I should have read this book years ago.
Most of you have probably heard of this book, and most literature buffs have probably read it. If you haven’t, I should tell you that this is gonna be a GIANT SPOILER ALERT from here on out.
So the book is a philosophical novel about a young man who realizes that his beauty is fleeting, and that he will one day not only grow old, but lose the beauty that he’s been taking for granted for the last twenty years. In a fit of desperation, afraid to lose the one thing that he seems to be truly good at being (aka: beautiful), he unknowingly sells his soul to the devil, wishing that the portrait of him that shows his beauty will grow old in his stead.
It’s only a few months later that he realizes that for every wicked deed he commits, for every day he ages, the portrait starts to wither away. Realizing that his wish has come true, Dorian spends the rest of his life flitting from person to person, causing damage to all he meets, except for his friend Harry, a reputable Lord who seems to be the only one unaffected by Dorian (more on this later).
Dorian, as far as the reader knows, causes the suicide of two people, the accidental death of another person, and actually murders someone else. And with every cruel deed, every heart he breaks and every single year that goes by, the portrait grows uglier and older. And Dorian stays a young, beautiful lad of twenty, even eighteen years after his first truly terrible action.
The story ends quite satisfactorily, with Dorian realizing the error of his ways and taking his anger out on the painting, killing himself and restoring the painting to its former glory as a true work of art. And while I enjoyed reading it, I had so many questions by the end of it.
1. Why is Harry the only person who isn’t affected by Dorian?
I thought about this for a while after I finished reading the novel, and I’ve come to two conclusions.
a) Harry is some sort of devil’s advocate (quite literally), and is the one who sold Dorian’s soul to the devil in the first place.
b) Harry’s philosophy on life – his hedonistic, carefree approach to life and everything in it – is the reason that Dorian became what he did. Maybe this means that he’s actually worse than Dorian, since he’s the one who ‘infected’ him in the first place.
2. How did Dorian sell his soul to the devil without any actual contact?
I would have loved to see an interaction between Dorian and Satan, where he sells his soul to him in the traditional way I understand it – with a contract and all that. But there was no such scene, which saddened me a little bit. But, to link back to what I said earlier, what if Harry was the one who sold Dorian’s soul to Satan by proxy, by being in the room when Dorian made the wish?
Or maybe Harry himself is the devil?
I might just be clutching at straws here.
3. What did Dorian blackmail Alan with?!
This one I’m pretty confident in my ability to figure out.
My first impression of both Dorian and Basil upon meeting them in the novel is that both are incredibly gay men. Considering the fact that Wilde himself was a convicted sodomite, this wouldn’t be too much of a stress. Basil almost openly admits to Dorian that he’s in love with him, which is why he starts to distance himself from him in the first place. Dorian, in fact, admits that the friendship was tainted by romance. Sounds pretty much like a wicked case of the nineteenth century friendzone to me.
But Dorian also seems pretty gay too – it’s almost like he’s too pretty to be straight. And while he claims to fall in love with women, it always seems so superficial. His only real close relationships throughout the novel are Basil and Harry. However, Harry himself remarks that Dorian has a lot of young male companions throughout his prolonged youth that, when the relationship ends, leave the room when he enters. Sound like scorned lovers? Yeah, I thought so too.
But here’s the kicker. Alan is one of the people who Dorian was very close to, until they just stopped talking for some reason. When Dorian asks Alan for help with disposing a body, Alan refuses, until Dorian writes down one thing on a piece of paper that changes Alan’s view completely. Alan says that he’s been forced to do it, lest Dorian will reveal what’s on the paper to their friends at the club.
Now, what could possibly be so bad in a society like nineteenth century London?
Remember how I said Wilde was a convicted sodomite?
So yeah, that’s just my two cents on this novel. Quite a length book review this time around, but I needed to get my feelings out somewhere.
Final rating: 4/5. Unanswered questions are the bane of my existence, but damn if I didn’t love reading this book anyway.
Quotes I Liked: