I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It was fantastic. It tells the story of a beautiful man named (you guessed it) Dorian Gray.
Dorian is befriended by an artist, Basil, for whom he sits for a portrait. Meanwhile, Dorian meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. Lord Henry is a philosophizer who uses his logic and argumentation skills to prove that life is meant for pleasure only. Lord Henry gives Dorian a “poisonous French novel” that encourages him to live for pleasure as opposed to morality.
After reading the book, Dorian wishes that he would remain beautiful his whole life like the painting that will taunt him with his once young self.
Dorian meanwhile falls in love with an actress who is of a much lower class than he. Once they fall in love, she refuses to act well in her plays because she’s felt real love and acting just won’t suffice anymore. Dorian casts her aside, because he fell in love with her acting.
She commits suicide because of her heartbreak.
When Dorian returns home and sees the beautiful painting, he notices that it has changed and a cruel grin has taken the place of his once rosy lips.
He goes on living his life how he pleases, focusing on pleasure and beauty. Meanwhile, his visage remains the same youthful face it always was and the painting slowly gets uglier and older based on how immorally Dorian lives his life.
I won’t spoil the story any more from there, but I definitely recommend it.
I am pretty sure this novel was a commentary on art during the Victorian period. During that time, art was used as a way to try to promote morality. Wilde is trying to say that art should exist purely for the purpose of existing.
Read it. It’s exciting. It’s good. It’s a must-read.