The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
A gripping story of mystique, skillfully decorated with the flowery writing of Victorian author Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray was not only an accomplishment for its time, but remains a literary vision even today. Through the story of Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward, Henry Wolton and an eclectic mixture of other residents of late 19th century London, Wilde explores poetic notions of aesthetic quality in art, the interacting relationships of human purity and debauchery and most of all, the descent of a young beautiful man into moral destruction. Criticized for its scandalous and immoral content, Wilde’s only novel commences as friend and artist Basil paints a picture of Dorian that he believes is unparalleled to his other artistic works. Hallward justly fears the picture reveals too much of his own compassionate feelings toward his friend as it depicts Dorian’s famed beauty in a way Hallward never has before. Upon viewing the portrait, the ever corrupting Henry Wolton laments to Dorian the tragedy of all time passing, the eventual beauty of youth lost. Scandalized by the thought of losing his reputable good looks, a highly relied upon aspect of his personality, Dorian makes a wish that will change his life forever. Dorian pledges his entire soul if only the painting could “bear the burden of age and infamy,” thus allowing him to stay forever youthful.
As the story progresses, Dorian’s portrait indeed begins to bear the deeds of his life. These deeds, under Lord Henry’s scandalous influence, a man with a philosophy dedicated to the sole endeavor of pleasure, become pursuits of an increasingly dark nature. Dorian finds himself involved in scandals of suicide, drugs and a general corrupted debauchery extreme even in contemporary times. However, as the portrait continues to bear all of the sins that would otherwise be written on the lines of his face, his wealthy scandalized friends of upper-class England cannot seem to believe the rumors that encircle the man whose face and demeanor still appear so pure.
A classic novel of epic proportions, Wilde flew far ahead of his time in his imaginative story of a beautiful man who makes a childish wish that will forever change the fate of himself and his friends. Not only filled with an intriguing plot, but the notions of corruption and beauty that Wilde explores in Dorian Gray will cause the reader to ponder far after the pages are closed, wondering what this novel is truly about. Filled with layers upon layers, this book is an all-time favorite, as I will never cease attempting to piece together Wilde’s complex characters or grow tired of his poetic prose that make reading the novel feel as if one is part of the story’s dream.
— Meghan Doenges