Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The saying "be careful what you wish for" has arguably never been more apt in literature than it is in this classic novel. When the young Victorian heartthrob Dorian Gray is influenced by Lord Henry Wotton's warning that he only has "a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully" due to the transiency of his youthful beauty, he wishes for his portrait to change with time instead.
Little does he know that he will soon stumble down the rocky road of moral corruption, committing one bad deed after another, destroying relationships with the people he meets at the same time as any good reputation he used to possess.
Although the mannered society of the late 1800s may seem far removed from that of today, I was struck by the similarities. For example, the obsession with self-image which leads to Dorian's wish in the first place can easily be associated with 2014 and how teenagers of today measure their attractiveness in the number of Facebook 'likes' on profile pictures. Just as Dorian wants to increase his social rank by going to the most fashionable dinner parties and plays with the highest class people, the popularity of people today is often reflected in the number of 'cool' parties they are invited to. The way Dorian's social aspirations lead to his downfall therefore makes the novel an interesting moral commentary. Rather than pursuing, as Dorian does, pleasure for its own sake with no regard for any people he may harm – such as his first love, the actress Sybil Vane – Wilde presents in Dorian's exploits an example of a man whose hedonistic principles should not be followed.