Oscar Wilde: On Endings

The Picture of Dorian Gray leaves us with a rather tragic ending. In a sense, there is no real sense of an ending other than the relatively expected demise of Dorian Gray. We are left with most of the main characters of the novel either dead or corrupted morally beyond fixation. Both Sybill and Basil Hallward are left dead by the corruption and degradation of Gray; they both end up as victims of his demise. In a sense, the ending of The Picture of Dorian Gray is quite bleak and without much of anything close to a happy ending. But perhaps Wilde was insinuating much more with the ultimate death of Dorian Gray. While his character does end up dying at the end of the novel, we are given an image of the untainted picture. The text reads, “When they entered they found, hanging upon the wall, a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage” (Gray 159). The physical Dorian Gray, who had corrupted beautifully and completely, confronts the realization of his sins and his wrongdoings; he attempts to destroy the painting in a burst of horror and regret over just how far his soul has corrupted. While such ultimately leads to his death, perhaps Wilde was utilizing this demise to show that the only true way Gray could return to his untainted, beautiful state, was through death or even, through death by his own hands. Although there is not many signs that point to anything other than a tragic ending for this work, there is respite among the fact that Gray accounts for his sins and ultimately, through his own passing at his own hands, his soul returns to the pure state it once was.

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