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The Picture of Dorian Gray
Iyad Awadallah; Oscar Wilde - 1908 - 287 pages
Common terms and phrasesafraid Alan Alan Campbell artist asked Basil Hallward beauty better Campbell canvas Charles Dickens colour cried Dorian curious dead dear boy delightful door Dorian Gray dreadful Duchess everything exquisite eyes face fancy fascinated fatal portrait feel felt Ferrol forget garden George Gertrude Atherton girl gold hand Harry hideous horrible Kart knew Lady Narborough laughed lips Little Lord Fauntleroy live looked Lord Henry Wotton marriage married Miss monstrous mother murmured never night Nina Balatka once one's OSCAR WILDE painted painter passed passion Picture of Dorian play pleasure portrait Prince Charming romance rose round secret seemed shook Sibyl Vane smile soul Stories strange suddenly talk Tauchnitz tell terrible terror thing thought to-night told tragedy turned voice watched wife wild woman women wonderful young youth
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Title The Picture of Dorian Gray
Volume 4049 of Collection of British Authors: Tauchnitz Edition
Author Oscar Wilde
Publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1908
Original from Library of Catalonia
Digitized May 8, 2009
Length 287 pages
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From the first page, The Picture of Dorian Gray hits the reader like a freight train. Colorful language, philosophical points, multi-faceted characters, and a versatile and pliable setting make this book a read that one doesn’t wish to put down even after it’s over. It’s romantic not entirely in the sense of love, but in the sense that it makes the reader think beyond the point of where thinking is safe and comfortable. It makes you question, it makes you wonder, and it prompts you to reevaluate your beliefs, morals, and virtues. These qualities are what make the book so attractive - more so to those predestined to intellectual crises.
The first scene of the book grabs and holds the reader tight as it sets up the premise for the rest of the novel. Basil Hallward, an artist, and his close friend, aristocrat Lord Henry Wotton. Basil reveals to his friend of a man he’s met, Dorian Gray, who completely enamors Basil as an artistic subject and as a person. Henry wishes to meet Dorian, much to Basil’s dismay. When they do meet, Henry explains his life and thoughts of Hedonism and living for pleasure and relishing in youth rather than following morals and societal expectations while Dorian sits for one of Basil’s paintings. When Basil finishes, he and Dorian bask in the beauty of the image. Dorian immediately becomes emotional, for the picture of him will stay youthful forever as he ages and withers, and he exclaims that he would sell his soul for his painting to rot instead of him.
Dorian’s agonizing fear of growing old remains relevant today, because society’s view on age hasn’t changed since the nineteenth century. Their makeup and shapely clothing has been replaced by Botox, liposuction, face lifts, breast augmentations, rhinoplasty, and countless other procedures that are meant to make people look young. Those gifted with youth are pushed to preserve it immorally and unnaturally. Youth is becoming increasingly invaluable as more screens and social media platforms are being introduced to us as time goes on. Old and aging faces are being painted as unattractive and unhealthy instead of a normal part of the human cycle. We are being forced to become something other than human.
Dorian, after being convinced to pursue Henry’s hedonistic ideals, goes to a small theatre and falls in “love” with the actress playing Juliet Capulet, seventeen-year-old Sibyl Vane. They immediately become engaged, causing Sybil’s acting to decline in quality. Dorian leaves her after her gift is gone, and she commits suicide. Dorian, while distraught, seeks solace reads a book from Lord Henry chronicling the protagonist’s pursuit of pleasure, This changes Dorian even further and Dorian grows even more hedonistic.
This leads us to ask the question: What are Henry’s motives? He could simply enjoy manipulating others and gaining his own sadistic pleasure out of it. Another theory is that he’s jealous of Dorian’s beauty and youth and seeks to ruin him. The simplest and least likely theory of Henry’s malice is that he is literally the devil. Whatever the motive, it is enough for Dorian to take everything he says to heart and live by it practically immediately.
In conclusion, The Picture of Dorian Gray served as a pioneer for many schools of thought within its day. It lead to both asceticism and hedonism, acceptance of queerness within society, and another step towards the answer of whether good or evil with one day prevail. Its deep, philosophical soliloquies and vivid ponderings breed new generations of thinkers with every reader that picks up its pages. Now think again of how the portrait of Dorian twisted and withered with Dorian’s nasty deeds. What does your portrait look like?