‘Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face’
Conflicting signifiers of vice in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Mystery of Edwin Drood
in The secret vice
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The first part of this chapter examines Oscar Wilde's construction of Dorian Gray, eponymous protagonist of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The analysis illustrates the way in which opium addiction may provide a more accurate medical model in the depiction of Gray's physical deterioration. The second part returns again to Dickens to consider the case of John Jasper, the ‘solitary’, and, until now, undisputedly opium-addicted, choirmaster in the author's final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Although Jasper's opium habit is fully and openly exhibited in the text, the character manifests some subtle—and, at times, not-so-subtle—nuances within the symptomatology of addiction which suggests that his drug abuse could, more correctly, be described as over written with the pathology and signifiers of self-abuse.

The secret vice

Masturbation in Victorian fiction and medical culture


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