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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray


by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray Theme of Innocence

The Picture of Dorian Gray asks us to consider a lot of Big Issues – and key among them is the idea of innocence. The thing is, it's kind of tough to figure out what's going on with innocence in this text. On one hand, it's a highly prized quality; it makes characters unbelievably beguiling and appealing.

On the other, we've got the uneasy feeling that innocence isn't all that it's cracked up to be – and perhaps it doesn't even really exist. After all, our protagonist begins as the most innocent, lamb-like, and pure of creatures, but, after about a chapter and a half, he's ready to start exploring his baser urges. Can it be that underneath every pure façade there's a little devil waiting to emerge?

Questions About Innocence

  1. Do you believe that Dorian was ever truly innocent?
  2. Lord Henry implies that even Sibyl's innocence would rapidly become tarnished – do you believe his cynical view?
  3. Is it possible to eternally remain innocent, or is loss of innocence inevitable?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

True innocence, according to The Picture of Dorian Gray, is ultimately impossible, for underneath every pure façade, there are latent desires that have not yet emerged.

Dorian mistakenly equates his innocent-looking beauty with value; he doesn't realize that it was his true quality of innocence that gave him value initially.

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