Study Guide

The Picture of Dorian Gray Morality and Ethics

By Oscar Wilde

Morality and Ethics

Everyone in The Picture of Dorian Gray has his or her own moral scale, and the result is a world in which we're not quite sure what's right or wrong. That being said, some things are definitely wrong – for example, like killing your former best friend, then having his body chemically…um, for lack of a better word, disappeared. The interesting thing is that characters in this novel have a way of adjusting their personal moral and ethical codes to suit their own needs and desires.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. What is the basis for Lord Henry's personal morality?
  2. What is the basis for Basil's understanding of morality and ethics?
  3. Is there a difference between morality and ethics here?
  4. Does morality play a role in any of Dorian's judgments?

Chew on This

Lord Henry's ultimate hypocrisy lies in the gap between his understanding of morality and ethics; while he acts in public according to the accepted ethical code of his society, his personal morality is vastly different.

While Basil is a highly moral character and Lord Henry an amoral one, Dorian is the only actively immoral character we see.