I’ve started a Sunday tradition called: I do no homework all day and instead read several pages of Dorian Gray.
It’s working out pretty well so far, because I haven’t been graded on much and I don’t start classes until 1pm on Mondays, so I can stay up really late and wake up really early to do homework and avoid working during any of my actual Sunday.
Plus, today I actually made it to where Dorian Gray shows up!
I always thought Dorian Gray was a recklessly evil cad who had a portrait that aged instead of him. I don’t want to spoil any surprises that happen in the first 35 pages of the book, but since I’m only on chapter 3 out of 20, I figure I won’t destroy much of it.
Basically, Dorian Gray is not evil. At least, not at first. Okay, you may laugh and make fun of me now if you’ve actually read the book and know more about the plot of Oscar Wilde’s book than what I gleaned from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – the 2003 film- in which Dorian appears for a few moments, but I always thought that Dorian was evil. Like, an evil innate in his nature, an evil that started in his being, an evil rooted in some character flaw.
I mean, he does wind up evil, but one could almost say it wasn’t his fault. ALMOST.
“I am glad you appreciate my work at last, Dorian,” said the painter coldly when he had recovered from his surprise. “I never thought you would.”
“Appreciate it? I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself. I feel that.”
“Well, as soon as you are dry, you shall be varnished, and framed, and sent home. Then you can do what you like with yourself.” And he walked across the room and rang the bell for tea. “You will have tea, of course, Dorian? And so will you, Harry? Or do you object to such simple pleasures?”
“I adore simple pleasures,” said Lord Henry. “They are the last refuge of the complex. But I don’t like scenes, except on the stage. What absurd fellows you are, both of you! I wonder who it was defined man as a rational animal. It was the most premature definition ever given. Man is many things, but he is not rational. I am glad he is not, after all– though I wish you chaps would not squabble over the picture. You had much better let me have it, Basil. This silly boy doesn’t really want it, and I really do.”
“If you let any one have it but me, Basil, I shall never forgive you!” cried Dorian Gray; “and I don’t allow people to call me a silly boy.”
“You know the picture is yours, Dorian. I gave it to you before it existed.”
Perhaps I quoted too much of page 30 of the book to make my point, but that is a continuing problem I have that I haven’t the desire to fix now, here’s the gist: Dorian is man, the painter, Basil, is God, and Lord Henry is the devil.
This is my loose metaphor that shouldn’t be gazed at too closely or heresies might start, but here’s how I see it. The painter makes man, with his soul, and gives it to man to do with what he wants, he also gives him life. Satan, in his pride and selfishness, wants everything that God has made for himself and his own glory, so he wants to take away man’s eternal life. Dorian at this point, has just finished crying and beginning the decline of his character. Lord Henry has already tempted him with the glory of youth, and filled him with lies that life is worthless if one is not beautiful, in a chat they had in the garden while the painter was painting. Wounded by this, Dorian is hurt by the sight of the beauty of the gift of the painting, the beautiful soul God has given to him.
Satan wants that beautiful soul.
Dorian wants beauty.
God is simply giving Dorian the soul and free will to do with as he wishes.
That’s all I have. Maybe I looked at the book a little too deeply, but it was hard not to associate Lord Henry’s character with Satan based on his complete lack of morals and great desire to corrupt everyone, especially the innocent Dorian. Of course, the painter cannot actually be God in this metaphor except for in the fact that he makes a gift for man and gives it to him freely and no one else, and Dorian represents man because, he is given a choice and is tempted, but the choice is still his.
I suppose every time I see a character in a book being tempted to do evil I need not make a theological metaphor for it, but the temptation seems so clear, and it really is a matter of Dorian eventually losing his soul, so I wanted to write the idea down. An idea I’m sure many have had, and perhaps communicated better after finishing the entirety of the book.
I look forward to actually reading the rest of the book, over the next 16 weeks, on Sundays, and I may have a few more odd insights about it, so I’ll write you next time.