Synopsis: 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.
Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pub Date: First published in 1890
A Picture of Dorian Gray is quite easily one of my favourite books of this year and, dare I say it, of all time. An incredible piece of literature, Wilde looks into the portrait of the human soul and leaves no stone in this dark and tragic commentary unturned, corrupted or ruined.
The prose is nothing short of masterful; the text is dark and compelling to read yet falls pleasantly on the ears. Reading the novel may be enjoyable, but will leave you with feelings of hopelessness and despair. The level of contempt towards and the display of casual cruelty towards humanity is astounding, especially in the dialogues between Lord Henry and Dorian.
The moral duplicity of Dorian’s character was, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing themes of the novel. Dorian leads a double life, one as a refined connoisseur and the other, a coarse and vile criminal. The first is visible to all, the effects of his actions cannot mar his good looks and charm; but his painting tells the truer story, the story of his soul.
A Picture of Dorian Gray is a masterful interpretation of the myth of the Ring of Gyges, in book two of Plato’s Republic. The myth considers whether an intelligent person would be moral if he didn’t have to fear being caught and punished. According to Socrates, and portrayed by Wilde, the disfigured and corrupted soul is imbalanced and undesirable, regardless of any advantage that may have come as a result of acting unjustly.
This is a tale of art and sin, a study of the corruption of the human soul through vanity and hedonistic selfishness. If there is one classic you read this year, make it this one.