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What does The Picture of Dorian Gray mean

Recently, quite very recently, yesterday in fact, I finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by dear old Oscar. Yes, how very shameful of me to have only read it now, but if it makes you feel any better I did read an excerpt once in school a few years ago. Just never quite got to reading the whole thing until I bought Oscar's complete works a few weeks ago.

Having read the book and somewhat understood the story, I can't seem to quite figure out what it was about. Oh I know what it talked about. Seeming as how it's real art, however, there's supposed to be a meaning to it. Something it was about.

At first I thought it was a sort of guide on corrupting young souls through paradox and too great an insight into the intricacies of life. This was inspired by Henry Wotton's corruption of Dorian Gray and I should say throughout the story I identified a lot with Harry. What does that say about me? Probably nothing, perhaps a lot. What's more interesting is that when Dorian became a more important part of the story and Henry was just mentioned sporadically my opinion of what the book is about changed. Now it was Dorian that corrupted others, in fact he corrupted them even more than Harry ever did because he could hide his evil under the mask of youth. Interesting isn't it? Corruption is greater when coming whence we don't expect it.

So perhaps the book was a poltical comentary? There is so much corruption everywhere around us these days, but most simply fail to notice it because it comes under the guise of good ... Anyhow, that's probably not what the book is about. My final idea is that it was about the burden of guilt. Dorian, because of his looks, can do much more bad in his life than any normal person ever could. But it also means he is never physically or otherwise burdened by his actions, it is only his intellect that suffers. See, when normal people do something bad it shows in their face, others notice, others help carry part of the burden by, for example, moralising and nagging at you.

But for Dorian nobody could help cary the guilt, nobody even believed he was capable of anything bad and it eventually got to him. He could no longer suffer nobody believing in his true nature (that's quite a burden to cary I believe) and killed the picture - the image of his guilt I think was what he called it.

Therefore, I believe the underlying story of The Picture of Dorian Gray to be that guilt is much harder on an individual when nobody is around to burden you with it.

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Published on December 14th, 2008 in art, review

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