The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Three men and a painting: a review of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to take some time to review one of the best novels about three men with repressed homoerotic tension that I have ever read: Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The novel follows the titular Dorian Gray, a young man in his twenties, and everyone is basically in love with him. In the beginning, Basil Hallward, a painter, paints a picture of Dorian, who makes a wish to remain youthful while the Dorian in the picture ages instead. The novel was published in 1890… and then again in 1891. Why the republication? Well, critics initially thought that it was way too explicit for audiences at that time. As in, the 1890 version of the novel had excessive amounts of immoral sexual content, both heterosexual and homosexual, to the point where Wilde’s editor made him go back and revise his work.

Anyways, what’s the actual plot of this thing? The story starts off with Basil Hallward, meeting with Lord Henry Wotton, an English aristocrat. Basil tells Henry that he’s going to paint a picture of Dorian Gray, this really hot guy that he met recently and has not been able to stop thinking about since. Dorian comes to the studio, Basil paints his portrait and Dorian Gray goes insane once he trades his soul for immortal youth, resulting in him committing numerous heinous acts culminating in him stabbing his portrait and dying. As one does. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot happens in the meantime. For example, after Dorian achieves immortal youth, he falls in love with a young actress named Sibyl Vane after knowing her for like five minutes. When he brings Basil and Henry to one of her performances in “Romeo and Juliet,” though, Sibyl gives one bad performance which results in Dorian saying he never loved her in the first place and revoking his offer of marriage, which results in Sibyl Vane dying, Dorian saying that her death was not his fault and then feeling really bad about it after to the point where, at the end of the novel, starts getting paranoid that her brother, James Vane, is going to kill him. As one does. 

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Basil Hallward is the most reasonable character in the novel. After Basil hears about Dorian committing sinful acts, such as slinking around opium dens, Basil approaches Dorian and says Hey, what you’re doing right now isn’t cool, and then Dorian proceeds to kill one of the only characters in the novel that truly likes him. As one does.

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In all seriousness, Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was visionary for its time. It pushed the envelope in terms of what could be published at the time and was so controversial that it even contributed to Wilde’s own trial and later sentence. With its complex themes and intriguing–and very, very complicated–main character, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a story that demands multiple readings and many interpretations. While Oscar Wilde said that “all art is quite useless,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray” most certainly is not. 

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Aaron Chin
Aaron Chin, Arts & Culture Co-Editor

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