‘The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely spoiled that marvellous beauty’
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.
I felt so bad for Dorian in the first third of The Picture of Dorian Gray; he’s young, vain, and superficial, but he truly loves Sybil. I’m sure everyone has experienced sharing something they love with others only to lose the ‘shine’ that made it so special. When Dorian brings Basil and Lord Henry to see Sybil act, he’s embarrassed that she’s not at her best, which causes him to lash out in the moment. As the night continues, he realises and regrets his over-exaggeration, but, unfortunately, it’s too late. This tragedy, and the corruptive influence of Lord Henry, set Dorian on his ultimate path. I’m certainly not absolving him of any blame, just pointing out that he was young and idealistic and there was hope.
I knew almost nothing going into this, so I was totally surprised by the not-so-subtle gay undertone throughout the entire book. But, of course, reading more about The Picture of Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde, it’s clear I shouldn’t have been surprised, but oh boy, this was super gay.
I started to get a bit bored in the middle. I am not good at reading classical literature – my brain feels like I’m working overtime to understand the tone and marry the language to the meaning. As a result, it takes me ages to get through even relatively short novels like this one. It’s a unique feeling for me – I’m usually a pretty quick reader, so being a slow one even for a short time is not fun.
Once we got to Dorian’s descent into madness, though, I was back on board. I cannot believe it took me so long to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. Especially the last 20-30% was incredibly thrilling. The whole experience was a nice reminder that maybe if I worked the classical literature muscle more, it wouldn’t take me so long to read them. I know I’ve been missing out on some worthwhile reads, like this one.