The Picture of Dorian Gray …a review

This is a shamelessly notorious Oscar Wilde novel. I say so because few other works have such sharpness of wit, such imagery from language, and such complete disregard for societal norms.

The plot itself is fairly uncomplicated, it is the undertones that makes the mind whir. The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian’s beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil’s, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry’s world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian’s wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

The fairly long passages that deal with the conscience of Dorian, the effect of the painting on him, and the fundamental questions of age, age-defying abilities and death, are tempestuous. The way Basil speaks of his muse, of his inspirations, and his infatuation with Dorian is beautiful. These chapters have been criticized for their clear suggestion of homosexuality; but for me, the point of view of a painter for his art, it’s something to revere.

Painters, artists, and poets must read this. The idea of a muse will find nexus in their thoughts, it will be a sure inspiration. People in love with literature and Wilde will find delight in his sense of wit and his classic take on the world in general.

Quote: “His unreal and selfish love would yield to some higher influence, would be transformed into some nobler passion, and the portrait that Basil Hallward had painted of him would be a guide to him through life, would be to him what holiness is to some, and conscience to others, and the fear of God to us all. There were opiates for remorse, drugs that could lull the moral sense to sleep. But here was a visible symbol of the degradation of sin. Here was an ever-present sign of the ruin men brought upon their souls.”

Plot synopsis: from Wikipedia

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