The Picture of Dorian Gray Written by Oscar Wilde

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

When I was little, it was one of my hidden wishes to grow up fast. There were many reasons, and one of them was curiosity about my future look. For a student in the middle of adolescence, physical appearance meant a lot. I wished my eyes were larger and I were taller. My look hasn’t changed much from my middle school days, but somehow I’m not disturbed by it anymore and trying to focus more on my inner self. It’s because I have admitted that it’s impossible for me to be a picturesque beauty.

By the way, what would have happened if I had looked perfect? Retaining beauty might have been the goal of life. Countless advantages and happiness are definitely something hard to give up. This, the desire to live young and beautiful or die, was Dorian Gray’s biggest motivation.

Dorian Gray is a wealthy and intelligent young man. What makes him special is not his nobility or intellect, but pure beauty of his look. Even his name states this; ‘Dorian’ sounds the same as the word that indicates one of ethnic groups in ancient Greece. He is described as Narcissus, and young Adonis made out of ivory and rose leaves. Still, he hasn’t been aware of his handsome face, and there is nothing more natural than it. He must have not needed to worry over flaws in his look.

However, everything changes when Dorian Gray realizes how aesthetic and gorgeous he seems. He starts a new life devoted to a sole factor called beauty. He identifies himself and his surroundings with characters from tragedies like Hamlet. In tragedies, sadness is a virtue elevated to beauty, and it overwhelms morality. However, even after the tragedy itself has taken the initiative of narrative and empathy, someone has to be stung by conscience unconsciously. In plays, it’s a role of the audience, and for Dorian Gray, his portrait has a guilty conscience instead. As Dorian Gray indulges in drugs, debauchery, and luxuries, the portrait becomes distorted and ugly.

<The Picture of Dorian Gray> leads readers to a set of questions about their lives, even though the novel’s main instrument is fantastic. What is true beauty? Can a person judge others’ lives in one’s point of view? Are some people born to be bad? To what extent should it be allowed to pursue one’s objective, and are there objectives that must not be pursued? After first published, the novel was harshly criticized for its ‘moral corruption’. However, the novel does not convey a single, simple, and clear message. Someone might find its message too moral for literature and call it indoctrination. Some may admire Dorian Gray’s life, and others might praise the novel’s beautiful words and rhythm. How to read it is completely up to readers. As Oscar Wilde wrote in <The Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray>, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. […] Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.

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Seolyeon Moon

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