For many years, I have wanted to read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It has intrigued me mostly because I cannot remember when I learnt of its story. I knew I had not read the novel. But The Picture of Dorian Gray is in many ways a legend like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet; similar insofar as that one doesn’t need to have read the novels or seen the films to know the icons. It is never a hard leap to think of Sherlock Holmes when we see the spyglass. Many know, without prior knowledge just who he is and what he represents. The same is true of Dorian Gray. He is the epiphany of scandal and corruption, yet wears the face of innocent youth.
Reading Dorian Gray was a strange occurrence; It was an easy read – not something I would usually coin with a victorian novel. It was also quite devoid of heavy description of Dorian and Henry’s scandalous pleasure seeking. It is strange to read a novel wholly about sexual deviation without there being any mention of sex at all. But i think this is to the benefit of the novel. Its skirting of the sexual deviation, drug use and other demoralising allows for a focus on the soul of Dorian and his character. In many ways we can empathise with him, as it seems all Dorian is truly searching for is happiness. He is tragic because every time he gets close to it he destroys it as he did with Sybil Vayne. But then, that is the beauty of Wilde’s work, it takes the common idea and mutilates, gives us sinful and horrible characters, but ones that are inevitably likeable. While at times, the prose can be overtly flamboyant – downright pompous at times; this is to the novel’s benefit, it is after all about the british aristocracy of the Victorian Era. I do not know of anything that could be more Decadent and pompous than them.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those novels that floats in the Literature cannon, one of the classics that is known and recited and talked about and quoted, and yet still has surprises. It is refreshing even though it was written over hundred years ago and strangely despite its Victorian setting, despite its effervesce, vivacious prose’, remains poignant today.
The Picture of Dorien Gray is a novel that will enthral with its decadence and sullied depictions, but ultimately it is a reflection of a bygone world, one that still has relevance today.
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray can be purchased from Waterstones.