cents!

    Ever yours,

    1. Dearest Jieo,

      Thank you so so much for your comment. Honestly, I think you give me a little too much credit boy! I mean look at the wonderful work you did in your own blog! I’m glad that the phrase “intoxicated with the indulgence of pleasure” was something that stuck with you – my aim is at least have one thing stick!

      As for your suggestions, I greatly apologize for those GUMPS. In all honesty, I’ve not the best proofreading, but this is a lesson for me to never get too lazy right at the end of something! Hopefully that didn’t take away from your read! I went through and edited those things, as well as adjusted that one sentence, so fear not dear Jieo, you shall now be able to read this piece with ease (at least I hope – yikes).

      Thanks again!

      WIth love!

  3. Dearest Yasmeen,
    Thank you for such a brilliant piece. Your insight and analytical skill grew ever present, in my mind, through this biographical analysis – great work! My favourite line, in relation to insight, was “Wilde had written himself his own version of the “yellow book” as it left me in awe of you – more so than before. I stared at my screen for a moment just shocked, deer in headlights anticipating the end level shocked! I feel like I am going to be thinking about that connection until the age of my soul matches my body – just wow! Aside from your great insight I really enjoyed your writing style, it made the piece all the more enjoyable. The line that stuck out most to me was, “…he grew intoxicated with the indulgence of pleasure.” It gets your point across while leaving enough wiggle room for interpretation, I can greatly appreciate some good ol’ wiggle room. There were many wonderful lines like this weaved throughout your whole analysis that challenged readers to try their hand at interpreting the quote with you; this really grabbed my attention!

    As far as improvements go I would suggest a proof reading to correct GUMPS. I was only able to find a few and they did not really detract from the wonder of your piece; however, I feel their correction would exemplify the academic voice reflected in the piece. I found a few issues in the following sentences: “…before or after (the the) writing and publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “…(an) prophetic quality…”, and “However the novel also acts as an omen to Wilde’s future (as), due to his stark resemblance to Dorian Gray, (as) their fates ironically end up much the same.”

    Once again, great work Yasee!

    Much love,

  4. Dearest Ibukun,

    Thank you so much! I would especially like to thank you forthe comment you made about having a clear writing style and voice. Words cannot express how much that meant to me. It has always been an important thing for me to make sure I have a clear voice in my writing, because then it makes for a more enjoyable, impactful, and sometimes empathetic read. i am so humbled to know that you thought I was able to do that. Lots of love for you girl!!

    As for your suggestions of improvement, as I mentioned in my reply to Jieo, I’ve gone through and fixed those little GUMPS. I’m sorry for those! We all have our days! Hopefully they didn’t make you stray from the piece too much! All in all, thank you my dear. I have bunches to learn from you.

    WIth love!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *