What can I say about Dorian Gray?
It has been weeks since I finished reading “The picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, written in 1890. I had previously written a post about it, feeling such love for his lyrical style.
Now that some time has passed and I have read almost 3 other books, one of them already reviewed, I can safely say that The Picture of Dorian Gray has not left a strong lasting impression with me, and I have found this post particularly trying to write. But it wouldn’t be a challenge if I didn’t find parts hard now would it?
Ageing Gracefully takes on new meaning in The picture of Dorian Gray, which deals with the concept of the things we do in our lives having a lasting effect on our perceived outer beauty. The idea that we don’t just age, but we wear the consequences of our evil doing on our faces and beings. An interesting theory.
To display this, Dorian, a beautiful young man of about 18 years age, innocent and pure, comes to understand how others see his beauty and how he can have anything in life he wishes, for beauty is the greatest gift anyone can possess. But he must be careful as once he begins to age he will have nothing. He will be hideous, and there is nothing worse in life than being hideous. Dorian makes a wish that a glorious portrait of himself bear the brunt of his ill-doing throughout his life, and for himself not to age.
The wish comes true and Dorian remains his beautiful self, committing heinous crimes, behaving as a creature of evil, and yet still looking every bit the picture of innocence and naivety. The portrait takes on his “true” form, every act is a new crease, wrinkle, spot, marring every aspect of his being, ageing even further beyond how old Dorian would be, if he were ageing naturally.
The writing itself is very lyrical, rhythmic and delightfully descriptive. Having said that the pace drops off repeatedly, entering pages of in-depth information and description far beyond what I felt was needed to actually tell the story. It felt like 18th century filler.
And then other areas didn’t seem to tell me what I really wanted to know. I felt that important changes in Dorian’s psyche were adjusted too quickly, not allowing proper development. It frustrated me when there seemed to be other areas with so much information and theorising, that other critical elements passed by so quickly.
I learned from the prose and detail, it was a lesson in description and imagery. I can appreciate that, even if I did not fall in love with the story that was being told. And Dorian…well Dorian is a man that lives inside many people in modern society who try so hard to stay young, and beautiful, as if that is the key to all life’s happiness and success.
It was interesting that this was a concept that Oscar Wilde felt needed to be told even in the late 1800’s. Dorian went to great lengths to remain young and beautiful, at the expense of a great many good people – their souls, their morals and their lives, and also at the expense of his own soul. It is not the first (or the last) tale of one losing their soul for something that is fleeting and superficial, the yearning for eternal youth, eternal beauty, eternal life.
Even today, a great many people could learn from this tale. Although, if they are as consumed as Dorian, there isn’t much that could be said to them to change their mind, their hearts or their fates. I think it is this consumption and darkening of his heart that loses me. If you are like me, and prefer a character to have some chance at redemption, rather than just getting their “just desserts” (which leaves me with a anti-climactic feeling), The Picture of Dorian Gray is not the novel for you.
Overall rating: 6/10
Next: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865.