Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

608051The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Published by: Random House UK
Genres: Classic, Horror
Format: Paperback
Pages: 194
Rating: 4
Date Read: 08/06/2015

Dorian is a good-natured young man until he falls in with the cunning and quick-tongued Lord Henry, who unveils  to Dorian the power of his own exceptional beauty. As he gradually sinks deeper into a glamorous and decadent world of selfish luxury, he seems to remain physically unchanged in spite of age and the stresses of his corrupt lifestyle. But in his attic, hidden behind a curtain, his portrait tells a different story.

“Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.”

This is a book on obsession with one’s looks and self-corruption. A great story about the danger of vanity and eternal youth. Dorian does not realize these dangers until the very end and still doesn’t understand that the vanity would lead to his own ending. He spends much of the book believing that he can change himself but with his never-changing looks he believes he can simply get away with the dangerous choices he makes.

It begins with a simple realisation. He realises that beauty is finite. It won’t last forever. It’s like a flower, temporary and splendid. People only want to be with you because you’re attractive and charming; they want to be near you, and with you, for your looks only. When that goes you are left with nothing.

How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that — for that — I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

Dorian’s world has no consequences. Everything he does is attributed to the painting. Any regret or malice leaves him quickly and is transferred to the canvas. He becomes a shell, an emotionless creature who can only seek his sin: vanity. He surrounds himself with beauty. His house is full of art, brilliant music and every luxury known to man. Only through seeking new experiences, these pleasures, can Dorian’s being remain animated. Everything he does is for his own indulgence; he just doesn’t care what affect his presence has on others.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

The character of Dorian Gray is interesting because he is representative of many things. He shows how a seemingly pure soul can be corrupted if it’s left in a sense of privation and given terrible guidance. Also he is suggestive of the Victorian ideal of the perfect societal image. One must be respectable at all times, and have all the appropriate airs and graces. But behind closed doors, or perhaps even a curtain, anything goes. He is suggestive of the hidden evils of Victorian society as behind the mask was many dark things.

Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters and a deeply moving story. Would have been five stars but there were parts that ran very slow.

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