THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde

For all the striking lack of critical respect they sometimes face, stories of fantasy and horror have an uncanny way of reverberating in cultural memory. It seems that, freed from certain concerns with logic and reality that haunt even the most experimental literature, imaginative fiction has the rare ability to become almost instantly archetypal. One magnificent example of this phenomenon is Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, a character who can be said to virtually represent the male homosexual community, particularly its intellectual members. The Picture of Dorian Gray is undoubtedly many things, but its themes, characters and plot are of such immense relevance to gay men that it can be read as an elaborate, symbolic masque, representing gay men’s growing self-awareness and their choices and temptations in a world that repressed and scorned them. Even as attitudes towards homosexuality have changed drastically, Wilde’s novel continues to be essential to an understanding of the gay experience. Revised, altered, adapted, and retold, it remains a matchless exposition of the soul of the gay community precisely because, during a dark period of anti-gay persecution, Wilde was able to locate the roots of gay men’s damnation or redemption as lying not in the hands of outsiders but deep within their very selves. 

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