“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young….If it were only the other way!”
-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
A narcissist can be described as someone who has an excessive interest in themselves. While self love is important, narcissists take it too far. They think of themselves as superior in every way whatsoever. Their admiration and obsession with themselves can challenge extremities, sometimes even lead to their ruination. In Greek mythology, Narcissus, a hunter, was cursed to fall in love with himself. He admired himself in the river waters each day, until his despair about the fact that his own reflection couldn’t come to life and love him killed him , leaving behind nothing but a narcissus flower. The word itself is derived from his name. A similar theme is addressed by Oscar Wilde in his Gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Dorian Gray was Wilde’s first, and only published novel.It was new and compelling, providing us a peek into what goes on in a human soul, even though its initial release was quite controversial.Set in Victorian England, it tells the story of Dorian Gray, a man who, after seeing a beautiful portrait of his, falls in love with it, but grows distressed at the idea that the portrait will remain young and beautiful forever as he grows old and ugly. He desires that he himself remains young forever, while his portrait ages. Mysteriously, his wish is fulfilled. The man remains youthful, whilst his painting bears the marks every sin he committed, growing uglier by the day. Eventually, he stabs the painting with the same knife he used to murder his friend, perhaps to absolve himself from his wrongdoings. However, when his servants rush to find the source of a cry, they find Dorian’s corpse, old and withered, with the painting looking as beautiful as the day it was painted.
With appreciable vocabulary and vivid metaphors, Wilde manages to convey the slow corrupting of Dorian’s soul, egged on by his friend Lord Henry Wotton. Wotton’s character was crucial for the plot, as he was the one who poisoned his mind with the idea that beauty is the only thing worth pursuing. Had it not been for him, Dorian wouldn’t have driven Sibyl, his love, to death, nor would he have killed Basil Hallward, the artist who created the painting, and regarded Dorian as his muse. As the story progresses, he found it easier to shut off his conscience, and do what pleases him.
Throughout the book, Wilde keeps up his theme of aestheticism, and subtly manages to convey to the reader the shallow nature of tangible beauty, and how too much focus on it can destroy the soul. He manages to create a world where art meets reality. Wilde’s words present a perfect study of human selfishness and vanity, providing a perfect look into thr human soul. It has gone down in history as a classic work of literature.