‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ under a multitude of headings


In the novel women are quite often referred to as inferior, so it is obviously not feminist, quite the opposite. This is established early on with Lord Henry saying that “no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex” suggesting that women are but playthings for men’s enjoyment – a decoration to spice up life. The main female character is Sybil, who seems weak and dependent totally on her “Prince Charming” Dorian Gray. She doesn’t seem to have any personality at the beginning, assuming only the role of the character she is playing in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Later on whenever she became herself she was obedient to Dorian, doing whatever he wanted. When Dorian insults her acting she feels that there is no reason to live, and thus commits suicide. This shows the powerlessness of women, and how Wilde may have thought them inferior. However Dorian is obviously very in love with Sybil, when he first talks to Lord Henry about her he has nothing but praise for her: “lips that were like the petals of a rose,” – this could be seen as an extension of what Lord Henry was saying though, Dorian only really compliments her looks and her singing, and doesn’t really know her – showing that he wants her in a more decorative sense.


In the novel there are many examples of the class system, the opposite of Marxism, especially with Lord Henry’s high class friends, and then the lower class poverty in the East End. Dorian’s status was also based on his good looks and wealth, showing how the rich (not the clever) were high in society. Dorian exploits his status by controlling the poor, such as Sybil – and believed he could get away with immoral actions due to his high status. The novel suggests that life and society revolves around wealth & money, something that completely goes against what Marxism stands for.


When looking up the subjects of post-colonialist literature I found that one of the subjects is “Misuse of power and exploitation” which I found related to the novel easily. Dorian misuses his power and exploits Sybil, controlling her. The book was written during the time of the colonies, in Victorian times, so this could even be interpreted as referring to Britain controlling a large portion of the world.

Thanks for reading,

**FUN FACT** I used to have a grey gerbil that had the name Dorian. That is all.