Oscar Wilde’s only novel tells the story of a man consumed by narcissism and hedonism: Dorian Gray, a beautiful youth who possesses a unique painting of himself that accrues only the marks of age and sin for him, leaving his real face perpetually young, fresh, and innocent.
The novel blurs the lines between the Victorian gothic and the fantastic, both celebrating and criticizing the love of life and pleasure that Wilde himself is known for. At the time it was considered so scandalous that Wilde’s editor deleted sections without telling Wilde, and yet it still met with enormous backlash and accusations of moral corruption.
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First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate) and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time. Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided). Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater. Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankel s inferences. A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting.