|The Picture of Dorian Gray
"The artist is the creator of beautiful things."
Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps.
This is THAT book. The book that you know exists, you know you should read, you can even confidently say you know you'll enjoy it... but haven't read it yet. I'm in my mid 30's and I just read THIS book, the book that I know is the perfect classic for me. It has the creep factor, the large and thoughtful ideas, the punch in the stomach, and the shock value! ALL of this is included in your very own copy of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and yet, I had not read it yet. No longer! I can now say that I've read THIS classic that has all those traits I love. This wasn't my favorite "classic" book, but it surprisingly didn't disappoint. My expectations were completely met with this book. I wasn't overly impressed but on the same token, wasn't disappointed.
So if you're anything like me, you know the basics behind the story but I'll fill you in anyways. There's this guy named Dorian Gray, a wealthy young gentleman who associates with the aristocrats and artists of his time. He befriends a particular artist that develops a slight obsession with Dorian while painting his portrait. After the portrait is painted, Dorian wishes that the painting could hold all of his sins and his age. Why? Well, because of his corrupt and incorrigible "friend" Lord Henry. This man is despicable and corrupts Mr. Gray slowly and surely throughout the story. His first known "corruption" deals with convincing and lecturing Dorian on age and pointing out that this painting of him will forever be younger than Mr. Gray himself. So, from the beginning, we see Dorian as a nice enough guy, one who thinks well of others and has good intentions BUT he starts getting a little self involved (especially on his looks). So Dorian looks upon this newly painted portrait of himself and begins to hate what it represents... AGING! He wishes the painting could hold his sins and age and all of a sudden "poof", (we find out a little later on) this is EXACTLY what has happened. Boy, oh boy... could you imagine a gift more important than that? You get to live forever AND not suffer from your sins? That can't backfire can it? Hahahahaha.
Poor Dorian Gray, we see his slow descent into corruption, becoming an overall terrible human being. He becomes even worse than Lord Henry, which I would have never guessed that could happen. Without giving the ending away, I must say... this story has a lot going for it, SO many "morals". To delve a little deeper below the surface, we start to realize that Lord Henry gives us TONS of fuel to fire our inner rage. How can you not be upset when he acts as if women have no worth, the only person that matters is yourself and you shouldn't care about anything else. Ugh, so frustrating to read his lengthy horrible spouts of monologues. I think Arianna said it nicely, in her review of this book. She had a hard time liking it because the characters had such horrible qualities, and I completely agree with Arianna on this one. It was hard to finish the book because I hardly cared for Dorian by the end.
I still feel strongly about the depth of ideas the Author was trying to convey, so deep that I have a hard time describing what that IS. I keep coming back to the conscience and relating it to the "Pinocchio" story. Just like Pinocchio, Dorian has a friend that leads him astray (Honest John the Fox was the character who led Pinocchio astray). Pinocchio ends up being coaxed to Pleasure Island and we find out "IT'S A TRAP". This is similar to what Lord Henry does to Dorian with all his talk on egotistical philosophy, which ultimately leads Dorian to his own Pleasure Island (that magical place where you can be completely selfish and disregard the emotions of others). You want to scream at the book and at Dorian, telling him to STOP listening to Lord Henry and START listening to his conscience. At one point, the star-struck Artist comes to speak with Dorian and tries to warn him of this dark path he is going down (like Jiminy Cricket?), but at this point Dorian is too far gone and finds his help insulting. I won't go into what happens from that point on, this is something that you have to find out on your own. I can't say I really enjoyed reading the book per se, but I do think Oscar Wilde made a very large statement with it. I think this is an important read, it delves into subjects that very few books bring up (or none that speak too deeply on the subjects), I would most certainly recommend it as a classic and one not to miss.
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