Personaggi: In una lettera a Ralph Paine del 12 febbraio 1984, Oscar Wilde scrisse “Basil Hallward è quello che io sono; Lord Henry che cosa il mondo pensa di me; Dorian quello che mi piacerebbe essere – in altri tempi forse”. Ciò significa che vi è un solo personaggio del romanzo: lo stesso scrittore.
Dorian Gray: Dorian Gray is the pure, beautiful, young man that falls under the influence of the clever and perverse Lord Henry. He expresses the wishes he could remain forever young while the picture grows old. From this moment on, Dorian leads a double life, starting his descent to hell: charming, educated, fascinated by pleasure, he brings his corruption to the extreme with a fatal attraction for evil. This side of his personality appears with evident signs of depravity on his portrait, his alter-ego: “It is part of my self. I feel that.”
Sibyl Vane: She is introduced by Dorian’s words that describe her to Lord Henry as a very good actress: for the young man, she represents art. She considers Dorian her Prince Charming. Her innocence contrasts with the environment she belongs to, completely different from Dorian’s. The reader knows only she has died after taking something the people of the theatre use to take.
James Vane: Jim embodies the difficulties of a class whose main struggle is for survival. He loves his sister and would like to protect her. He foretells what might happen to her because he does not trust Dorian, an upper class man. But his revenge is frustrated and the social order is re-established.
Basil Hallward: Completely involved in his art, he is the typical stereotyped artist attracted by beauty. He is the only one who feels true affection for Dorian and who tries to redeem him when he perceives his detachment and his gradual descent to evil
Lord Henry: He represents the opinion the world had of Oscar Wilde in that period: a brilliant conversationalist, with a fascinating voice, able at playing with words. Lord Henry uses his ironical criticism to attack every aspect of the Victorian society and is the mouthpiece of Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic and hedonistic beliefs. He acts as Dorian’s private devil and is never worried about the consequences of his actions. He physically disappears to give place to Dorian’s degradation, but his personality is always present. He is a spectator, not a man of action and never puts his theories into practice.
Setting: The Picture of Dorian Gray is set in London and the protagonist feels at ease in parks, halls, studious that are described with words that appeal to the senses. The characters seem to belong to the setting that, on its turn, is the representation of the fashion of the period (Liberty style). On the contrary, when Dorian Gray gets in touch with the low districts of the city, the descriptions become full of pathetic echoes of the melodramas, Sinister and ugly faces emerge out of a deep fog in this vulgar world.