The Picture of Dorian Gray

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oxymorons 1 key example

Definition of Oxymoron
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two contradictory terms or ideas are intentionally paired in order to make a point—particularly to reveal a deeper or hidden truth... read full definition
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two contradictory terms or ideas are intentionally paired in order to make a point—particularly to reveal... read full definition
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two contradictory terms or ideas are intentionally paired in order to... read full definition
Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis—Henry's Contradictions:

In The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry makes frequent use of duplicitous language and apparent self-contradiction as he socializes with Dorian, Basil, and the rest of London high society. When discussing the power that Dorian’s portrait holds over Basil, Henry makes an oxymoronic quip:

"I am quite sure I shall understand it,” he replied, gazing intently at the little golden, white-feathered disk, “and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible."

His statement that he will believe in anything as long as it is "quite incredible" is an example of an oxymoronic statement because incredible things, by their very nature, are not believable (literally in, or not, credible). The inherent contradiction in Lord Henry's statement is indicative of the larger contradictions and flaws of his character: in his insistence on avoiding matters of moral judgement and only seeking experiences based on their aesthetic value or pleasure, he justifies his own immoral actions. Later in the story, as Dorian subscribes to this brand of hedonism, the distinction will become even clearer: Dorian’s commitment to his indulgent lifestyle leads directly to the deaths of Sybil and James Vane and, eventually, of Basil Hallward and Dorian himself.