The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray, apart from being a classic work of literature written by one of the greatest writers of all time, it is a book that has readers searching for meaning. It seduces us into examining the value of appearance over substance and opens up a debate on the consequences of our actions. The consequence of remaining young and transferring the ageing process to a portrait was more than just the outward reflection of Dorian Gray, it also affected his internal soul and moral compass. Along with the painter Basil Hallward and his associate Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian’s life takes a direction into hedonistic behaviour.
What price would you be willing to pay to remain young? It’s an age-old fantasy, would you challenge nature? Would you challenge lawfulness? Would you challenge morality? Could your conscience remain clear? This wonderful novel creates a framework for us to ponder the value of behaviour, the price we would be willing to pay for personal gratification, the balance of our actions on our lives and those around us, and is redemption truly possible.
Given those choices, Dorian Gray challenged them all and slowly his character eroded over the years, even if his appearance didn’t. All immediate consequences seemed to evade him, although when he wants to glimpse the true nature of his character he only has to view the Portrait and he will see the transference of his soul manifested into physical appearance presented in its most horrific detail.
It’s Oscar Wilde, so expect masterful literary genius as he fills each page with wonderful poetic prose. The delicate way he constructs characters and builds the interactions between them is amazing. I’ve watched the film adaptations of this story but the book far exceeds the intent and the challenge to our sense of morality.
A book I highly recommend and it may be surprising to know that it was Oscar Wilde’s only novel.