Surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve read this Wilde classic, in fact, it’s my first Wilde novel.
To give a quick summary, Dorian Gray is a young man who ‘accidentally’ sells his soul in order to remain youthful. During the period of the novel, he lives a sinful, pleasure seeking life, and his portrait suffers the consequences.
Of course, there is a much more complicated narrative at hand, including the influencing bourgeoise, along with suicide and murder. Not to mention the homoerotic undertones that Wilde became famous for during his trials, it’s sad to think that homosexuality was considered not only a sin, but illegal during the 19th century.
I think that despite everything Dorian Gray did; caused the suicide of an innocent young woman, murdered a friend and blackmailed a doctor… it is still very much possible to empathize with his character. Have you ever felt in your life that something has spun so far out of control that there is no going back? Although the situation is more often than not, reversible, in Dorian’s situation, after the influence of the yellow book, there was no going back for his soul, which was shut away in his shadowed attic.
There are hints of Dorian’s conscience deep down within the fabula of the narrative, for example, his killing of Basil, was his rage at what had become of him. Despite becoming even more corrupt and not even having regret for what he had done, naming Basil “the thing” after his death. His desire to go to the docks and take substances to cloud his mind suggests that he wants to forget all his life has amounted to. When a young boy, Dorian did not realise the consequences of words that all modern teenagers have probably thought themselves – due to the fear of becoming old.
Of course, Wilde once stated that this was not a book with a moral message, due to his belief in the aesthetic movement, art having no morality, art for art’s sake. However, at a later date, he did admit that there was a moral within the story, Dorian’s death was a lesson. Most likely interpreted differently by every reader. On the surface, the idea of just desserts is clear, however, read deeper I believe there is something else. Everything catches up with you, you can hide it in the attic just as Dorian did, or in the back of your mind. You can hide your true self, pretend to be someone else. Eventually, that will break, the act will become too much, too many lies to keep up with.
I would definitely recommend reading this book, it is a necessity for any bookworm out there, and one to cross off the list!