Book 13 on My Book List 2019
”He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul.”
I think I must have been about fifteen when I read “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for the very first time and I was totally blown away by it. There was this book, written in such a beautiful way, using such colourful and flowery language and there were those three amazing characters that made me feel and wonder and question their lives and decisions!
You might say that up until I picked up “The Picture of Dorian Gray” I was as innocent as Dorian himself. I didn’t know that there were books like that out there, that there actually existed morally grey characters, corrupted characters, book characters that felt like real people and could make you question their behaviour. It was an entirely new world for me and I was totally fascinated by it.
So I read this book and I savoured every sentence, I devoured its wisdom and got lost in its pages! Looking at it in retrospective I think that Oscar Wilde actually was the first writer who didn’t only make me love classics but also the first author that ignited my undying love for villains and complex characters. And for that I’ll always be grateful!
I don’t know how often I read this book by now (goodreads your count doesn’t even get close to the actual number *lol*), but no matter how often I already read it, I’m still captivated by it. My fifteen year old me loved it as much as my 31 year old me does and if you ask me that’s exactly what makes a good classic. 😉 I’m sure I’ll never get tired of reading this book and I’ll always discover new things about it. And I genuinely hope that many other people will read it as well. It’s definitely worth it! 😉
Warning: You are now entering the gallery of “Spoilery Spoilers” and since this is one of my all-time faves I’ll probably end up writing an entire essay about it. If you prefer to stay innocent you better leave before my spoilers get to you and corrupt your soul! ;-P
”It held the secret of his life, and told his story. It had taught him to love his own beauty. Would it teach him to loathe his own soul?”
Dorian Gray! I don’t even know where to start! I love his character to bits and pieces and he’s definitely one of the most intriguing book characters I ever had the pleasure to read about. At the beginning of the book he’s so innocent and naïve and I totally agree with Lord Henry when he says that this is charming. Dorian definitely is a charming character! He’s beautiful and pure and whenever I read the beginning of the book I get a sudden urge to protect him against everything that’s going to happen over the course of those 256 pages! He’s like a child that gets corrupted by the bad influence of others and when I write this I really mean it! Even at his worst he still seems to retain that innocent outlook at things. I mean he was corrupted and tainted by Lord Henry, and he ends up corrupting and tainting his friends but despite all of this he still wonders why they have become like that. He’s completely oblivious to his own role in their downfall and when Basil confronts him with it, he doesn’t believe him. He is convinced that his friends could have done the right thing and that his influence on them isn’t as strong as Basil claims it to be. What is even more intriguing is that Dorian actually wants to be good! There’s a part of him that’s still innocent and hopes that he can be redeemed, but there’s also that other side of him that whispers that he’s entitled to do whatever he wishes to do. It’s obvious that he’s fighting an inner struggle and that he seems to have lost his way. It’s the century old question every person has to ask her/himself. Do I want to be good? And even more important: Can I resist being bad? It’s so easy to do the wrong thing and it’s so tough to do what’s right. I mean that’s the main reason why actors and role-players love to be the baddies! Being bad is fun, it gives you a lot of freedom and if you’re good at it the consequences never catch up to you. ;-P So Dorian constantly finds himself at a crossroads. Will he do the right thing or is he going to give into his bad side? Is his bad side truly that bad? Is having a little fun with his friends and to indulge in pleasure wrong or is it just a part of being human? The fate of Dorian Gray makes you think and it involuntarily causes you to face your own demons and weaknesses. It ultimately causes you to acknowledge your own vices and fears. In short: It makes you pause and forces you to ponder your own life-choices! And this is nothing but awesome! XD
”I want to be good. I can’t bear the idea of my soul being hideous.”
”He felt that the time had really come for making his choice. Or had his choice already been made? Yes, life had decided that for him – life, and his own infinite curiosity about life. Eternal youth, infinite passion, pleasures subtle and secret, wild joys and wilder sins – he was to have all these things. The portrait was to bear the burden of his shame: that was all.”
”I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them and to dominate them.”
”He was prisoned in thought. Memory, like a horrible malady, was eating his soul away.”
”You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing.”
Ahh Lord Henry! How much I love that bastard! *lol* He’s quite literally the devil in this book. He’s the person that stirrs Dorian’s soul! He’s the man who leads him down that dark road and just like Dorian he is completely oblivious to the magnitude of his influence! Yes, he knows that he’s corrupting Dorian, he even finds pleasure and joy in it, but throughout the entire book he never truly realizes how much his words actually changed him! How much damage they did to his soul! Lord Henry is the kind of character you just got to love. Arrogant, intelligent, wise, self-confident, brutally honest and completely unapologetic about his inappropriate behaviour. It’s no wonder Dorian is so fascinated by him and isn’t only willing but also eager to spend his time in his company. Lord Henry is basically the embodiment of temptation and young and innocent Dorian wants to be seduced! And honestly, who wouldn’t be drawn towards a character like Lord Henry? I swear he says the wisest things and vocalizes the most accurate statements regarding society! He’s exactly the kind of devil you’d love to have on your shoulder! Plus there’s so much truth in his words that it hurts! XD
”I make a great difference between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”
”I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.”
”We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”
”When I like people immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy.”
If Lord Henry is the devil on Dorian’s shoulder then Basil certainly is the angel that sits on his other side. The painter functions as Dorian’s consciousness and as long as they know each other he always appeals to his good side and tries his best to sway him on a righteous path. He’s clearly the counterweight to Lord Henry’s corruption, but unfortunately he doesn’t have a lot of leverage. Well, at least not as much as Harry does! I mean the saying: “Come to the dark side, we got cookies” exists for a reason, right? ;-P In the end Dorian can’t stand his bad conscience any longer and does the only thing that’s seemingly able to liberate him. He kills Basil in order to silence his remorse and regrets, but what he didn’t expect is that this dark deed makes him feel even more tainted and guilty. So in the end Basil’s death only increased his sense of guilt and caused him to feel even more haunted. In my opinion the murder of Basil is the final nail in Dorian’s coffin and from that moment on he couldn’t be saved anymore.
”You were the most unspoiled creature in the whole world. Now, I don’t know what has come over you. You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you.”
Dorian Gray & Basil Hallward:
”He won’t like you the better for keeping your promises. He always breaks his own. I beg you not to go.” Dorian Gray laughed and shook his head.
“I entreat you.”
The lad hesitated, and looked over at Lord Henry, who was watching them from the tea-table with an amused smile.
“I must go, Basil,” he answered.
And this is the key moment! The very first time Dorian Gray finds himself at a crossroads and choses the wrong path. You gotta love Oscar Wilde for the subtle intensity of this scene! There’s nothing extraordinary or special about it, yet it’s still the first choice that leads Dorian down his dark descent. It’s unagitated, ordinary and so very powerful! It’s obvious Basil loved Dorian and when I talk about love here, I’m talking about true love and not just friendship. He’s infatuated with him and basically worships the young and innocent Dorian. After he realises what Dorian has become, it’s already too late for him though. Poor Basil, if he would have known what his picture would make of Dorian, if he would have known how much Lord Henry’s negative influence would change his innocent and pure friend….
”One has a right to judge of a man by the effect he has over his friends. Yours seem to lose all sense of honour, of goodness, of purity. You have filled them with a madness for pleasure. They have gone down into the depths. You led them there.”
”There was nothing evil in it, nothing shameful. You were to me such an ideal as I shall never meet again. This is the face of a satyr.”
“It is the face of my soul.”
“Christ! what a thing I must have worshipped! It has the eyes of a devil.”
“Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil,” cried Dorian, with a wild gesture of despair.
Dorian Gray & Lord Henry:
”Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them!”
Okay, and here comes the moment when I say that Lord Henry and Dorian Gray are in love with each other. *lol* It’s so freaking obvious!! They are fascinated by each other, they are besotted with each other and they want to spend every free moment in each other’s company! So yeah, there’s that! I think their dynamic and their interactions are very interesting and to me it seems like Lord Henry is some sort of catalyst. He’s the impulse that changes Dorian’s soul, he’s the first person who opens Dorian’s eyes and tells him that he’s beautiful. Oscar Wilde uses him as his tool to initiate Dorian’s monumental change. Which is kind of interesting, if you consider that Oscar Wilde was gay. It feels like Dorian’s and Henry’s relationship is wrong and I’m not even sure if Wilde was aware of that? I mean yes, their friendship led Dorian into the abyss of his soul, which is pretty obvious if you ask me, but there’s some subtle note about their “relationship”. It’s like deep down Oscar Wilde thought that it was wrong to have intense feelings for another man. And if you consider the time in which this was written it’s not surprising that he might have felt that way. Lord Henry represents Oscar’s sins and vices and it becomes quite apparent that some small part of him might have bemoaned his sexual orientation. In contrast to Wilde no one holds Dorian Gray to account though. He gets away with all of his sins and in the end this eventually causes him to destroys himself! What a moral punchline! XD
”Talking to him was like playing upon an exquisite violin. He answered to every touch and thrill of the bow…”
”Yes,” continued Lord Henry, “that is one of the great secrets of life – to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul. You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.”
”The moment I met you I saw that you were quite unconscious of what you really are, of what you really might be. There was so much in you that charmed me that I felt I must tell you something about yourself. I thought how tragic it would be if you were wasted.“
”The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each one of us. I know it.”
This book is a gem! It’s perfection and so quotable that I could probably highlight each and every single passage! No matter how often I read it, there is always something new I didn’t notice before! I still wonder and guess about certain characters and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” still causes me to think. The writing style is so beautiful I can’t help but fall in love with it. I fall in love with this book over and over again. Every time I read it I love it even more and I’m sure that I will adore this masterpiece until I’m wrinkled and old.
Oscar Wilde drags us into the dark depths of the human soul, and once you get there you don’t want to return to the surface anymore.
That’s what this book is. <333