Write about a book that affected you.

For those of you who haven’t been following me on my twitter or various Tumblr accounts over the years, I’m going to talk a little bit about my favorite novel: The Picture of Dorian Gray.

There have been films made, there have been bad films made; there have been plays and radio dramas and all sorts of adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s book, but nothing, to me, holds a candle to the novel itself. I’m a huge fan of Oscar Wilde in general, but The Picture of Dorian Gray affected me the most of his many works, and continues to. I’ve read it over a few times now and with each shut of the back cover I am left with something new to learn from it.

I think what I love most about the novel is its treatment of character and the human condition. Wilde isn’t afraid to show us our own vanity through Dorian; nor is he stingy about showing us our own innocence, grace, intelligence…Wilde might have come off as a misanthrope a lot of the time with some of the pretty awful characters he created. But I don’t think he was. I think he understood that humans, by their very nature, are impressionable. We all start out like Dorian–a beautiful, innocent blank slate. And then we are influenced by the people around us and the words they feed us, the nature around us, the unnatural around us. Whether you view your journey from a blank slate into a wild, colorful painting as a corruption of the mind or a shaping of the soul is up to you. But we all have a Lord Henry Wotton in our lives–perhaps a few of them. It’s all about how one chooses to work what they observe and grow to learn into the construction of themselves.

I love stories that explore self-identity and the constant inner turmoil one experiences to achieve it. How is Dorian’s ‘self’ constructed? By him, or by his painting? The painting becomes a reflection of Dorian’s soul–warped, ugly. And the most disturbing part is the society Wilde constructs around Dorian doesn’t seem to care. They see his beauty–admire it, admire him for his endless youth, regardless of the kind of person he is. But the tragedy, and perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Wilde’s novel is that Dorian is not immortalized by his good qualities–but his bad ones which ultimately manifest themselves physically in the painting. Thus, the painting functions as the lasting impression Dorian has made on the world–the mark his soul left, long after his body perished. When he does die, Dorian’s body and soul are joined again–with age, with corruption, contempt, malice, vanity. The book does a plethora of things in such few pages–critiques Victorian society, critiques humanity itself, expands on the idea of the human soul, voices the question of what is good versus what is evil.

Hence, ‘graydorians.’ Bit of a play on the book title. If you’ve never taken the time to read this book, I strongly suggest you do. You’ll get a glimpse into goings-on behind closed doors in seemingly uptight Victorian society (that I am sure Wilde was very familiar with), and perhaps learn something about yourself along the way. Good literature, at least to me, is that which gives you not just words on a page, but a different way of looking at the world.

(Featured image: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Frank Venice)


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