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When The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1891, it evoked a tremendous amount of hostile criticism, in most part due to its immoral content. Oscar Wilde was identified with the “art for art’s sake” movement of the nineteenth century which did not subordinate art to ethical instruction. However, this novel is indeed a morality tale about the hazards of egotistical self-indulgence. “If it were I,” exclaims Dorian, “who were always to be young and that picture that was to grow old . . . I would give my soul for that. “With that spoken, the tale of this young hero of amazing beauty, Dorian Gray, begins. His pact with evil allows his portrait to take on his many sins and degradations while his physical appearance remains youthful. Over the years as he becomes cruel and vicious, even murderous, Dorian’s young and perfect body is no longer enough to salvage his deteriorating mind and morality. Will justice and good prevail?
The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink–flowering thorn. From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey–sweet and honey–coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame–like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore–silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade–faced painters of Tokio who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ. In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full–length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.