The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is the story of a man named Dorian Gray, who is rich and handsome with all of the advantages in the world. As a young man Dorian befriends an artist named Basil Hallward who becomes obsessed with Dorian as if he is his muse. Basil introduces Dorian to one of his college friends Lord Henry Wotton who Dorian immediately admires. Lord Henry shows Dorian a new outlook on life, a hedonistic view of the world in which passion and beauty are to be valued above all else. It is not the pursuit of happiness it is the pursuit of pleasure. Basil paints a portrait of Dorian and on the afternoon he completes it he, Dorian and Lord Henry are all together. Upon viewing the finished painting Dorian realizes that it will always be younger and more beautiful than he is, a constant reminder of what he will never again be. It’s in this moment that Dorian says a silent prayer and offers his soul in return for the painting to age instead of himself. Dorian soon learns that his wish has been granted. It is the beginning of a dark road for Dorian. In his pursuit of pleasure Dorian becomes enamoured with an actress named Sibyl Vane. He falls so in love he asks her to marry him, which causes Sibyl to lose all interest in her acting, something she shows when Lord Henry and Basil first come to see her perform. After her lacklustre performance Dorian calls off the engagement and leaves Sybil broken and confused. The next day Dorian plans to go back to Sibyl and follow through with the wedding only to discover she has taken her own life. This affects Dorian for the rest of his life. He begins to drink excessively, use many drugs and goes through a conquest of women. Although he leads the devious lifestyle for years Dorian still never ages, never shows any signs of wear at all but every evil deed and poor choice he has made is ever present on his portrait. He keeps the portrait hidden away in a spare room where no one but he can ever look upon it. The painting haunts Dorian. It may no longer be a reminder of the young man he would no longer be but is now a cold, dark picture into his own soul. Tormented by the painting Dorian’s life further spirals downward and out of control. One night when Basil visits him, Dorian takes him to the spare room to have some tea. He shows the painting to Basil who is mostly confused and thinks Dorian as purposely changed it. Feeling helpless and furious Dorian blames Basil for creating the painting and kills him. He gets away with the murder but knows it is too late to save his soul. He does not go on much longer until in a fit of rage he stabs the painting, undoing all of its magic and ending his own life.
I loved this novel. It is certainly one of my all time favourites. I really felt like I could connect with Dorian and the pursuit of pleasure, as well as the fear of losing youthful vitality and becoming a shadow of your former self. He was a bad man yet very human, he truly makes the reader hope for his redemption. The hedonistic views shared by Dorian and Lord Henry, I think, are not ones that are perhaps practical in everyday life but are certainly ones that most people wish they could live by. Living a life of pure pleasure, your only concern is keeping yourself completely satisfied does seem very appealing to me and this book is a glimpse into that life. However the book also shows the downside to living such a selfish, superficial lifestyle. Having every whim acted on and every want satisfied, Dorian becomes very disillusioned with his life, losing sight of what he really wants and what really brings him pleasure. He learns that the living an illicit lifestyle comes with darkness that can and did consume him.
This was a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading. I score it a 10/10