I'll let you know off the bat that I am going to be talking about The Picture of Dorian Gray rather candidly. There are going to be spoilers, but I don't think they will ruin the novel for you. But, if you think they will, I caution you not to read.
This is one of those books that I know I am going to be thinking about long after I shut the back cover. At this point (almost finished), I am haunted by the images and strong writing style. Wilde has created a story that has sucked me in and I'm sorry, I cannot break away.
The premise of this novel is this: Dorian Gray is a young, attractive gentleman. At the beginning of his tale, he is being painted by a friend, Basil. Basil is in love with Gray's beauty and is capturing it on canvas. When he finishes, Dorian, Basil, and their friend Henry all agree it is a beautiful picture-one that captures the beauty and youth of Dorian Gray. In a fit of passion, Dorian says the following:
"How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. It will never be older than this particular day of June...If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give up everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!" (27-28).
Of course, Dorian gets his wish. As each day passes, he remains the same as what the picture initially captured: beautiful, young. However, as he begins to be corrupted by his vanity and the adoration of the people around him, the picture begins to change. It turns old and disgusting. The face shows the horror of Dorian's soul and reflects the person he really is. And as Dorian grows older, and older, and doesn't change, he becomes more and more evil and disturbing. People around him disappear and even die. He does things that will damn him, but never feels the effects of it. Instead, he locks the portrait away in a room, so that no one but he will see the monster he really is.
What interesting social commentary.
What I would give to teach this novel. It speaks a lot to the idea of the price of beauty. Here, a young man sold his soul to have eternal youth and beauty. His beauty corrupts him and turns him into the complete opposite of what he stands for. That is often why we say that true beauty lies within.
I think many teens would benefit from reading this book at some point-as a way to show them yet again that beauty and good looks are not everything. You must also be a good person to have friends around you, and to be successful. And while I haven't finished it just yet, I can't imagine the ended to be anything other than what I imagine it to be...Dorian's demise because of his selfish and vain behavior.
But we shall see...