Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, first appeared in 1891. Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, falls in with a group of "friends," whose amoral philosophies he finds quite appealing. After he has his portrait painted, his frivolity and general demeanor degenerate into wickedness, but only the portrait bears the effects of his descent into decadence and serves as a powerful symbol of Gray's internal ruin. Dorian himself, however, remains as young and unspoiled as the day he first sat for the painting.
Wilde's exploration of life without limits or consequences shocked its late-Victorian audience and remains highly unsettling to modern readers. We, like Dorian, are forced to reconsider whether total freedom and absolute knowledge are really worth their costs.