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Always Worth Reading
on 18 October 2016
I have read this story countless times, seen two film versions and even a stage play, but like many other people this story has stayed with me long after I have closed the book, and I thus come back to it again and again. This is the only novel by Oscar Wilde and if you follow the publication history of this you will see why that probably is. What Wilde wrote was originally censored for its publication in a magazine, and then Wilde re-wrote and extended the tale for its final book publication, which is what we are presented with here. Originally when this story first appeared in ‘Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine’ it caused a bit of an outrage and the story was also used against Wilde when he was prosecuted.
Nowadays though, with all the things we are presented with in the media and what we see on the internet some will consider this very tame. Although arguably it has never been what is mentioned in the tale, it is what is hinted at and how good your imagination can be.
I expect most people who decide to read this will already be quite familiar with the tale and so know the main plot. Dorian Gray of the title is soon to come into money, is a bit vain, relatively kind hearted and means well, and very handsome, and then he meets Basil Hallward, an artist, who wishes to do his portrait. So far not much to write home about, although Basil obviously makes Dorian vainer, and there are definite tones of amorousness between the two, and then he meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. As a friendship develops between Dorian and Lord Henry, Dorian is led into a more hedonistic lifestyle. What Dorian doesn’t realise though is that he has unwittingly entered into a Devilish Pact caused by the portrait of him. As Dorian’s life becomes more lurid, perverted and diabolical he never seems to age, but his portrait becomes something truly terrible to behold.
One of the reasons this works so well is that apart from a few details and some undertones of promiscuity between males and females we never really know what Dorian’s actual actions are. We know that to become involved with him can leave you tainted, but we have to use our imaginations to create what we think he gets up to. Another reason why this works and is still very popular today is due to the fact that it plays upon our vanities. With cosmetic surgery, Botox and numerous unguents that are supposed to make us stay looking young on the market, it would seem that many of us are afraid of getting a wrinkle or blemish. Indeed whilst this remains so then there is no reason to suppose this book will fall by the wayside. And on top of that this story is a really good read with some scintillating dialogue between the characters.