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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray


by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray Theme of Transformation

"Transformation" sounds all optimistic and happy (think butterflies!) but, in fact, it can be a terrible thing. Take Dorian Gray, for example. He begins in The Picture of Dorian Gray as a kind of human butterfly – gorgeous, innocent, pure, perhaps even pleasantly mindless.

However, he then undergoes a dramatic transformation that renders him grotesquely un-beautiful (on the inside, at least)…the splendid butterfly eventually turns into an icky caterpillar. Um, no offense, caterpillars – we think you're awesome too. It's just a metaphor.

Questions About Transformation

  1. When do we see the first signs of Dorian's metamorphosis?
  2. Do you think Dorian's transformation was inevitable, or was there a point at which he could have turned back?
  3. Do any of the other characters show transformation or development over the course of the novel?

Chew on This

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

The static nature of the other characters (primarily Lord Henry and Basil) serves to highlight Dorian's dramatic evolution over the course of the novel.

Transformation here is an inexorable process – once it begins, there is no turning back.

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