Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, receives a beautiful painting of himself from his good friend Basil Hallward. In the same moment, a new acquaintance, Lord Henry, introduces Dorian to the ideals of youthfulness and hedonism, of which Gray becomes immediately obsessed. Meanwhile, the painting in Dorian's possession serves as a constant reminder of his passing beauty and youth, driving his obsession.
"Oh! In what a wild hour of madness he had killed his friend! How ghastly the mere memory of the scene! He saw it all again. Each hideous detail came back to him with added horror. Out of the black cave of time, terrible and swathed in scarlet, rose the image of his sin." In their ideal of an exquisitely sensitive temperament that thrills to fine shadings in sensation, the principles of the aesthetic (or "decadent") movement are well suited to the tale of terror. No story exemplifies this better than Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The sparkling wit and zest for life of Wilde's characters combine with cold-blooded acts of horror to generate a deliciously twisted sense of elegance and evil, civilization and degradation. Oscar Wilde, like Edgar Allan Poe, shows us that what we find loathsome and frightening can also be beautiful.