“It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that.”
There is nothing crude about Dorian Gray; everything is precise and spot on, nothing out of place, and nothing incredible. For the same reason, the novel is as unrealistic as a tableau.
Dorian Gray reads like a gothic allegory, with a drawing-room repartee party providing the backdrop. The characters are spectators of their own lives (“We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us.”); art, literature, and life are inseparably interlinked that the spectator-character can look at a personal tragedy and evaluate the aesthetic perfection or lack of perfection of it. Even the most tragic of events, seen through this apathetic lens, able to zoom in and zoom out at will, appear overdone or ridiculous, as mockeries of the real thing.
Its polished dinners, histrionic outbursts, sparkling conversations, picturesque deaths, and impassive intellectuality far removed from the sordid vulgarity of real life, all fall into place in a straightforward, undigressive Faustian tale. You can empathize with Dorian or Basil or Sybil (or Lord Henry) about as much you can empathize with the stock figures in a parable. This is not by way of fault, but the aesthetic prose of the novel describes, but doesn’t evoke, fascinates but doesn’t move you to pathos, and the words (or wordiness) themselves bar the reader from getting to know the characters or their worlds.
Dorian Gray is, if not brilliant, an admirable work precisely because it accomplishes what it sets forth to achieve.
CLOWNIN’ Rating: 3/5