Why Picture of Dorian Gray is in the Canon? Expository Essay

December 16, 2020 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 26th, 2020


Canonical literature is writing that influences people decision, way of life and behavior. The writing does not age and can stand test of time. In most cases canonical literature is preserved to show how an old writing can be perfectly related to modern life and time. Not all writingscan be considered as canonical. Outstanding writing may have a place in the canon. Such writings should show values that are related to real or human experiences and thoughts towards decisions and also engagement.(Daniel and Wild,2009).

Canonical writing should also reveal people and what they can actually do. People can adapt evil or good traits depending on their adaptation and understanding. Perception is a vital factor, as a deep thought can be translated differently in such writing. Cultural beliefs play a great role in canonical writing.

Social classes are a constant factor. Like in the modern or real world, people are divided into many groups that define the line of separation. (Joseph, 2008), this can be based on money one has acquired, the education or talent in a certain field. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a canonical literature because it matches the above explanation in many ways.

Compatibility of the picture of Dorian grey with canonical literature


Canonical values are evident in The Picture of Dorian grey. Throughout the novel, there is little or no sense or evidence of old crafts or behaviorsthat cannot be seen in the current life. People act and live exactly as people do today. The novel was written over a hundred years ago, yet it still displays current human behavior and thoughts.(Wild and Moira,2005).

Dorian Grey falls in love with a beautiful woman. Later this love turns sour. For the rest of his life, he cannot find true love and becomes marred with guilt and other ill behaviors. This setting can be considered to be normal, and it is what can ordinarily happen in life. People with special education, such as chemists, for example, are sought for. Dorian needs help of a chemist to dissolve a body. In the current life, chemists have a certain education and can therefore carry out specific tasks.(Wild,2007).


The attitudes reflected in canonical literature can be found in The Picture of Dorian Grey. Guilt and moral responsibility is highly evident in the novel. The attitudes in canonical literature show that people react or respond to life situations is the same way. In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is a handsome man and wants to maintain that image. People do not like wearing out or having a wrinkled face.

It may represent sadness or lack of vigor in life. Joy and contempt is a pursuit of many people. Dorian wants to remain young and attractive for a very long time. Frustrations are also evident throughout the novel. When Dorian damps his lover because she cannot act any more she commits suicide. People react to frustration in different ways and levels.(Michael,1995).

People believe in revenge and karma. Dorian wants to kill anybody who is out to expose his real personality. An angry brother of his dead lover, Sibyl, wants to kill him because he broke heart of his sister.Dorian shows that he fears for his life when he takes off. Towards the end of the novel, Dorian stabs his portrait only to have himself killed and with an old body. The renewal of the portrait clearly shows the aspect of karma.(Stanley,2000).


Cultural beliefs and obligations are also evident in the novel and can be compared to the modern times. A belief in leadership is in existence. Strong and wealthy individuals influence major decisions of the land. Dorian’s close friend is a lord. He is powerful and influential.(Shantaram,1981).

People do respect and value life in the novelThe Picture of Dorian Gray. When Sibyl commits suicide after being heartbroken, her brother is angry. Dorian is also indulged in many other vices. People who recognize him want him to be punished.(Anon,1978).


The Picture of Dorian Gray is an exemplary piece of literature as the characters themes and plot clearly depict things that can influence modern culture and contemporary way of life. From the explanations above, each aspect or lesson showed in the novel is significant to human needs, reactions and perspectives. This makes the culture of the current world (David,2005).

Social setting of relationships and frustrations are major. Dorian falls in love with Sibyl and later on dumps her. People nowadays fall in love for a short time and break up due to a small misunderstanding or unimportantreason. They later regret their decisions. Revenge is common place for today’s way of life. People find satisfaction by pursuing equality in evil or good. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, James wants to kill Dorian because his sister was dead.

Respect for law and leadership in Dorian Grey is now evident in modern culture. The powerful people in the society are feared and influence major decisions. Dorian’s close friend Lord Fermor is influential. In the current culture, people listen to powerful people and follow their decisions as well. (Longxi,2005).

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the many literatures that have shaped western people’s thoughts and perceptions to come up with a certain common culture.


Anon, (1978).The Dalhousie review, Vol. 58. the University of California: The Review Publishing Co.

Daniel, C. & Wild, O. (2009).The picture of Dorian Gray, New York, NY, ADBO.

David, J. (2005).The popular & the canonical: debating twentieth-century literature 1940-2000. London: Routledge.

Stanley P. B. (2000).Cliffs notes on Wilde’s The picture of Dorian Gray. New Jersey: Wiley.

Shantaram, B. D. (1981).Jaina canonical literature: an appraisal Dept. of Jainology and Prakrits. Mysore: University of Mysore.

Joseph, B. (2008).Oscar Wilde and modern culture: the making of a legend. Ohio:Ohio University Press.

Longxi, Z. (2005). Allegoresis: reading canonical literature east and west. Cornell: Cornell University Press,

Michael, P. G. (1995).The picture of Dorian Gray: “what the world thinks me.”California, CA: Twayne Publishers.

Wild, O. (2007).Grammardog Guide to The Picture of Dorian Gray. San Francisco:Grammardog LLC.

Wild, O.& Moira, M. (2005). The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings.New York:Simon & Schuster.

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