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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

Sexuality and Sexual Identity Theme

Homosexuality is often the elephant in the room when you talk about Oscar Wilde these days. Though married with children, Wilde had male lovers, which resulted to a huge scandal during his day and landed him in jail. Sexuality basically has the same role in The Picture of Dorian Gray – it's an elephant, a big, impossible-not-to-notice elephant. There's a lot going on beneath the surface here, and as a contemporary reader you'll notice undertones of homosexuality in this text.

Questions About Sexuality and Sexual Identity

  1. Do you think that there are suggestions of sexual ambiguity or uncertainty here?
  2. If so, which characters express them?
  3. Why might Wilde have depicted homosexuality (or bisexuality) in such an ambiguous way?

Chew on This

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

Both Basil and Lord Henry express desire for Dorian, but Basil's feeling for him – the admiration of the true artist for the object of beauty – is depicted as somehow more pure.

The treatment of women in the novel (who are either mindless or "too clever") implies that only men are fit and worthy companions for each other.

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