Having fallen in love with Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest quite early in my life, it was imperative that I pick up his most talked about work, The picture of Dorian Gray. Acquainted with his style I knew I would have to read between the lines and things can get absurd, much like “bunburying”. And I was right.
A few chapters in into this tome and I started hating the character of Harry for his unreasonable thoughts. Harry kept contradicting himself and aptly represented the Victorian society. I wouldn’t say I completely disagree with him but I don’t agree with all the notions that he expresses. Dorian Gray lived upto his name and turned out to show the shades of grey time and again. He was easily swayed by Harry’s hedonistic thoughts. Basil, however, stood up for all that art is. Right from the beginning he refused to exhibit the art which showcased his soul. And so he had to pay the price for not obeying.
And throughout this novel you see commentary about art and artists. Victorian society looked at art as a means to social education and upliftment. However, Wilde maintained that art is for art’s sake; it ought to be unrestrictive. Towards the end with Gray’s death when the portrait comes back to it’s original form, one can easily conclude that this alludes to Wilde releasing art from the dungeons of the moral codes set by the Victorian society.
There are a lot of absurdities in this novel starting with the ideas of Harry. And what remains etched in my mind – Gray falls for Sibyl only because she is an actress! The day her act goes wrong is the day he dumps her. Overall, the tone of this story is quite sardonic.
This novel can easily make it to the syllabus of the literature students for all it’s virtues and vices but for me it was definitely a one time read.
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