Dorian Gray, an extraordinarily beautiful youth, looks at his newly-painted portrait and despairs at the thought of how time will alter his looks. If only he could be beautiful forever - yes, he would give his soul for that! Under the influence of the decadent Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian begins to lead a life of hedonistic depravity. Strangely, none of his excesses touch his face or figure. But the painting tells a different story. A fascinating study of the corruption of a soul.
"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.