The Picture of Dorian Gray – A Corruption of Beauty
A lot of classics manage to stand the test of time. Maybe it’s their ability to portray the human condition such as Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and the works of Shakespeare. Or maybe it’s their ability to portray a warped yet somewhat accurate representation of the future such as 1984, Dune, and the Foundation Trilogy.
But out of all the classics, one that stands out is the Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and that’s mostly because it manages to portray a perfect representation of the human condition, while unwittingly revealing how the human condition will evolve in the future.
Here let me explain.
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of an incredibly handsome man named Dorian Gray who is always praised for his beauty, mostly from his so-called friends Lord Henry Wotton, a pompous and overly opinionated gentleman and Basil Hallward, a kind but obsessed artist who adores the protagonist.
Due to this adoration, Basil creates a painting of Dorian that perfectly captures his beauty while remarking that while his beauty will fade the painting will stay the same. Dorian, on the other hand, wishes for the opposite, that he will remain beautiful forever and that the painting would age, while unaware that his wishes have come true.
Slowly the actions of a young and beautiful English gentleman are portrayed on the painting causing him to see the ugliness that hides underneath the skin every day. But rather than confront or change his ways he hides the painting from view and continues his life of debauchery until his untimely demise.
What the Picture of Dorian Gray does, is it shows how as a society we praise beauty as if it is something that should be praised. How we constantly take photos of ourselves which should be to capture the moment but instead we use it to capture our beauty and preserve it with filters. Or as our beauty fades rather than excepting our fate we try to hold it back with a multitude of drugs and surgeries.
Worst of all is how we compete with beauty, how we strive to be at the top with a mere reflection. We try to improve our image with makeup and accessories, but we soon realize that that isn't enough and soon turn to acts of depravity, competitions and challenges that hurt others, yet most of the time we only hurt ourselves.
But just like The Picture of Dorian Gray, rather than confronting our crimes, facing our true selves in the mirror. We hide it, we deny it, focusing on the reflection and not on the corruption that lurks beneath.