This article originally appeared on Bookstr.
Dorian Gray has always been a baffling character to read about. Dorian’s creator, Oscar Wilde, was a gentleman who loved a bit of drama and shock value in his own right, so this is not exactly surprising. However, when thinking about The Picture of Dorian Gray and the protagonist, it is hard not to consider how this would play out in real life. What would it mean for your portrait to age for you?
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At first glance, the concept of it is pretty great. The anti-aging beauty industry would collapse if too many people had their immortalizing portraits made, but for the individual, it would mean all the aches and pains of getting older would magically disappear. It is the kind of notion that would give one a big head, and it was how Gray chose to live his many years of physical perfection out. The years of narcissism seem to be a probable price of this magical picture.
Still, there is more to consider than the aging aspect of the portrait. Dorian’s image reflected the life he led, so it only seems right that our paintings, photographs, etcetera would do the same. Would people like Mother Theresa have stunning portraits? What would politicians’ pictures look like? Would the majority of us just look about the same because we are neither saints nor villains, but just … people?
Spoiler alert for those who have not read this Oscar Wilde work, Dorian Gray was a bit of a deviant. His portrait was not very pretty to admire.
If we all had the option to live forever as Dorian, maybe our obsession over beauty would reach toxic levels. Our mortality helps us remain humble as it makes every individual equal in the send that we will all meet our end one day, but immortality removes this one constant equality.
The concept of serving others or being kind for the sake of improving one’s own image would ruin the purpose of such acts. Good deeds might become disingenuous as people were more concerned with beautifying their portraits rather than improving society—ultimately making them pointless acts. There would be no real way to make the reflection seen on canvas something worth looking at.
It seems that the best one could do is ignore the portrait and live a fairly normal life. Forgetting the aging image would be hard to forget after years and years when the reflection in any mirror would show no changing of time, but otherwise, any person with this gift would be prey to arrogance, greed, and a heap of other demons at an exponential level.
Still, at the end of the day, it would depend on the individual as to how an immortalizing image would pan out for someone. To paraphrase another excellent book (Thanks, J.K. Rowling), we all have light and dark inside of ourselves, so it is what we choose to act on that makes us who we are. Until someone in the real world experiences this fantastic phenomenon, we all will have to rely on Dorian Gray for our reference of this curiosity.
Photo: Courtesy of Momentum Films