The Picture Of Dorian Gray was written by Oscar Wilde in 1890. I read it for the first time a couple of days ago. I had assumed that I knew the story. It’s considered one of the classics so bits of it have been paraded around for years in cartoons, movies, and even comic books. I thought I knew the story, just like everyone thinks they know the story of Frankenstein until they actually read Mary Shelley.
The very first surprise I got was that Dorian was blond. Not a big deal right? But in most of the depictions I have seen, Dorian Gray was always portrayed as a brunette. (I am guessing this is because Oscar Wilde was a brunette and often the character Dorian Gray is mirrored after the author and not the book. (I mean the man unfortunately did live in “interesting times”, and was put in prison for being gay.) So surprise Dorian is a blond. (By the way so was Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz.)
Another surprise, Dorian didn’t have his portrait painted but was talked into it by Basil, the artist. Always thought the book was about this really vain guy who, like Faust,made a deal with the devil to live forever and unblemished. In actuality Dorian is an okay young man at first, pretty and no doubt doted on for it by others but generally okay, until he meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. (AKA the devil on his shoulder.) Needless to say things don’t end well. I am not going to spoil the book. If you would like, you can read it yourself. (The first link up there at the top leads to a free ebook version. …and if your lazy…here it is again.)
The whole point of this post is that this book made me think. (Warning: I don’t usually think in straight lines.) As I thought about the book it reminded me of the first time I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It gave me that same stomach churning feeling. (As well as nightmares.) I found myself in places wanting to take Dorian to the side and tell him ‘not to do it’, just like someone talking to the characters in a horror movie. (You know bad things are going to happen if everyone splits up. Yet they do it anyway, no matter how much you yell at the screen.)
I don’t think I particular liked The Picture of Dorian Gray…I didn’t like Frankenstein either…but I can honestly say they are both good books and worth reading. I think some books need to be experienced. I think sometimes a book can be very good even if you don’t care for the type of book it is. Books like these tend to force us to look inward and take a peak at the ugly sides of ourselves. It’s uncomfortable, but if you can manage it, it can possibly lead you to make choices that make you a better person.