WHEN CHANGE IS GOOD | THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Kindle Edition, AmazonClassics Edition, 252 pages, Published June 13th 2017 by AmazonClassics (first published July 1890)
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, "a terrible moral in Dorian Gray." Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be— in other ages, perhaps."
S3: E1, S4: E7, S8: E4 S3: E1 Sookie and Jackson are moving in together, and Sookie has become frantic to decorate her house with more balanced gender items for Jackson to be comfortable in her home, despite his reassurances that he likes the house as it is. She and Lorelai go to Mrs. Kim's Antiques to start the search for their redecorating.
SOOKIE: What do you think, manly? [holding a lamp]
LORELAI: In an Oscar Wilde sort of way, absolutely.
S4: E7 Beau, Jackson's brother, is visiting casa a la Sookie for the birth of the first Douglas baby. It is a week past Sookie's due date and Beau is missing more work than expected, and he isn't hiding his anticipation to get back to his life. He grunts when greeted by Lorelai and Sookie to which the mom-to-be quickly recommends exiting his presence and leave him be.
SOOKIE: Come on. Let's leave Oscar Wilde here to his reading.
S8: E4 Lorelai visits Emily to find that she is selling her childhood home. Lorelai expresses her shock pertaining to the sudden life event and Emily's decision to move to Nantucket.
LORELAI: You don’t move or change ever. There’s a picture of you in the attic that Dorian Gray is consulting copyright lawyers about.
With the eloquent speech and eccentricities of character, it is no surprise that the author who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray is most often referenced alongside that which is considered over-the-top or flamboyant. While two of the references here are general author references, both relate to Oscar Wilde's infamous personal life. Wilde is best remembered for his paramount wit and extravagant personality, even more so than his literary prestige. He was imprisoned for two years with hard labor for his sexual liaisons, wherein his personal library was auctioned and dispersed in 1895 to pay creditors. So where Beau is left to read a library of books during his interpreted imprisonment at Sookie's, he most certainly isn't enduring as disastrous a situation as poor Wilde. I consider this one of ASP's more brilliant literary inputs, being that I needed to look further into the author's past to grasp full sense of it.
As for the mention to Wilde's only piece of literature, Lorelai is shocked that Emily, queen of the well-laid plan, has made the spontaneous decision to sell her entire home and abandon the life she has designed for herself. Much like Dorian Gray, Emily is viewed as so unchanging that Lorelai says she must have a portrait in the attic showing her deformed and changed depiction. Yet as Emily reasons her metamorphosis earlier in the episode, "This whole thing is dead to me, anyhow. It died with Richard." Cue tears.
"Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world's original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different." - Chapter 3
"I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a personality fascinates me, whatever mode of expression that personality selects is absolutely delightful to me." - Chapter 6
"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame." - Chapter 19
The laissez-faire and epigrammatic language from Lord Henry had me highlighting almost entire pages of this book. The novel is as indulgent as reclining on a chaise lounge, popping expensive bonbons, drinking multiple glasses of fizzy champagne, and all the while listening to an opera you've never heard of before - just for melodramatic effect. In other words, I have never read a novel so camp. If I can deduct this type of flamboyancy within the approved final text, what did the excluded 500 words say?
WHAT THE WHAT?:
It is no hidden fact that Oscar Wilde was arrested for his lifestyle and historically defined gross indecency in the 1800s. It is, therefore, no surprise that the theatrical and mostly male characters in his novel may have had a deeper storyline than what we read within the 252 published pages. Substantial edits were made from Wilde's original drafts, there were three versions before the book was made moral enough, i.e., "less gay" before finally cutting more than 500 words from the typescript. However, when reading even the "moral" version, certain infatuations between the three main characters are all but inconspicuous.
CARO'S RATING: 4 of 5 STARS
The idea within The Picture of Dorian Gray, that we will all sacrifice our souls for the fountain of youth, is no new theme or ethical dilemma. In the age of social media, the appearance of a fulfilled life is as an asset to be revered. Any moment of disquiet in our conscience is appeased by artificial applause and immediate gratification from outside validation and variables that aren't tangibly or even intangibly real in nature. The theme of this novel is all too relevant today, the mortality of beauty and youth, shallowness within appearances, and that art is an imitation of life are all still self-triggering and imminently thought-provoking. However, our personal portraits, much like the one Dorian hides in his attic, are now in our own pockets, our mobile phones. We are all Dorian, afraid of ourselves and frightened by the mirror that a superficial society is reflecting on us. The moral in Chapter 19 is to wear our own truth and confront the world with our portrait faces. Imagine the freedom in embracing the portrait version of ourselves, showing the truth of our vulnerabilities in real-time.
Independent: The Book List: What Was in Oscar Wilde's Prison Library
The New Yorker: How Oscar Wilde Painted Over Dorian Gray
Lit Hub: A Close Reading of the Censored Passages
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