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The Picture of Dorian Gray.

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

WRITTEN BY Oscar Wilde

PUBLISHED BY Harper Collins Publishers, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-00735-1-053, Softcover, pp. 252; PRICE: $4.17CAD

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Innocence is thought charming because it offers delightful possibilities for exploitation.

--Mason Cooley

In this tale of Oscar Wilde's, an artist paints the picture of beautiful youth, Dorian Gray, whose innocence contributes greatly to his enchanting presence. To the artist, Basil, this innocence is a quality to be protected and even adored. Evil is foreshadowed when Dorian meets Lord Henry, a reprobate pleasure seeker who sees Dorian's innocence as a blank slate to be written upon, to Basil's dismay. Lord Henry sparks in Dorian a foreboding fear: fear of losing his innocence, his beauty, and his youth. When Dorian receives the portrait of himself from Basil, he inadvertently makes a Faustian Bargain, wishing that his portrait could receive all the effects of sin and age while he himself remains pure and beautiful. The story develops as Dorian grows closer to Lord Henry and away from Basil, with his wish realized as the effects of his sin and the ugliness of his soul devouring his portrait, while Dorian the man remains untouched and with the appearance of his original innocence.

This was the only novel of the famous cynic, sinner, and convert Oscar Wilde, where he explores a much darker side of human nature. While the writing is reminiscent of his lighthearted Importance of Being Earnest, the content is far from laughable. With a sense of airy solemnity, Wilde explores the idea of the double life and the effects of sin upon the human person. Wilde, a king of epigrams, employs them extensively throughout the novel, particularly in the mouth of the hedonistic Lord Henry. Dizzying at times, these aphorisms are perhaps one of the more important parts of the story, and exert a enslaving influence over Dorian's will and intellect. Dorian advances from merely appreciating Lord Henry's wit and oddities to employing his own adages, often to soothe or dismiss feelings of guilt and reinforce his indulgence.

Using this device, Wilde shows us the changes in Dorian Gray's character from his hesitant and instantly regretted exploration of sin to his eventual identification with sin itself. The point is not lost of the reader, and the insights of the novel are particularly appropriate in today's culture where low brow wit takes the place of reason, and the ennobling purpose of satire has been replaced by ridicule of all that is generous and beautiful in human dignity.

The phrase "my body, my rules" is an example of this. People repeat this as a kind of mantra of acceptance, to shield against the proofs of reason that demonstrate the contrary. How else to explain how the prophetic encyclical Humanae vitae, which clearly and beautifully lays out principles for marriage and regulation of birth, continues to be greeted with crudities such as "six billion miracles are enough"?

In Oscar Wilde's novel, all the clever sayings cannot, in the end, save Dorian. Nor, in fact, will they save us. Cleverness in the service of untruths can be as destructive as wisdom in the service of truth can be restorative--as The Picture of Dorian Gray demonstrates admirably.

Anna Pierlot is a student at Campion University in Australia. Her free time is consumed by art, writing, and a philosophy club that she began with her friends.
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Author:Pierlot, Anna
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2013
Words:576
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