Reading Response To The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde

It is not easy to find a novel like The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), one written by Oscar Wilde, a poet and playwright born in Dublin in 1854. The book is considered as a vintage classic of the nineteenth century, full of surprises and a treat for lovers of philosophical fiction and mystery. It is also considered as revolutionary piece since it torn apart the Victorian values and imposed new ideas.

As has already been said, the novel is set in the Victorian Era of England, a period from 1837 to 1901 named after Queen Victoria characterized by a tremendous cultural and social revolution. This era was a landmark time in Great Britain since Britain was one of the most powerful and influential countries, the largest empire. Furthermore, the author is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era, so the book is thought to be an impeccable perfect characterization.

The work is the tale of a handsome young man called Dorian Gray that has portrait of himself painted by the talented Basil Hallward, a man impressed by the protagonist’s beauty and obsessed with him too. Later, Gray meets Henry Wotton, Basil’s friend and an aristocrat, a man whose life is dedicated to the selfish pursuit of pleasure. Not only that, but he is also influenced by him into thinking that its beauty is the most meaningful aspect of its life, a hedonistic and aesthetic thought. Indeed, Dorian has sold his soul and desires to stay young while the portrait ages for him.

Then, Henry continues influencing Dorian, and he leads him into a life of lust, vice, cruelty and meanness. For example, he meets a young actress called Sibyl Vane and her talent and beauty win over Dorian. They fall dramatically in love with one another. Even so, their emotions overcome them, Sybil’s acting skills get worse and Dorian breaks her heart. Because of this, the portrait looks crueller. Later, he decides to hide it in the attic, a place where no one can see the transformations since he has realized that the existent evidence of his crimes is the portrait. Despite this, Dorian finds himself looking at it every now and then, which shows him old while he is as young as the first day.

From this moment, Grey acts as Lord Henry Wotton, living a more hedonistic life than before. The years pass, and the man in the picture keeps changing, revealing wrinkles, scars and flaws that did not existed. Grey has now earned a terrible reputation in London as a result of the many rumours and he collapses on his 38th birthday while he is arguing with Basil, considering that he is worried about his friend.

As we already know, the tale is one of the most outstanding examples of aestheticism in nineteenth century literature. This artistic movement is committed to the idea of art for art’s sake, in other words, beauty is more important than any narrative or moral message. Wilde is a brilliant illustration of the movement, even though he is not the one. However, he is the one that states that all art is quite useless to show the basic principle of aestheticism. The novel is filled with examples of aesthetic comments, references and allegations, and those are the ones that Wilde employs to highlight his beliefs. He exhibits its perspective through Dorian’s eyes.

A strong point of the novel is how it addresses Gray’s pain and weaknesses even though he tries not to show his feelings, while his double life is described too. But, it seems to me that it lacks character development due to the fact that some of them are unnoticeable. Another appreciable thing about it is that Wilde tells common situations in a way that they feel more impressive.

Regarding style, it can be a little too complicated and cause some inconveniences, but Wilde’s writing creates a fantastic ambience in which he expresses with detail the society of the time and its decadence. Additionally, I believe that the play can be a little bit tedious sometimes because it narrates unnecessary information. In spite of its few flaws, I have realized it, indeed, that is one of the greatest literary works of all time.

I was fascinated by the book and it has made me change my perspective on beauty. After all, it is clear that the reality of the world in which we live today is represented. Beauty, youth, pleasure, narcissism and self-love are key in today’s society, so it helps you to reflect and realise how they have a lot of unneeded influence. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who enjoys reading and mystery as much as I do. Everyone will surely find something to appreciate in it and being perfectly honest, it is not to be missed. 

09 March 2021
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