Posted by: Ele Quigan | July 11, 2010

‘The picture of Dorian Grey’ Oscar Wilde

The picture of Dorian Grey

The picture of Dorian Grey

I last read this book several years ago, and had been wanting to read it again for a while (I’m sure it’s cause I saw movie posters for the remake last year)

Faustian gothic horror has always intrigued me. Possibly because an absence of belief in heaven/hell/god/lucifer means that any story that includes elements of the soul and whether it is the essence of man is ultimately measured against my atheist bent. However more often than not I enjoy such novels – Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s ‘The Angel’s Game’ wrote the last one I read.

I picked up Dorian Grey a few weeks ago, from the fantastic penguin classics range on Amazon for a grand £2…

The prose contained within it is wonderfully rich. The tale of Dorian’s degeneration (a morality tale I guess) is all absorbing, and I found myself looking forward to taking time out to catch a few more pages over the last couple of days.

Probably because of the age I am in, do not find the story shocking or harrowing, but almost inspiring.

Sin is the only real colour element left in modern life

And of course my favourite quote from the novel:

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

The strongest theme within the novel for me was around ennui, and sin being the antithesis of boredom. I guess it resonated a bit from a ‘kids these days’ perspective. Our hedonistic society (or is it just my age group?) drink, take mind expanding substances both legal and illegal, sleep with who they want, live for the next rush/experience/pull and not see any of it as ‘sin’ (which of course is in the eye of the beholder, right?)

In my view, experience is what makes you an interesting person. Doing different things, experiencing different things, seeing different things – they start conversations. Create a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about all things. Develop opinions. And some would say change lives for the better.

While this novel has these at the forefront, couched with the risk and inevitability of becoming apathetic and also dismissive – a typical Gen Y trait. Oscar Wilde when asked if his novel was immoral after it was published stated “All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment.”

Homosexuality is hinted at within the novel (I’m thinking more of the young men who fell out with Dorian, as well as the written threat to the scientist later in the book – rather than the slightly more obvious adoration of Dorian from both Basil and Lord Henry), however remained an underlying theme for me. Given the trials for ‘gross indecency to other men’ that Oscar Wilde went through, as well as his great fall from fame to die destitute in Paris only reminds me that there is still prejudice rife within our society. It’s made me ever more determined to support Gay marriage, to ensure that we all remain on equal terms within our society. I’m still disgusted that homosexuality is seen as a crime in some cultures, and the violence inflicted on people who are the same as you and I.

It’s a short, excellent read – has definitely made me think – and inspired me to get out and do more with my life, and take in more cultural experiences. Given the novels’ content (murder, suicide, debauchery et al) that’s slightly surprising, however interesting that a potentially depressing novel can have such a positive effect.


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