The Picture of Dorian Gray Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray book cover
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What does "The Picture of Dorian Gray" have to say about life? Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

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August Billingsley, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To take an extreme position: nothing.

But that is the extreme position of those who believe in art for art's sake. Rationally, however, one of the purpose of literature is its usefulness in real life (the Renaissance used to talk about "dulce" [the sweetness] of literature, and "utile" [its usefulness]. Thus, "Dorian Gray" must teach us something about life.

Most of the criticism and opinions I have read about this work bring up its social significance. Witness, for instance, the other response by wsetwood to this querry. And that's fine. Westwood's response, I think, is on the money, an eloquent argument on the social and moral values provoked by "Dorian Gray."

The point I wish to make, however, is that Oscar Wilde, by squarely juxtaposing life (the entire plot of the story) and art (the picture) is telling us something fundamental about both. But in order to understand that, we need to understand the NATURE of art (alas, we may never understand the nature of life!)

Fundamentally, all...

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