Por Tania J. Choi.
Beauty is relative. Imagine yourself standing in front of your own picture. It is the reflection of your own soul, not your appearance. At some point in time it was perfect. Every brushwork reflected your purity, but right now, how would it look? Would you be proud to show it to others? Or would you do as Dorian Gray and hide it?
Dorian Gray’s picture, at first, was perfect, reflecting his pure soul and beauty; but as he got seduced by moral corruption and was led to an eventual downfall, the painting was marred. It became the portrait of a monster.
Only after seeing the altered image, Dorian realized it was his soul which was pictured on the canvas, while he remembered what he prayed for when he first saw it. As he saw the portrait for the first time, he felt jealous because the picture would always remain the same, even if he grew old or he changed. That’s why he prayed for it to be the other way around, asking for the piece to change while he stayed handsome and young. He even offered his soul to attain it.
Lord Henry Wotton was the one who influenced Dorian to think that way, as he told Gray beauty and youth were the only things that really mattered. He also showed Dorian a whole new world. A lifestyle the young boy wouldn’t have imagined, as he was such an innocent lad. It is thus possible to see that Lord Henry was not the kind of person who lived a moral life. He enjoyed seizing the moment. Harry saw life as a succession of pleasures in which questions of good and evil were irrelevant.
Gray, automatically, changed his lifestyle and his way of thinking. He took the immoral philosophy from Lord Henry, enjoying the way everyone admired his beauty, and feeling the joy of a life without worries. Every day he seemed to become more like Harry, as they grew closer. Dorian suddenly became a supporter of materialism and hedonism, giving excessive value and importance to material stuff, setting aside spiritual life. He was Harry. As time went by, eventually, Dorian’s picture was altered, but his person kept the beauty. Despite his charming figure, people started to dislike him and to repudiate him, but Dorian didn’t care, because he kept getting what he wanted: satisfaction of his desires of pleasure.
I wouldn’t say I think Harry was completely wrong, because I don’t think so, but my point of view is more similar to Basil’s. Actually, it’s a mix of both. It is just that, personally, I believe that the aspects Lord Henry talked about are not the only ones that matter in life. Life is not just how we look like, what we wear every day, or pleasant moments. It is so much more, although it may not always be joyful.
As we live, we take different paths, deciding what to do and what no to do, and, of course, doing things that please us, but are we ourselves who make those decisions or do we let others make them for us? Many people are vulnerable to what others may think of them. Consequently, they let themselves be influenced by others’ ideals, living a life that does not suit them because society likes it.
I’m not trying to say that my picture would be beautiful because I live a perfectly moral life, not letting people influence me to make bad decisions. What I mean is that no one is able to have a pure image until death. It will be more or less marred depending on many situations we go through in life, but everyone has a “dark side” which sooner or later shows up. It doesn’t matter the way we do it.
Beyond all of this, there is something that concerns me: Why is destroying Basil’s masterpiece the only way to “kill” the shameful corrupted soul? Why is killing the corrupted soul the answer? Isn’t it possible to remedy our souls apart from prayer? These questions might get different answers that, for sure, have nothing to do with the subject we’ve been talking about until now. Those could be answers and solutions for those who wish to have a charming and ideal portrait.
So, returning to the previous topic, as I ask myself about my own picture, I think it would not be as monstrous as Dorian’s. I don’t live a perfectly sincere or innocent life, but I try to do it as much as I can. I don’t expect it to be perfect either. In these times, it is (virtually) impossible to live without a minimally corrupted soul. We live surrounded by situations that lead us to make decisions which are wrong but pleasurable. Even more than in the nineteenth century, in which the novel was written. Not only because of the change of society and its way of thinking, but also because of new technologies and social networks, which facilitate information and communication between people, creating new ways for dishonesty – as they are not always used for what they were really intended for.
I never considered myself as someone with a narcissistic personality (unlike Dorian), who gives exaggerated importance to himself. It is rather the opposite. I don’t think I’m beautiful, that I’m an indispensable person for others, or that I have any great qualities to be proud of. That’s one of the reasons why I intend to, at least, be a moral and correct person — although many times I fail.
In conclusion, people are free to make decisions, and so, to do what they want to. Not everyone chooses the same things or think the same way. That is why every portrait will be different. Some will be more altered than others, but none of them will show the innocence and purity that the picture had at the beginning. Not because people are bad, but because every single person, no matter how minimal, has a dark side which eventually shows up.