Review: The picture of Dorian Gray

10 Apr

5297 When I finished reading the book I thought: Did I just read a book about ugliness? Did I just read a book about inner ugliness, which is worse? I felt like throwing up. The question I asked myself, and I still do is: why was this book written?

Dorian Gray is a beautiful fashionable young man whose is idolized by his friend Basil, a painter. Through Basil, Dorian gets to meet Lord Henry, a fact that Basil regrets bitterly. The book is all about Lord Henry’s influence on Dorian who ultimately “sells” his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

The picture of Dorian Gray was obviously written for a purpose. In fact, it is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Much can be said about it in the literary sense: themes of beauty, art, friendship; symbols such as the painting and the yellow book etc. Much has been said about its connection with the author’s life. I wonder if I am not making things worse be still saying something about it.

Try as I can, it is difficult to forget the book. There are the almost hypnotizing phrases that issue from Lord Henry’s mouth that leave one dumbfounded. True, Lord Henry is Dorian’s corrupter, but it is amazing to see Wilde’s argument put so beautifully together. Lord Henry manages to convince him to live his life according to his maxim of pleasure, pursuit of art etc.

As Dorian goes from bad to worse, there is almost no hope for him. The reader would like to stop reading; the stench of foul things is perhaps too much to bear. It seems as though the book is a glorification of the pursuit of pleasure at whatever cost.

However, I don’t think that that is the reason for the book. In the last chapter, there is this sentence: It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him.

Youth. A mystery. A gift. A curse perhaps? Each one makes it what they would. But as far as the book is concerned, I can breathe easily. The sentence quoted above restored the hope that I had almost lost.

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2 Responses to “Review: The picture of Dorian Gray”

  1. IntrovertedAnalyst April 10, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    I’ve always found that thought interesting- that youth is what brought about Dorian’s downfall- because I’ve always seen it as the choices he made that led him down the path he went. Youth alone is not a cause for living the way he did- but I bet it made his choosing that path a lot easier. When I first read this book I remember wanting to go back and look at him in his ‘innocent’ state again and see how much of that even might have been a mask. It’s a very interesting book.

    • mary April 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      It is definitely interesting. After it was written, there was a lot of controversy after which Oscar Wilde said that Basil is who he thinks is, Lord Henry is who the world thinks he is, and Dorian is who he would like to be, maybe in another age. Very interesting!

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