The Picture of Dorain Gray
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”
-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The story revolves around one of London’s strikingly handsome, almost beautiful youth named Dorian Gray who models for a portrait by an artist who falls in love with his own creation. Dorian is then influenced by the artist’s friend who warns him of how one’s youth fades within no time and that beauty and fulfillment of senses are the only worthy aspects of life. A horrific turn of events occurs when Dorian decides to sell his soul; (akin to the Faustian theme) ensuring that he could preserve his youth and instead let the portrait age with time.
Poet, dramatist, writer of short stories and of his only published novel, a philosophical fiction, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, to professionally eminent parents. After attending Trinity College he moved to Oxford University in 1874 where he stood out on various counts, among them: his ready wit, marked disdain for religion, flamboyance, and extraordinary etiquette. On graduation he came to London and worked as an art reviewer, and lectured in the U.S and Canada. – (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, Wilco Publishing House 2003)
In 1884, Wilde married Constance Lloyd. He then began writing fairy tales to support his two sons. His popular plays include: An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. His novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was initially quiet controversial as it was greeted with outrage by the British reviewers when it appeared as a lead story in a magazine in spite of the editors censoring around 500 words. Some of them even suggested that Wilde ought to be prosecuted. It was later altered by Wilde; he deleted certain controversial passages and added new chapters. The new version was finally published by Ward Lock & Co, in April 1891.
The story begins on a bright summer day in the studio of artist, Basil Hallward who was painting a portrait of a handsome young man, Dorian Gray, who was posing for the portrait. Hallward had always admired Dorian’s beauty. The portrait turned out to be a masterpiece, Dorian and Hallward were pleased. Lord Henry Wotton, one of Hallward’s wise friends keenly observed the two, he then taught Dorian about the importance of one’s beauty and fulfillment of senses, Dorian was carried away by his words and was very much influenced by him. Henry then tells Dorian about how one must treasure one’s elegance and youth to the fullest as they will soon fade away, influenced by his words, Dorian felt jealous of the portrait painted by Hallward because no matter how old and ugly he grew, the portrait will always hold on to its youthful charm. Realizing this, Dorian whimsically decides to sell his soul, ensuring that he could hold on to his youth and let the picture change with time instead. Eventually Dorian realizes that his wishes came true, but with consequences. For every sin Dorian committed, his image on the portrait slowly lost its charm, the graceful smile on its lips, was now an evil grin, with dark, hideous eyes that stared right back. It turned uglier and uglier with every sin he committed. Disgusted to even look at his own portrait, he hid it in his library and forbade his servants from entering into it. Affected by all of this, the once calm and composed Dorian completely changes into a different man, more selfish and unhappy. The almost heartless Dorian even ends up murdering Hallward in the end, accusing him of being the soul cause for all his problems and that painting his portrait was the reason for his suffering.
Realizing all his disastrous actions, in the end, Dorian decides to repent by doing good things for people. After paying for his sins by doing good deeds, Dorian then wonders if the image in the portrait had changed, if it was any less horrific, but instead it had worsened, now with blood stains and more filth. Realizing that all the self sacrifice he had done to repent were not enough, he decides to destroy the painting and thought that by doing so his problems would be solved and he’d find peace. So Dorian took the same knife he stabbed Hallward with and plunges it into the painting. His servants are then woken up by a painful cry, they rushed into his room only to find the body of an filthy, old man lying dead on the floor. They realized it was their master only when they saw the rings on his fingers, the portrait however, returned to its original, youthful and elegant form.
The most interesting part of the story according to me is definitely the unique nature of the theme, the Faustian theme of how one sells his soul to the devil in exchange of worldly pleasures. The book was not accepted by the people in Britain in the 1890s owing to its supernatural theme. It also tells the readers of how harmful hedonism or self indulgence can be. The message that is being conveyed in this book is that there are far more precious things in life than material things, things like one’s good values, morals and goodness will be remembered by people. One must always be careful about what they wish for and be content with what they are given. The author very philosophically conveys this to the readers. The book undoubtedly grabbed my attention with the story’s mysterious happenings. Wilde according to me has presented his one and only novel to perfection and kept me wanting for more.
‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, is definitely a book I would strongly recommend to people with a craving for gothic horror, philosophy and endings with a twist.
II PPES ‘O’