The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the greats of literature, IMHO.
Lyrical, Witty, and shameless in how it utterly lambasts the Late Victorian period of England, it is primarily a tale of base moral degradation housed in a pretty shell, rising above its own wit to show us a lot more about what is within us all and scour us just as much as it did the English period.
Let me go one step further. I can't exactly tell if this is the first time that the idea that moral turpitude was supposed to be reflected upon ugly visages, but I'm willing to point at it as the most popular expression of it. More so than Rob Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But things are not so simple, of course. Since we're dealing with the mirror of the painting and Basil's (the painter) preoccupation with ART being a reflection of reality, the whole question becomes one of seeming versus reality, art versus life.
When you take on Erasmus's mantle and Praise Folly in order to remain youthful and wise, taking it to the full hedonistic conclusion, everyone loves you but you lose yourself. Oscar gives us deep thoughts and a massively cautionary tale that serves as a straight horror.
(See what I did there? A "straight" horror?) Oh, nevermind. lol, Oscar was put on trial in for indecency charges shortly after this novel. He really shocked the shit out of folks.
Beyond even all this, the tale manages to mightily entertain us as we see such a pure soul get so muddy... for nothing entertains us more than seeing the mighty fall.
Should we blame Basil, the Painter, who was the author and the architect of this horror? Or Lord Henry who hand-held Dorian down into his greatest shames and gave him every justification (the world). Or Dorian himself, who is the very mirror of ourselves, wishing for eternal youth and the ability to have every single one of our wishes come true, with no restriction or force behind his moral compass?
Dorian is the epitome of 'do as thou wilt'. Who is at fault here?
This is what makes this great literature. It's bright, wicked, and corrupt, but we are the ones who give it this power.
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