"What the worm was to the corpse, his sins would be to the painted image on the canvas. They would mar its beauty, and eat away its grace. They would defile it, and make it shameful. And yet the thing would still live on. It would be always alive."I thought it would be a bit unnerving to read this book as I pass into the early stages of middle age. I see my hair slowly graying, my skin beginning to loosen ever so slightly. My eyes are not as sharp as they once were and my knees and ankles pop. And I am surrounded by a society that worships youth and beauty. What would I give to the stop the decaying hands of time and stay forever young?
Those were my thoughts as I began the novel. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those books that has been in my consciousness for so long that I thought I knew what it was about. How wrong I was! No devil shows up to bargain for Dorian’s soul in exchange for immortality. Dorian’s wish to remain forever young turns out to be merely a passing whim stated out loud then all but forgotten. But something or someone heard, and his eternal youth becomes a beautiful mask to polite society while his originally somewhat naive soul plunges into duplicitous immorality, and the mutating painting becomes a constant reminder of the ugliness beneath the flawless skin.
There is so much going on, so many messages in this book that it is difficult to choose a single aspect to spotlight for a short review. Because most of Dorian’s debaucheries are never explicitly stated, each individual will most likely see a different monster in this tale that is still so relevant today in a society where image seems to be everything. Said Wilde himself, "Each man sees his own sin in Dorian Gray. What Dorian Gray’s sins are, no one knows. He who finds them has brought them."