The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (1890)

The reading of this book has been a long time coming for me. My fascination with the supernatural and all things slightly evil has brought me to this book as additional reading for my dissertation. Its central focus on the beauty of youth and what people will go to to keep that youth will be used within my short story to personify my characters. The sins that Dorian commits will hopefully be updated to a modern day society with the confines of a casino.

From previous discussions on which the novel has arisen I was fully expected to enjoy the novel and I can say that I did. Although it has been widely talked of I will admit that the beginning surprised me. I was expecting Dorian to start of taking steps to ensure his youth at the start, I was not expecting him to be as naive as he is portrayed. The exclamation that he makes when viewing the portrait is what marks his descent into sins. The slippery tongue of Lord Henry is the catalyst however that sparks Dorian’s interest in preserving his lifestyle, his long words at first confusing and intriguing Dorian. He recognises the path that Lord Henry has led him on yet still allows himself to walk down it, stating that he believes himself to be better than Lord Henry’s words and will not fall for them again. This however proves not to be the case. Dorian is unable to control the need to be young and his lifestyle and soon falls back into Henry’s world.

From this friendship with Henry, Dorian’s friendship with Basil disintegrates, he sees Basil’s compliments as empty instead of seeing them for what they actually are. The compliments from the higher circle are the ones that are fake, geared only towards making connections. While Basil’s compliments are purely on his looks they are genuine as a friend and as a painter. His ending is unfortunate however in keeping with the unity of effect it needed to happen. For Dorian to fully engage with the darker side he needs to commit all of the seven deadly sins and while his soul/portrait is stained with the death of Sibyl he did not commit the murder with his own hand.

As he ages and his lifestyle becomes more frivolous his past comes back to haunt him with the suicide of his first “love,” it is through this love that we learn why he is unable to marry or keep a stable girlfriend. His love for her was for her act, he loved the idea of what love should be and when Sibyl shows her true self he thought it ugly and low. His vanity stops him from being able to “love” Sibyl and when he tells her so she is unable to cope.

I completed the book in a day which gives testament to how timeless it is. Wilde’s subtle interjections and explanations into the soul how it functions within in Dorian’s life and society are welcome and help the reader to wrap their head around the situation. I hope that others pick this book up if not out of simple need to read a classic but to delve into the mind of a character who has everything to lose.

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