Gothic Elements in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is charged with gothic elements. The mysterious atmosphere, the sense of impending doom, and the inclusion of supernatural events all contribute to the gothic atmosphere in the novel.
Mystery as a Gothic Symbol
An element of the gothic in The Picture of Dorian Gray is the sense of mystery. Basil’s determination to hide from Lord Henry the reason he won’t exhibit Dorian Gray’s picture sets a mysterious tone for the novel.
In addition, when Basil tells Lord Henry the story of meeting Dorian, he claims that the moment they met, “a curious sensation of terror came over [him]” (Wilde, 2008, p. 6). This prompts the reader’s curiosity and also hints at the sense of impending doom in the novel.
Presence of Doom
The sense of impending doom further infuses the gothic into The Picture of Dorian Gray. Early in the novel, Basil says “we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly” (Wilde, 2008, p. 3). This foreshadows the idea that Dorian Gray’s beauty will cause him to suffer, and reinforces the sense of impending doom which is characteristic of gothic novels.
Dorian’s portrait coming to life constitutes a supernatural event and adds to the gothic atmosphere in the novel. After observing the first change in the portrait, Dorian acknowledges that it is impossible but nevertheless sees that the portrait is becoming different from his own reflection (Wilde, 2008, p. 86). The portrait then becomes a living object through the novel’s language; one passage reads: “Yet it was watching him, with its beautiful marred face and its cruel smile” (Wilde, 2008, p. 87). The animation of this object is a supernatural event and solidifies The Picture of Dorian Gray as a gothic novel.
Thus through the inclusion of the supernatural via Dorian’s picture coming to life, along with the sense of impending doom and the atmosphere of mystery in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s novel embraces gothic elements and characterizes itself as a Gothic novel.
Harris, Robert. (2015, June 15). Elements of the Gothic Novel. Retrieved from
Wilde, Oscar. (2012). The Picture of Dorian Gray [Kindle version 1.16]. Retrieved from