No Sigh of Sympathy for Mr. Dorian Gray

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I really don’t know why I keep torturing myself with these classic books..  maybe it’s the old English major in me that still believes I need to read classics to be a literature connoisseur; or maybe it’s because I know that not all classics are this bad; or maybe I’m slightly sadistic.  It’s probably a mixture of all these reasons.

I knew the main idea behind The Picture of Dorian Gray, and it has always interested me.  However, I did not know what this book was actually about.  I was quite surprised.  I thought the novel was literally about The Picture of Dorian Gray.  No no no.  It is about the affect the picture had on Dorian Gray, the man…  but this sentence implies that I take the same position Mr. Gray did.  I do not blame the picture for Dorian’s “change” in person.  I also don’t blame the painter, Basil, as Dorian did.  Or the Yellow book he reads that “changes his life.”  Or even the man who loved having such an influence on Dorian’s person, Lord Henry Wotton.  My surprise is how much I disliked Dorian Gray…  I’ve never read a novel where I’ve disliked a character this much.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent case about Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old who got drunk and drove his dad’s F-350 into a group of people, killing four and injuring nine.

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His parents happen to be wealthy, so his attorneys and psychologist described his affluenza as a mental disability caused by growing up with wealthy parents and never having to suffer real consequences in life, which made him prone to very poor decision making. The judge agreed with his diagnosis and let him off with probation and no jail time.  Obviously this is creating anger (and I’ll point out that it is making this kid more popular), especially in the less fortunate population who have suffered from these types of people and these types of rulings for generations.

Why do I bring this up you ask?

uhm… because The PoDorGy is a book about affluenza.  I mean.. it begins with Lord Henry spouting all kinds of nonsense: life should be spent having fun, he never worries about consequences, beautiful people shouldn’t answer to anyone, etc etc etc.  He’s wealthy.  He’s never answered for his actions.  Definition to affluenza?  I think so.  Not a day has gone by in the novel before Lord Henry grabs (with greedy little hands) hold of Dorian’s gullible little mind.  This young man is so easily influenced by Lord Henry’s words.. He’s nobility, right?  I thought people are called nobility because they have the best genes… wouldn’t that imply that they have stronger will-power???  Maybe I’m mistaken.. we less fortunate people aren’t the brightest, you know.  

Maybe Dorian isn’t influenced at all by Lord Henry.  Maybe Lord Henry only speaks what Dorian already thinks.  I mean… everyone says he’s handsome and charming… and that obviously implies he should get away with doing the worst things in the world.

We first meet the real Dorian Gray the night his first “love,” Sybil dies.  And by the real Dorian Gray, I mean the disappointing douchebag he really is… of course, no one sees who he really is because he hides this side of himself.. and once he discovers that Basil’s painting displays this ugliness for the world to see, he hides the picture too.  We discover that

This is who the world thinks Dorian is

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This is who Dorian thinks he is

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this is who Dorian REALLY is

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Unfortunately, the novel drags on and on about Dorian sneaking around doing drugs and breaking girls’ hearts and breaking boys’ hearts and still maintaining this air of being a Prince Charming.  I think the scene that best describes Dorian Gray as a person is the scene when Sybil’s brother has finally found Dorian.  They are in the slumiest of slums.  Dorian is there to get high, and Sybil’s brother is drinking his sorrows away (dawg, this boy loved his sister, I tell you).  When James hears the name “Prince Charming” he knows in his gut it’s the d**k who hurt his sister.  So James follows Dorian, and attacks him.  But in the midst of the attack, Dorian plays the age card like only Dorian Gray can… he says he’s cannot be the man Sybil Vane loved because he’s too young and that man should be 18 years older.  James lets him go, since he never saw “Prince Charming” ‘s face…  This scene made me SO MAD.  

Anyway, in the end, this genius.. you know, of noble birth, kills himself.  COME ON.  The picture looks like the real you: it grows old for you, it rots like your soul for you… i.e. it is you.  Why are you going to stab the picture?  I wish I was born with such a noble brain with such noble logic.  I would never have thought to stab the picture… to get RID OF GUILT…  to continue doing wrong without guilt… Buddy, blame it on affluenza.  It worked for Ethan.  

Needless to say, I’ve ignored the artistically woven lesson Wilde has written.  I’ve also ignored any important themes, symbolism, parallels to Wilde’s life, etc.  But how can you read this book and not be angered by these people?  These people who have nothing better to do with their lives than sit around and talk about bull s**t or ruin other peoples’ lives and don’t answer for their actions..  You know what these people need… they need jobs.  They need to go out and work so that they have something better to do with their time.

Wilde..  I do not discredit your talent.  I received the message loud and clear.  In fact, I received several messages loud and clear.  Fortunately for the reputation of your story, Dorian Gray did not.

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