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The Picture. of Dorian Gray. Discussion Point: Imagine having the power to remain young and beautiful forever—without working out, without having any special medical procedures. What would be the advantages? Disadvantages? Would you wish to be given this power? Why/Why not?.

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the picture
The Picture

of Dorian Gray


Discussion Point:

Imagine having the power to remain young and beautiful forever—without working out, without having any special medical procedures. What would be the advantages? Disadvantages? Would you wish to be given this power? Why/Why not?

doppelg nger
  • Literal meaning: “double goer”-- a person’s ghostly counterpart; alter ego




Clark Kent

Peter Parker

Darth Vader

Anikin Skywalker

Victor Frankenstein


doppelg ngers

“If it were I who was to be always young, and the…


picture that was to grow

old…I would give my

soul for that!”


The idea of everyone having an evil twin has existed since ancient folklore, but the term “doppelgänger” was first published in 1796. However, psychologist Sigmund Freud, who lived during the Victorian Age, developed theories of the human mind that may have influenced writers such as Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Ja, but vhere did zis doppelgänger idea come from?

Sigmund Freud


Other Influences upon Wilde

FAUST– Like Dr. Faust, Dorian makes an “eternal bargain”—youth and beauty in exchange for his soul. Lord Henry acts as the chief tempter who advises Dorian: “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing.”


Other Influences upon Wilde

Narcissus – When Dorian sees his picture, he seems to fall instantly in love with his own beauty. Like Narcissus, he is unable to love anyone else, even Sibyl. Echo falls in love with Narcissus and is harshly rejected; Dorian treats Sibyl with equal cruelty. “You simply produce no effect,” he tells her. Echo pines away for love of Narcissus. Sibyl commits suicide for love of Dorian. Narcissus cannot gain the thing he loves (his

own reflection); Dorian has "mad hungers" that grow the more he feeds them. Narcissus seeks release from his body, & wishes his reflection longer life; Dorian eventually seeks release from the condition he had once wished. He feels a strange pity for his other self: “A sense of infinite pity, not for himself, but for the painted image of himself, came over him.” Dorian later says: “I wish I could love, ... But I seem to have lost the passion, and forgotten the desire. I am too much concentrated on myself.”


Other Influences upon Wilde

PLATO – The Greek Philosopher’s renowned work Republic is a philosophical dialogue between various characters. Book 2, presents the myth of Gyges’ Ring, which grants the power of invisibility to its owner. Plato asks, “If one came into possession of such a ring, why should he act justly?” To which Socrates replies that even if no one can see one's physical appearance, the soul is disfigured by the evils one commits.


Other Influences upon Wilde

Dorian’s pursuit of passion increases after Lord Henry gives him the “yellow book,” which seems to act as a guide for his personal journey. Like the protagonist of that novel, Dorian spirals into a world of self-gratification and exotic sensations. The book is based on a 19th century French novel À Rebours(“Against Nature”), by Joris-Karl Huysmans, in which a decadent and wealthy Frenchman indulges himself in a host of bizarre sensory experiences. The yellow book has such an influence on Dorian, one might argue that it leads to his downfall.

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book.”—Oscar Wilde’s Preface to Dorian Gray


Why would Dorian, who is at first so innocent that he is “untainted” by life, wish to indulge so deeply in the forbidden passions of Victorian society?

From what did Dorian wish to be free?

recall the extreme propriety and strict morals of the victorian era
Recall the Extreme propriety and strict morals of the Victorian ErA.

Pass me a drumstick, please.

Egad I spy an ankle!

Notice the length of dresses, long sleeves, and high collars.


the picture of dorian gray is a response to the extremes of victorian society

PROBLEM: Dorian believes that his “doppelgänger” allows him to live a “secret” life of sin and indulgence while maintaining the appearance of innocence and purity. This allows him to live as he wishes in both parts of society.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a response to the extremes of Victorian Society

In a sense, the portrait allows Dorian to separate his good side from his evil side—his indulgent, uninhibited side from his proper, strict and refined side. He could indulge in all temptations without constraint and then return to his “normal” living in the upper class. Why doesn’t Dorian’s plan to live this “double life” work?


What is Wilde’s message to his society? Does the message still address today’s society? If so, how? If not, what would need to change about the story in order to better relate it to today?

Restraints of society?

Unfair expectations between social classes?

Dual personalities?

wilde s use of epigrams
Wilde’s use of Epigrams
  • Examples: “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
  • “The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray, and the advantage of Science is that it is not emotional.”
  • “Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious: both are disappointed.”
  • Epigram: A short, witty and often paradoxical statement about life. Epigrams express a single idea and are usually satirical. Oscar Wilde is well-known for his use of epigrams. His character Lord Henry is called “Prince Paradox” and is constantly speaking in epigrams.
wilde s use of epigrams1
Wilde’s use of Epigrams
  • Assignment:
  • 1.) Create a doppelgänger of yourself who will present three of your own original epigrams.
  • 2.) Create a second character as an advertisement that would appeal to someone living in Victorian society’s upper OR lower class. Consider the materialism and wealth of the upper class, the extreme morals, Dorian’s desires, etc. The ad may not run longer than one minute.
  • 3.) You will present your ad and epigrams in class. If preferable, you may create a video of your ad. You may also draw or paint a portrait of your doppelgänger.