The Portrait of Dorian Gray Discussion Questions (Pages 17

The Portrait of Dorian Gray Discussion Questions (Pages 17-70)
Throughout the first third of the novel, we see a lot of instances that discuss beauty verses
intelligence. “But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins” (19). Dorian
represents great beauty, while Basil represents intelligence, and Lord Henry changes his opinions
on whether beauty or genius is better: “And Beauty is a form of Genius – is higher, indeed than
Genius” (31). What does this contradiction say about this motif, and what does it say about
Wilde himself?
Continuing with Lord Henry, he tends to make many contradicting statements and is often
exclaimed that “I don’t believe that, Harry, and I don’t believe you do either” (22). Why does
Wilde include so many contradictions in his character alone, and how does that affect both the
story and the characters that Lord Henry interacts with?
Within all of Oscar Wilde’s novels so far, we have seen some homoerotic tendencies and
comments. Referring to descriptions of Dorian and the passion that both the painter and Lord
Henry feel for him, can we find evidence of homoerotic tension, and how does it tie in with the
motif of beauty? Why does Wilde include it at all? (see page 23 for examples)
Another theme besides beauty is that of youth (examples found on pages 31, 32, 34, 35, and 44).
How will this motif come into play throughout the rest of the story? What does it say about
society during the Victorian era? What does it say about Wilde’s own opinions on life and
Marriage has been discussed in class multiple times in relation to a few of Wilde’s other works
(such as Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime). It is mentioned a few times (pages 39, 40, 48) and is
discussed in full in regards to Dorian’s wish to marry Sibyl and the reactions of her brother and
his friends. How does the idea of marriage in this story relate to that of his other works? Is Wilde
portraying it in a negative or positive manner and how?
On page 42, the dinner guests discuss their frustration with America and its problems. What does
this say about Wilde’s own opinion of America and with the Victorian period’s opinion?
There are a lot of similarities between The Portrait of Mr. W.H. and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Even though we have only read the first third of the novel, discuss how these similarities may be
important, and how one work may have influenced the other. Was Portrait just a rough draft of
Picture? What themes do we find contradicting each other between each work?
We see Sibyl and Jim’s mother address the topic of their father saying “I knew he was not free.
We loved each other very much. If he had lived, he would have made provision for us. Don’t
speak against him, my son. He was your father, and gentleman. Indeed he was highly connected”
(64). Is there anything we can infer from this passage about their father? Any foreshadowing that
we may speculate about?