The Picture of Dorian Gray is hardly new to the reviewing world, yet with each new phase of media (i.e. the Internet) we must announce the classics yet again. Thus, this article on Dorian Gray.
The book takes place in late nineteenth century Britain, and revolves around the aristocratic scenes in which the author himself lived. The reader is first plunged into a number of abstract statements concerning art and the artist. These are views which Wilde himself proclaimed, and serve as a fitting introduction to the tone of the book. We are then introduced to Mr. Basil Hallward — a gruff but very talented painter — and Lord Henry Wotton — a verbose yet witty socialite. It is soon discovered that Hallward is painting a portrait of a young man, Dorian Gray. It is obvious that Gray has had an overwhelming effect on the painter and Lord Henry insists on meeting him. When this transpires, Lord Henry finds him so "innocent" that he instructs the young lord to keep his youth at whatever cost: "Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed." This sets the stage for the revealing of the portrait to the subject: the work is absolutely perfect. So perfect, in fact, that young Gray gets quite jealous and boyishly wishes that the picture would get old and evil, and he would stay young and innocent. An awkward scene ensues, relieved only when Gray leaves with the irrepressible Lord Henry — his new mentor.
Time passes, and Gray becomes dominated with Lord Henry's fascinating — and often completely immoral or contradictory — views on life. It is not until Gray falls in love that the story takes it's dark turn.
She was a beautiful young actress, and Gray was enthralled with the way she could turn from Juliet to Portia to Cordelia performance after performance. Indeed, he loved her for it. Then, the night after their engagement, she commits the unpardonable sin of acting horribly — in her mind, a needed sacrifice to their love — and his "heart" is crushed: "You have killed my love." He storms off, and she is left sobbing despondently on the floor. When he returns home that night, he notices that his beautiful portrait has changed, for the once ideal young mouth has adopted a cruel twist of the lips. His wish was being granted.
The actress dies — presumably from suicide — and young Gray commits himself to a life of no conscience. Indeed, he has had his conscience (in the form of his portrait) locked away from everybody's eyes but his own. His existence becomes one debauchery after another, even though society sees him all the while as young and innocent — incapable of the rumors circulating around him. The wish that he had uttered so long ago was becoming his ruin, and he struggles in vain to bear the unseen burden. Unfortunately for Gray, it is not long before Fate extracts from him the ultimate price for her "gift."
This is a work that seems to grab hedonism by the throat and strangle it, while at the same time shaking its hand. It has been commented that the two main characters, Lord Henry Wotton and Dorian Gray, are two self-portraits of the Oscar Wilde himself: how he desired to be seen and what he feared to become.¹ Knowing this, I believe the reader would get much more out of the book if he or she has a working understanding of Wilde's biography. (For those who do, it should be noted that the seemingly parallel relationship of Lord Henry and Dorian Gray occurs BEFORE Wilde meets Lord Alfred Douglas¹) All in all, this is a fascinating book. However, a warning should be attached: One should not read it if one is easily bored or easily swayed by extensive but captivating dialogue. Neither should one read it if one doesn't care for Victorian scholarship, since at least the first portion of the book is soaked in it. Disregarding this, it is a masterful piece of writing and well deserves its place in the classics' hall of fame. Mr. Wilde should be humbly and heartily complimented.
¹ Information used here is taken from the Introduction of The Portable Oscar Wilde by Richard Aldington New York: The Viking Press, 1946 — 11th edition, 1965). This collection would be a very fitting introduction to anybody who seeks to learn of Wilde's life and works.
Do movies change your personality, even for the moment? Is that so bad?
Want a testament to your own insignificance? Watch a movie, especially an epic, saving-the-world piece. It'll get you every time. Sure, you enjoy watching those noblest of moments, those poignant good-byes, those resounding victories, but when it's all said and done, you're sitting in your basement, finishing up a brownie, and wondering where you've gone wrong.
One thing we must remember, however, as we bemoan our listless fate: the people you've just watched save the world probably have no more clue how to rescue mankind than your local real estate agent. Actors and actresses have the singular pleasure of putting a face to nobility, or love, or sadism, or whatever characteristic the screenwriter chooses. Lindsey, you say, what are you going on about? We know all this. Of course you do! But it does help to be reminded. Movies, unlike any form of entertainment ever known to man, are entrancing. They almost totally absorb you in other, certainly more magnificent, lives. Many of them make you despise your own humdrum existence.
Great, you're telling us we should boycott movies for our mental health, you reply. Don't be silly. I don't want the entire media monster on my tail. Movies are not, in and of themselves, evil or unhealthy. If you live in them, if you dream of them, if you hate your world because you've seen something flash across a screen that you want, then there's a danger. We are not made to live other's lives. Neither are we made to live in a story land. There is a living, breathing, existing world around us made of people who very much need us to be in the here and now. Love exists on this earth only in people, and people do not exist in movies. A movie may call us to higher aims, to greater goals, to loftier purposes, and that is all very good. Kudos to that film! Or a movie may remind us of the toils of human suffering, and stir pity in our hearts. They may teach us many things, and it is to our credit if we learn from these technological projections of the imagination.
What is film but another multi-billion dollar form of entertainment? It can be a gift from God, or a tool of harmful distraction. It can exhibit right from wrong to our children, or it can muddy the waters into an unrecognizable, noisy blur. Like any other form of human endeavour, it can stir both the mind and spirit to good or to evil.
So enjoy watching movies to your heart's content (although I think you'll find numerous other things that may content your heart better), but do so wisely, with an ear and an eye toward what you're absorbing. Because it is a scary fact that once an image or a sound enters your head, it's gonna stay there forever, and may pop up at the most inopportune times.
To conclude, the next time you watch "Armageddon" or "ID4", remember this little article and feel better about your particular lot in life. You're needed, wherever you are, and you were put there for a purpose.
After having one of the worst possible experiences while trying to relax and enjoy a movie I decided to share something with all of you readers. Face it. Americans have forgotten how to act at the Theatre. Dont blow me off here; I know what I am talking about. Lets just call it the art of cinemus:interruptus, we have all experienced it. Talking, crying babies, cell phones, the list goes on and on. It needs to stop now! Acting with proper etiquette while watching a movie at a theatre makes the show much more enjoyable, not only for you, but for all your fellow moviegoers. Here is my list of pointers! I hope that these help each and every experience to be much more pleasant!
— Dont save seats. Laying your coat across one or two seats is acceptable; hoarding an entire row of prime seats is a big no-no.
— If you MUST come in late, then do so QUIETLY. However, it is much better to be a few minutes early.
— TURN off all phones and pagers PLEASE! Or at least turn them to vibrating mode. Common sense please. If you have a watch that beeps, chimes, or plays music, disengage this feature before the performance. You may not mean to hit the button that plays Its a Small World After all, but accidents do happen.
— Parents should inform their child on theatre etiquette. If you bring your child with you to the Theatre, they should be briefed on how they should behave during the show. The best advice is to select shows that are appropriate and suitable for kids. Really, do YOU think Jurassic Park 3 is appropriate for a child that watches Barney on a regular basis?
— Please dont bring babies to the theatre. They tend to cry and distract everyone. If you have too, for reasons I dont understand, then if/when the child does cry, please make a speedy exit with said child. Dont just sit in there and try to stop the crying.
— Once the movie starts, please eat as quiet as you are able too. Dont eat cellophane wrapped candy or cough drops in the theatre. Unwrapping crinkly plastic bags and other noisy food packages are definitely a no-no. If you need one of these items (esp. the cough drops!) please unwrap some before the movie begins.
— Dont put your feet on the theatre chairs, backs, or arms.
Take off your baseball cap, or any hat, for that matter.
Keep the aisle around you clear of feet, bags and small children.
— Get up and down as little as possible during the movie. Please use the bathroom before the show starts. If you know that you will most likely have to visit the restroom during the show please sit in the back.
— Keep seat switching to a bare-minimum, there may be short people behind you struggling to see.
— If the theatre is crowded please move into the center of the row so latecomers can slip into the aisle seats, without causing many to have to move about.
— The theatre is not the place to make-out with your loved one. I know it's dark but please leave that kind of activity until after you leave the theatre. Lets show some respect for others who may have come to the movie to see the MOVIE, not romancing audience members.
— If you need to leave the show, for any reason, please do so quickly and quietly.
— And last but definitely not least, Silence! Be quiet. Dont talk. How else do I have to say it? Save all discussion until after the show. Discussion and comments that you have about the show should be left till you leave the auditorium. Please remain quiet. It is all right to react to the show but chatting that causes distraction is considered rude. Besides, debating the finer points of a plot is always better accompanied by a post-movie coffee and dessert. Here is an example list of no-nos. I found this list on one of my sited sources and included it because I too, unfortunately, have heard many of these while trying to watch a movie.
— Pointing out the obvious ("that's the wrong apartment number, there!") as though everyone else in the theater is a little slow, and you're offering a public service.
— Pointing out the obvious, AND making moral observations, to children one is attending with.(See Bobby, this is why we dont steal).
— Reading (out loud of course) signs on things ("do not enter") as though they were either great revelations or really funny jokes.
— Asking stupid questions out loud ("is that the same guy who shot the bank clerk?").
— Answering stupid questions out loud ("no honey, that was the other guy...).
To end this, here is something I found, said by a man named J.T. Bowen, Here's what I suggest. Next time you go to the theatre, take a second to think about how good it feels to have some leisure time. Then look at the people around you. They're nice people. Imagine if they were friends of yours. You'd want to make sure you didn't do anything to offend them. [Then the show starts. Watch it nicely please. After the lights come back up, quietly leave the theatre and maybe even think about what you just saw. Maybe talk about it with the person you just shared this experience with. Think about how your life is enriched because of the experience you just had. Then get on your cell phone if you feel you need to.