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Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Picture of Dorian Gray:

1. In the preface (be sure to read this), Wilde writes that "there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book." In other words, art has no effect, other than aesthetic, on individuals or society. Do you agree with Wilde's premise? Does this novel adhere to his statement?

2. What is the relationship between Basil and Dorian...from beginning to end?

3. Talk about Lord Henry: what code or set of beliefs does he live by? How does he view conventional morality and in what ways does he challenge it? Why, for instance, does he believe it is futile and wrong for the individual to resist temptation?

4. In what way does Lord Henry affect Dorian's character? Why does Lord Henry choose Dorian as his disciple? And what impels Dorian to follow his guidance? What is it that Dorian fears?

5. Is Lord Henry's belief in the freedom of the individual truly evil? Or does Dorian misconstrue it? Does Lord Henry actually practice the ideas he espouses? Does he understand the real life consequences his ideas would have, or does he exhibit a sort of naivete?

6. Talk about the role of the yellow book. (Although Wilde never gives it a title, critics believe it is based on Joris-Karl Huysman's novel, A Rebours, meaning "Against the Grain" or "Against Nature.")

7. Why does Sibyl commit suicide and what impact does her death have on Dorian?

8. Discuss Dorian's portrait. What does it represent? What does it suggest about the effect of experience on the soul? Why does Dorian hide it in the attic?

9. Dorian's scandalous behavior shocks his peers, yet he remains welcome in social circles? Why? What is Wilde suggesting about "polite" London society?

10. Dorian desires to reform his life after the death of James Vane. Why doesn't he succeed?

11. Discuss the ending: what does it mean?

12. Do you find any of these characters believable? Why or why not? (If not, do you think Wilde might have purposely drawn them as such?)

13. If you know the story of Faust, what parallels do you find in Wilde's novel?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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