I truly love the idea of this novel for being so simple and so complicated at the same time. The downfall of the young aristocrat Dorian Gray ultimately shows that the combination of good looks, infinite money and bad friends can be fatal.
Does anyone remember the (really not so good) movie Hollow Man and how Kevin Bacons character states how you wouldn’t believe what you are capable of doing when you no longer have to look at yourself in the mirror? The same principle can be found in The Picture of Dorian Gray, it only differs in the design. It is easy to understand how everlasting youth (and apparently good health) can be tempting and corrupting, hence it is easy to understand how Dorian Gray starts out on his hedonistic journey. He is young, rich and good looking, the world is at his feet and thanks to the bad influence of Lord Henry and his endless supply of cynical one-liners, the protagonist gets self-absorbed and reckless. He lives only for his own vanity and in search of pleasures which turn out to be unfulfilling and he is left wanting more and more.
Due to the fact that he never bears any visible consequences of his actions, Gray stays irresponsible and defiant like a teenager. He goes on blaming everyone else for his own actions, suppresses his own guilt as well as his misbehaviour and he is easily angered when hearing the truth about himself. When James Vane forces him to face his past, Dorians panic, denial, paranoia and his inability to do anything but run away and hide show how irresponsible he truly is.
The story is great, the novel’s characters are great (although somewhat flat considering that the plot spans over a time period of twenty years). This novel about vanity, self-absorption, temptation and hedonism should be a reminder (especially) for the Instagram generation that looks are deceiving. Whenever I read one of the „classics“, I am astonished how much universal truth lies in them, because they still relate to modern life, in the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, it might relate even more to our current day and age than it did in the last century.
The one really weird thing of the whole novel was that no one ever questioned how an almost 40 year old man still looks exactly like a 21 year old lad. Seriously, no one??
…that and chapter 11.