The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde (Adult Fiction)
“How sad it is,” murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. It will never be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole word I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
On the surface, Wilde tells the story of an ill-fated young man who, driven by vanity, trades his soul for everlasting beauty; however, there is a bigger picture to be seen here. This is also a story of power, influence, and corruption.
Lord Henry Wotton is charismatic, popular, and respected, but holds an absolute disdain for his fellow man and is soured on the ideals of love. He wields his influence like a sword—slicing away at his victims’ humanity, emotions, and very integrity. When he meets a naïve and terribly vain Dorian Gray, Lord Henry preys upon the young man’s vulnerabilities with threats of age, obsolescence, and obscurity.
This book’s only drawback is Chapter XI, which documents Dorian’s mounting obsession with material gain and beauty as he accumulates various items from around the world. Although incredible detail is given to each item’s appearance and history, the information provided is outweighed by the fact that it slows the pace of the story considerably. With this aside, Wilde delivers a beautifully-written tale and provides us with an unforgettable social commentary on how some people in power choose to use their influence for their own pleasure, purpose, and profit.