Oscar Wilde has for some years been a favourite of mine. Truly, he had a knack for making prose into poetry; for pouring the very soul of a muse into his work. For a long time, I have been looking aloft at his sole novel, wondering and worrying me that it might fail to dazzle me in the way that his short fiction has. However, this stalemate has come to an end: I have begun reading those leaves. Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Gray can be found freely at Gutenberg.org.
I do not think of myself as homophobic. But, the sight of seeing to men hold hands or kiss is something I do my best to avoid. Hence, dipping into the first chapters of the book, it took some effort to will myself past the romantic descriptions of Dorian Gray. I do know that Oscar Wilde was a homosexual, but a man's sexuality should not have any import on his work or an estimation of him. Though, in the end, I am all too happy to see two lovely ladies do the same things as two men might. Politically, however, I am sincere in support for those who choose to be lovers of men.
I endured through those initial chapters, and I might find some more to wade through. However, at the time of this writing, Dorian Gray has gotten himself into worshipful adoration. Typically, now that I'm older and something of a sceptic, romantic novels turn me off.
I've gotten into the much more interesting part of the tale. It no longer looks like a stupid sort-of gay novel.
Dorian Gray fell in love, fell out of love, and the object of his desire kills herself. Initially, he feels remorse. His friend, Lord Henry, talks him out of his grief. Not even 24 hours after she has died, Gray is murdering his own heart by trying to forget her. The consequence of all this is that the portrait of Dorian Gray has been altered.
Initially, Gray had made the wish that it would be the portrait which acquired the lines of aging rather than himself. This wish seems to be granted: either in reality or as a figment of his imagination -- no one has yet confirmed it other than Gray himself, who might rather be going mad. That is to say, his portrait has gained a cruel smile after dealing cruelly with the young actress.
At this point, I am unsure if he is imagining things or if this is real. Either way, he seems to be on the road to madness.
Image via WikipediaMay 28
Chapter XI "Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book." I can't help but wonder at this idea. I think it might be said that some books might have the power of changing a man. If there was a book that really does pervert a man, as so many Puritans would have us believe, then does that make censurship OK? As a magnificent writer, I wonder what his feelings were on the topic. Perhaps later on he'll revisit this idea.
"Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even." He seems to believe that the lines and ugliness that makes up a person is a result of sin. I suppose the argument might go that the older one gets, the more sins one may commit, and consequently, the more lines and effects on appearance might result.
Madness seems to have engulfed him entirely. He finally brings himself to show the painting he has hidden to Basil Hallward, the very painter who made it. However, in so doing, he discovers that he hates Basil for making it, and blames him for the terrible person he has become.
It is late. Really, it still feels like Monday still. But I cannot put this book down. There is this gentle change that has stolen over Dorian. No longer is he intellectually pushed around by Lord Henry Harry. He has grown weary of the evil life that he has led. He is trying to become good. Somewhere, it is certain, within the bosom of that goodness, I am certain he will find his end.
"...wicked people were always very old and very ugly," said a girl to Dorian when he confesses to her his true soul. Was this Oscar Wilde's message? That good and evil, or evil at any rate, can wear any face at all? Beautiful or ugly, his sins never wrote their messages on his face.
Ultimately, he finds that he cannot abandon his sins. He can no longer fool himself into thinking he can find
any kind of forgiveness. Cursing the painting, he stabs at it. But what he really ends up stabbing is himself through the heart. The image of Dorian Gray, however, is restored to 'all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty.'
What a remarkable work of literature this novel of Wilde's was. It is so provocative, so masterfully written, original, and everything that I dared not hope for when I began reading this book. I cannot help but recommend this brilliant piece of literature. It is simply unbelievable.