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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Picture of Dorian Gray

Shmoop's snapshot of a classic play.


It was either Oscar Wilde or Matthew McConaughey who once said, "That's the great thing about Dorian Gray: I get older; he stays the same age."

Okay, we might be a little dazed and confused and mixing up our quotes. But one thing we are sure of is how to teach The Picture of Dorian Gray, a difficult novel full of secret desires and sexual identity issues.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity analyzing the philosophical, political, and historical context of the novel.
  • articles exploring how the novel has inspired satire and parody throughout the ages.
  • historical resources, like a biography of Oscar Wilde.

And much more.

This Portrait isn't paint-by-number, but Shmoop can help you color inside—and outside—the lines.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Students will be able to analyze several Dorian Gray-related cartoons and the text in order to understand the differences between parody and satire.

Length of Lesson: 1 class period

Materials Needed:

  • 2-4 Dorian Gray cartoons
  • 1 Dorian Gray cartoon on a handout
  • Chart paper, markers, tape

Step 1: Introduce the objective and the plan for the day.

Step 2: Choose two to four of the Dorian Gray cartoons from the links below and show them to the class. Ask the students to pair up and discuss for 5 minutes what or whom the cartoons are making fun of and why the cartoons are (or aren't) funny. Suggested: One of the more political cartoons (such as the one of John Edwards or Oscar Wilde) and one or more of the lighter cartoons (the one about Botox injections or the colonoscopy of Dorian Gray).


Step 3: Open up the questions to the whole class in order to determine the answers to the discussion questions and the difference between satire and parody. Write the characteristics of both satire and parody at the front of the class on a T-chart while the class is discussing the two concepts. For definitions of the literary terms, use the resources below:

Step 4: Ask the students to divide into small groups of 3-4 in order to discuss how both cartoons relate to themes found in The Picture of Dorian Gray. (While the students are discussing the relation between cartoon and text, post each cartoon on different walls in the room with clean chart paper next to the cartoon. This step can be prepped before class.)


  • For each cartoon, students will need to find a corresponding passage or scene in Wilde's novel to prove the thematic connections.
  • Then, each group will need to decide if the literary passage or scene is a parody or satire and, if so, how it's a parody/satire and what it parodies/satirizes. If the passage is neither a parody nor a satire, then ask the students to consider why it isn't a parody/satire.
  • Once a group has decided on a corresponding passage or scene, the group can write the chosen passage on the pieces of chart paper next to each cartoon.

Step 5: Open the group work to a whole class discussion by asking each group to present its ideas for each cartoon. If time is short, groups can alternate presenting passages for just one of the cartoons. During discussion, direct the class to emphasize how Wilde's writing presents a theme and how his writing compares to the cartoons' styles.

Step 6: Have a handout prepared of a cartoon not yet discussed in class, with any captions or dialogue blanked out. Pass the cartoon out to each student and ask the student to create his/her own parody or satire with original captions or dialogue. Along with the student's original caption/dialogue, the student needs to write a brief literary response that states:

  • Whether the student's caption/dialogue makes the cartoon into a parody or a satire
  • What the cartoon is now parodying or satirizing.
  • How the cartoon connects to a theme found in The Picture of Dorian Gray, including a corresponding textual example and literary analysis of the example.

This step can also be completed as a homework assignment.

Step 7: For fun, you can reveal the cartoon's actual caption or dialogue once the students have completed their writing assignment. You can also give students the option to share their versions of the cartoon once they've completed the assignment.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th and 10th grade Reading 3.2, 3.4, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11, 3.12; Writing 2.2; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.14. 11th and 12th grade Reading 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9; Writing 2.2; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.14.)

Instructions for Your Students

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a tough read, but what we often forget is that Oscar Wilde can actually be a pretty funny writer. In fact, his humor is a lot like the humor of some cartoonists, who use parody and satire to get their points across. In this activity, you'll look at several different Dorian Gray-related cartoons (there are actually a bunch out there) and compare them to the novel.

Step 1: In class you'll be analyzing some cartoons in order to figure out why the cartoons are funny (or just cheesy) and how to differentiate between parody and satire. With the help of classmates, you'll draw connections between the cartoons' messages and the larger themes found in the novel.

Step 2: Try your hand at being a cartoonist. Fill in the captions and dialogue bubbles of a Dorian Gray cartoon in order to satirize or make a parody of a larger issue.

Step 3: Now write an essay that explains how your version of the cartoon connects to some of the themes found in the novel.


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    Full Text    
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