metamorphosis of a portrait

Still plowing through “Dorian Gray”. Gray the way Poe liked to spell it. I am a slow reader, I know. I have just gotten to the death of Sybil Vane. And the changing of the portrait. Ever so slight a mark of cruelty about the mouth.

Strange since I was just writing about the mirror image of my father. He had the same experience after the first night he had cheated on my mother. Afraid to face the mirror the next day had always prevented him from doing so before. But then nothing had changed he thought when he looked at his reflection the morning after. Was he deceiving himself? Did he make the same kind of dorian rationalization of the fact that his image may change as long he himself remained unaltered to others? As long as only he knew of the change?

Dorian Gray makes this sacrifice on behalf of his unfaltering beauty. Appearance is everything, and ugliness we hide. A sheet, a cloth, a blanket can hide the portrait of the changing Dorian. For us, it is our skin and bones that protect and cover up. Yet, what happens internally cannot be stopped. Metamorphosis is inevitable. And faces do tell on some of us. On those who do not want to hide or don’t know how. The sly ones have it worse because while they remain beautiful to look at, they rot from the inside.

The young Dandy surprises himself when he is able to act cruelly and coldly towards Sybil. Scared of himself and his capabilities of cruelty, he has Lord Henry rationalize it, explain it away. Finding reasons for why he would and could not act in any other way. Part of him is right of course. Sybil decided herself to drink the poisonous substance. It was not Dorian who put it to her lips. And staying with the person one no longer loves or desires would be unreasonable. How much is Dorian responsible then? Does the guilt lie within the actions of the girl or simply within his initial outburst, no matter what the outcome? Is it the uncivilized monster that appears at the surface that is in need of punishment, the one we all have to supress in order to have a society? I’m not sure about any of these questions yet. I will have to read on and keep wrecking my brain. Wonder if there are any answers anyway. Or if there should be. Sometimes I enjoy going around in circles…

’til next time.



5 thoughts on “metamorphosis of a portrait

  1. Dorian’s reaction to Miss Vane’s death due to “misadventure” left me wondering how long one should mourn if there are little to no feelings. I do not believe it is guilt speaking but common decency to say that I agree with Basil. Basil was appalled to find that instead of staying in the day Dorian learns of Miss Vane’s death, he goes to the opera instead! Dorian says, “Don’t talk about horrid subjects. If one doesn’t talk about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as Harry says, that gives reality to things.” Then he goes on later after a little more rebuke from Basil to say, “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.” I do not think it is shallow people that require years to get rid of an emotion. I agree that it may be somewhat shallow for a person to over dramatize some emotions. And perhaps a narcissistic person tends to waddle a bit too long. But, there has to be a healthy medium to work a sentiment out completely. Dorian talks about dominating his emotions, however, he is not recognizing vanity as an emotion. If we forced ourselves to go about not thinking of anything horrid we will become unfeeling robots.


  2. Just a note on Dorian’s last name, spelled Gray the way Poe’s spells it. In the “afterword” of the edition I am reading it says, “Wilde often gave his characters surnames that were drawn from British geography: Wotton, Bracknell, Goring. Dorian’s surname, Gray, locates him in drab, ‘gray area’, which is representative of his indistinct and colorless personality. Ouch.


  3. i think he has a point when he says to basil “how typical of a sympathetic person” who expects him to be distraught and is disappointed when he finds he is already consoled. it is a selfish thing too, to be wanting the other to wallow in sadness, or to share their sadness with them. people are shocked when you don’t act the way you are expected to. everyone mourns differently. and of course the suppression of his emotions leaves its marks on the painting. every emotion he denies appears on the painted face. so of course it is an illusion to think one can dominate one’s emotions. his most troubling one is fear. fear of the lines that life and “sin” draw onto his portrait. ever see wilde the movie? i always see jude law when i read dorian… 😉


  4. No but I have it on my Barnes and Noble wish list. Right now it is $29.99. Actually it has been that price for some while. So is Maurice, it is around 30.00. I bought The Winslow Boy instead the other day. While it was okay, I should had added the extra 5 dollars and got Wilde. So Jude Law is Dorian. I was wondering which part he played.


  5. hey, you should download from the web! these are exhorbent prices.jude plays the boy who dorian gray was supposedly based on, but as you know, you, the writer, are every character in your story, just like you are every phantom in your dreams…


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