The Picture Of Dorian Gray

by oBelIX

The Picture Of Dorian Gray

This is an old book, written by Oscar Wilde and given the lack of things going on to the blog I figured I’d write about this book. What is below is my opinion J. The premise of the book is what if a man who has everything is allowed to explore and challenge the rules of society especially if he has the guarantee that no consequence of what he does would be visible on his visage.

The book is very well written and flows nicely. You need to be a bit patient though, Oscar Wilde wrote in an era when people had more time and would read verbose (but beautiful) descriptions of things and places. The end is as expected but getting to the end is a journey in itself.

The protagonist is Dorian Gray, a young socialite in London, rich, beautiful. The kind of man who has the world at his feet. Lord Henry is the intellectual who has the ability to influence people with his ideas – he is the cause for Dorian Gray experimenting with the fabric of society. A painter, a friend of Dorian’s paints a picture of him and Dorian makes a wish – he wishes that any sin he commits is reflected on the painting but not on his face or his body.

The rest of this post is excerpts of things that I liked and let’s be honest, Oscar Wilde is much more fun to read than I.

Knock your head with the heel of your hand. One side has a flabby echo. Cock your head to the side and hop—sudden heat in your ear, delicious, and brain-warmed water turns cold on the nautilus of your ear’s outside. You can hear harder tinnier music, closer shouts, much movement in much water.

I like this for the way it captures a very common feeling – the feeling of water being stuck in your ear when you step out of a pool …

burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs

Describing the branch of a tree that is holding onto numerous flowers

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.

Probably true. It was surprising how much of this book I agreed with. It was surprising how much of this book I disagreed with as well.

There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon. ‘You are not going to run away so soon, Mr. Hallward?’ she screamed out. You know her curiously shrill voice?” “Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty,” said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long nervous fingers.

I’m going to hold on to this. There will be a time when I will find someone for who this incredibly delicious insult would work.

“Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one,” said the young lord, plucking another daisy.

You could take this many ways. Perhaps when the friendship ends something bigger and better begins. You can already tell that Dorian Gray, while he becomes a portege of Lord Henry at first he will grow to become far greater a personality because while Lord Henry has the intellectuality but Dorian Gray will talk of these with experience and experience always trumps intellectuality.

I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.

I do not have that luxury.

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

Lord Henry says this. He recognizes at this point the futility of argument, especially with the painter who is fixated on his views.

Some day you will look at your friend, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won’t like his tone of colour, or something. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it, and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.

A little bit of foreshadowing here. The end of all relationships is like this.

Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.

Have you ever been faithless? I like that faithless here can mean that you were faithless in the loving …

Lord Henry looked at him. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity.

I just like this. It is pretty.

Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.

Words to live by. Like I said, there is quite a bit of this book that makes you think.

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

The underlying theme of the book – or one of its facets atleast.

Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.

The emphasis is mine. Those words only serve to make you grimace – drill the point home.

And beauty is a form of genius– is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.

This book has many eloquently stated truisms.

He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.

Quantifying, putting down, yet another incredibly common sensation.

“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever.

There is a lot of ngynam given about the fairer sex in this book.

Then had come Lord Henry Wotton with his strange panegyric on youth, his terrible warning of its brevity.

A panegyric is a story or a tirade or a dialogue. I like the flow of this sentence – it has a nice rhyming cadence.

made each delicate fibre of his nature quiver

delicate – it completely makes that phrase. Without that delicate that sentence would not be nice to read.

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.

The finality.

Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic

Apply this to an aspect of beauty in your life and see. The results will surprise you.

Opposite was the Duchess of Harley, a lady of admirable good-nature and good temper, much liked by every one who knew her, and of those ample architectural proportions that in women who are not duchesses are described by contemporary historians as stoutness.

Trademark Oscar Wilde humour.

“They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris,” chuckled Sir Thomas, who had a large wardrobe of Humour’s cast-off clothes.

Oscar Wilde (or his narrator) loves taking apart the rich.

To get back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.

Is youth wasted if you haven’t done stupid things?

He played with the idea and grew wilful; tossed it into the air and transformed it; let it escape and recaptured it; made it iridescent with fancy and winged it with paradox.

Ideas are ethereal just like this sentence.

Dorian Gray never took his gaze off him, but sat like one under a spell, smiles chasing each other over his lips and wonder growing grave in his darkening eyes.

More beautiful writing.

She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest.

How to use a description to tell you about the person.

If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.

More of Lord Henry’s pontification.

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

And some more.

Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.

and

My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.

I find this quaint. More so because I know so many people who would go ballistic upon this definition.

My dear boy, the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect–simply a confession of failure.

Per Lord Henry, you should not have faithfulness. Or, you could potentially be faithful to a multitude of things.

When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.

Hey. No one’s ever come up with a  good definition for romance. This one is as good as any.

You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain.

Dorian Gray says this to Lord Henry. There’s a touch of anger, a little bit of force in the finale of that paragraph – it just goes to show a tiny glimpse of the depths he will descend to.

Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.

Indeed. The biggest of our mistakes teach us the most valuable lessons and give us the best stories.

The waving of crooked, false-jewelled fingers gave grotesqueness to the words.

Language!

Thin-lipped wisdom spoke at her from the worn chair, hinted at prudence, quoted from that book of cowardice whose author apes the name of common sense.

Sibyl Vane, a teenage actress, in love with Dorian Gray who is an aristocrat has just told her mother about Dorian and his offer to take her away from wretched poverty. These are her mother’s thoughts.

Then wisdom altered its method and spoke of espial and discovery. This young man might be rich. If so, marriage should be thought of. Against the shell of her ear broke the waves of worldly cunning. The arrows of craft shot by her.

Continuation of her thinking.

Women defend themselves by attacking, just as they attack by sudden and strange surrenders.

Women are strange. Period.

The basis of optimism is sheer terror.

Yep. Very true. Also known as “how hard can it be?”, “the fuck with it”, “CHAARGE!”

Women, as some witty Frenchman once put it, inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces and always prevent us from carrying them out.

No comment.

She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at her, and his chiselled lips curled in exquisite disdain.

Dorian Gray to use a now-common vernacular dumps Sibyl Vane – his first love. He dumps her while looking down at her with his chiseled lips (we need to be reminded that he is stunning) curled in exquisite disdain … His disdain is exquisite.

They had been plucked at midnight, and the coldness of the moon had entered into them.

Beautiful. Morosely so.

There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.

It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect.

zomg!

That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.

But women never know when the curtain has fallen. They always want a sixth act, and as soon as the interest of the play is entirely over, they propose to continue it. If they were allowed their own way, every comedy would have a tragic ending, and every tragedy would culminate in a farce. They are charmingly artificial, but they have no sense of art.

Ordinary women always console themselves. Some of them do it by going in for sentimental colours. Never trust a woman who wears mauve, whatever her age may be, or a woman over thirty-five who is fond of pink ribbons. It always means that they have a history. Others find a great consolation in suddenly discovering the good qualities of their husbands. They flaunt their conjugal felicity in one’s face, as if it were the most fascinating of sins. Religion consoles some. Its mysteries have all the charm of a flirtation, a woman once told me, and I can quite understand it.

More pontification on women. This just underscores that at that time the world view was very very different. It was like reading “Heart of Darkness” and the descriptions of the slaves in there. It’s interesting to see how opinions of the world change and even more interesting to think whether what we accept as well-balanced sensibilities would be considered by the future.

I do like that sentence though – “They are charmingly artificial but they have no sense of art.”

What has the actual lapse of time got to do with it? It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.

It would be a very cool superpower.

The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and creeping shadows.

Dorian Gray is reading a book here. There are paragraphs, indeed entire sections of this book for which this is applicable.

It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment.

Perhaps this is why when you’re drunk you do stupid things

He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not its counterpart in the sensuous life.

I want a list. Anyway, this is repeated throughout the book – the connection between what you experience in the real world and what you can imagine in your mind.

He had the mysterious juruparis of the Rio Negro Indians, that women are not allowed to look at and that even youths may not see till they have been subjected to fasting and scourging, and the earthen jars of the Peruvians that have the shrill cries of birds, and flutes of human bones such as Alfonso de Ovalle heard in Chile, and the sonorous green jaspers that are found near Cuzco and give forth a note of singular sweetness. He had painted gourds filled with pebbles that rattled when they were shaken; the long clarin of the Mexicans, into which the performer does not blow, but through which he inhales the air; the harsh ture of the Amazon tribes, that is sounded by the sentinels who sit all day long in high trees, and can be heard, it is said, at a distance of three leagues; the teponaztli, that has two vibrating tongues of wood and is beaten with sticks that are smeared with an elastic gum obtained from the milky juice of plants; the yotl-bells of the Aztecs, that are hung in clusters like grapes; and a huge cylindrical drum, covered with the skins of great serpents, like the one that Bernal Diaz saw when he went with Cortes into the Mexican temple, and of whose doleful sound he has left us so vivid a description.

such as the olive-green chrysoberyl that turns red by lamplight, the cymophane with its wirelike line of silver, the pistachio-coloured peridot, rose-pink and wine-yellow topazes, carbuncles of fiery scarlet with tremulous, four-rayed stars, flame-red cinnamon-stones, orange and violet spinels, and amethysts with their alternate layers of ruby and sapphire. He loved the red gold of the sunstone, and the moonstone’s pearly whiteness, and the broken rainbow of the milky opal. He procured from Amsterdam three emeralds of extraordinary size and richness of colour, and had a turquoise de la vieille roche that was the envy of all the connoisseurs.

In Alphonso’s Clericalis Disciplina a serpent was mentioned with eyes of real jacinth, and in the romantic history of Alexander, the Conqueror of Emathia was said to have found in the vale of Jordan snakes “with collars of real emeralds growing on their backs.” There was a gem in the brain of the dragon, Philostratus told us, and “by the exhibition of golden letters and a scarlet robe” the monster could be thrown into a magical sleep and slain. According to the great alchemist, Pierre de Boniface, the diamond rendered a man invisible, and the agate of India made him eloquent. The cornelian appeased anger, and the hyacinth provoked sleep, and the amethyst drove away the fumes of wine. The garnet cast out demons, and the hydropicus deprived the moon of her colour. The selenite waxed and waned with the moon, and the meloceus, that discovers thieves, could be affected only by the blood of kids. Leonardus Camillus had seen a white stone taken from the brain of a newly killed toad, that was a certain antidote against poison. The bezoar, that was found in the heart of the Arabian deer, was a charm that could cure the plague. In the nests of Arabian birds was the aspilates, that, according to Democritus, kept the wearer from any danger by fire.

This book was written at a time when verbosity was allowed, appreciated even. A more modern book would not have so many examples yet it is the multiplicity of the examples that tend to make me believe in Dorian Gray’s dog-minded-ness towards pursuing this idea of experiencing the world, living in each and every luxury and committing every heinous sin.

The middle classes air their moral prejudices over their gross dinner-tables, and whisper about what they call the profligacies of their betters in order to try and pretend that they are in smart society and on intimate terms with the people they slander.

Would we ever think like that? No. The world was so different then. It seems obvious but sometimes you need reminders of the scale on which changes take place.

There was the madness of pride in every word he uttered. He stamped his foot upon the ground in his boyish insolent manner. He felt a terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his secret, and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the origin of all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life with the hideous memory of what he had done.

Dorian Gray was about to show Basil Howard, the painter his painting. The painting by this time has seen the effects of all the crimes that Dorian Gray has committed. Dorian Gray himself looks like he has not aged a day.

He passed out of the room and began the ascent, Basil Hallward following close behind. They walked softly, as men do instinctively at night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase. A rising wind made some of the windows rattle.

They are going up to the room where the painting is locked and stored. I love the way this sentence sets up mood … foreboding … shit is going down (and Oscar Wilde would never do that … he’d have probably said something else)

There was a stifled groan and the horrible sound of some one choking with blood.

Dorian Gray has just stabbed his friend, the artist in the neck. The phrase “the horrible sound of someone choking with blood” brings to mind such a vivid sound despite me never having heard that sound.

Time seemed to him to be crawling with feet of lead, while he by monstrous winds was being swept towards the jagged edge of some black cleft of precipice.

Dorian Gray is contemplating how he will survive, how he will hide the body. There may be no mark upon him but the fact is that he has committed murder and there is a body upstairs.

Then, suddenly, time stopped for him. Yes: that blind, slow-breathing thing crawled no more, and horrible thoughts, time being dead, raced nimbly on in front, and dragged a hideous future from its grave, and showed it to him. He stared at it. Its very horror made him stone.

wow.

The ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece seemed to him to be dividing time into separate atoms of agony, each of which was too terrible to be borne.

and more wow. Still with Dorian Gray, contemplating what to do after murder. It is at this time Dorian Gray still feels human, infact it is these very contemplations that make him still human.

a red-cheeked, white-whiskered creature who, like so many of his class, was under the impression that inordinate joviality can atone for an entire lack of ideas.

Oscar Wilde ripping on the aristorcracy.

An alliterative prefix served as an ornament of oratory.

Delectable.

From time to time a huge misshapen cloud stretched a long arm across and hid it.

The moon.

He knew in what strange heavens they were suffering, and what dull hells were teaching them the secret of some new joy. They were better off than he was. He was prisoned in thought. Memory, like a horrible malady, was eating his soul away.

Dorian Gray is in an opium den. He sees all the rather high people. He is twisted and it hurts. Oscar Wilde draws the line at murder – the murder of a friend was an excess he wasn’t able to wrap himself around.

The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.

Elitism?

Somewhere here there is a great dialogue, perhaps the only dialogue of notice, most of the book is in summary between Lord Henry and a cousin of his (I think). She is the only woman in the story who has half a brain and actually takes Lord Henry down.

Out of the black cave of time, terrible and swathed in scarlet, rose the image of his sin.

This is how you describe a nightmare.

Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.

That part was too deep for me to interpret sober.

A woman will flirt with anybody in the world as long as other people are looking on.”

🙂

Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.

True. A mist does make things wonderful. Of all the lakes I’ve been to I think this one was the most beautiful – and that was only because of the mist.

All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime.

The best one-liner in the book. It’s beauty lies in that it sums up such complexity in such few words.

Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner.

Huh. Like really. Captain Obvious.

a broken roof of dripping umbrellas

I just like this for the image.

Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

The rest of my notes would probably give away parts of the ending. FWIW, read the book. Its a good read.

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