Friday, October 16, 2015

Ms. Hen celebrates the Halloween season by reviewing THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

By Oscar Wilde

During October, Ms. Hen likes to read scary books. She’s read almost everything in this category, so during October she has started to reread books that she loves. Last year, she read DRACULA, and every few years she reads FRANKENSTEIN, but this year she decided to revisit the iconic THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

Ms. Hen has read this novel at different times during her life. She read it when she was young, and she read it again when she was an undergrad hen for college. She remembers that she read it because she wanted to write an extra credit paper for one of her classes. Right after she read it that time, she watched the 1945 film by the same name with Angela Lansbury. She didn’t realize when she read the novel that the character of Lord Henry was based on Oscar Wilde himself, but she figured it out when she saw the film.

She also was not as knowledgeable about Oscar Wilde’s history when she had read the novel the previous times. She thought there was an undercurrent of homosexuality throughout the whole novel, which she believes is not an original idea, but it is a new idea to her. The doting of Lord Henry to Dorian is overblown, because no straight man would rave that much about another man’s beauty.

The character of Lord Henry is full of witticisms and insight into human nature from his point of view. There are many great one-liners that he (Wilde) comes out with. Some of them are, “The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties,” and “It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue,” and “Beauty is a form of Genius, is higher, indeed than Genius, as it needs no explanation.”

What ensues is thus, the modern day fable: the painting that Basil Hallward does of Dorian Gray grows old and Dorian does not. He does evil things that are not shown of his face or his body, but are displayed on the portrait. It drives Dorian mad in the end.

Ms. Hen is interested in how this modern day fable was conceived. In the edition she read this time, the introduction was an explanation that Oscar Wilde went to visit his friend who was an artist that had painted a beautiful work of a young man, and both the artist and Wilde exclaimed how unfair it was that the painting would never grow old, but the subject would.

DORIAN GRAY portrays the deepest and darkest places that are within all of us. Everyone has the capability for evil and mischief, but not everyone takes part in those things. Nobody has a painting that would hide the evil doings from the world, but if anyone did, would their mean seeds flourish? If the opportunity to hide our dastardly deeds from the world existed, would we take advantage of it? Nobody knows what we would do if faced with this conundrum, and this is why THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY has had such lasting power. There is the possibility that evil could be anywhere, inside each of us, but hidden from the world.

Ms. Hen thinks this novel is perfect for Halloween season. So drink your pumpkin spice iced coffee while the leaves are crunching underneath your feet, and take in the world of Dorian Gray, and be prepared for darkness.

Ms. Hen at Oscar Wilde's grave, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, April 2014

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