Experience is simultaneously the builder and the breaker of an individual’s soul; it tints the lens with which we view our pasts, and cautions us on the tools we use to construct our futures. Our experiences-as well as a lack thereof- tend to draw us to situations that either mimic past comforts or distract from harsh realities. I believe this was why I was initially so adverse to reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a novel that, were I left to my own devices, I would probably never have read. See, I don’t tend to veer towards novels where the main character sells his soul to achieve eternal youth and pursue a life of immoral sensuality; that goes against just about every rule in my book. My experiences had taught me that nothing good is to come from reading about moral corruption; it makes every sin I’ve committed crawl underneath my skin. It makes me want nothing but regret. The novel diverged so much from what I considered right that I ended up developing a kind of prejudice against the book, even after trying to accept the fact that art was just art. And yet-
Nobody has ever challenged the authority I held in my own mind as Oscar Wilde has.
I couldn’t help but read as Basil existed, believing forever in the good of those whose illusions I had come to adore, refusing any semblance of the idea that perhaps this beloved individual had ceased long ago to be anything but a vessel for empty pleasures and hollow sensuality. When I was Basil, I loved Dorian as a child, a sweet boy who held infinite charm and potential in his beauty and innocence, who turned hearts and heads wherever he graced the earth with his presence. As Basil, I so wished for Henry to spare me and separate himself from the “rose white youth”, and as Basil, I could only ever watch Dorian slip away. I would ponder how I could mean so little to an individual who had influenced me so much, how my angel had slipped into the clutches of an immaculate devil. When I was Basil I was blind, and Dorian became a Heaven for which I pined, but could only ever dream of achieving, a rose that went from snow white to blood red in a heartbeat.
If Basil made me blind, Lord Henry’s words twisted my perception until I could see only in the ways he wanted me to. Lord Henry was a character that enthralled me with his wicked words and whimsical wit, and it was he that I so blindly wanted to trust. He made it ever so easy to lose yourself in his flowered words and candied epigrams; rather, he made you want to lose yourself, if only for a moment, in an illusory world where nothing but everything makes sense. When I wore the hat of Lord Henry, my words held a weight that made me light and others, heavy. Dorian was beautiful and young; what else mattered? Just for a moment, I would lose myself in Henry and his “wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories”.
And yet, Henry made me feel sick to my core. To Henry, people were reduced to games, lives were experiments and death was a spectacle. I loved Sybil Vane in all her glory, in her happiness, her ability to brighten the lives of those around her with her luminescent personality. When she died, I prayed for Dorian’s redemption; I prayed that in her fading light, he would once more regain his own. But Lord Henry snuffed out her efforts, her light, so utterly that Dorian Gray never could find his way again. Lord Henry fictionalized her, reduced her to a beautiful paper tragedy, and gifted Dorian a plastic candle in the form of the Yellow Book. Despite all this, despite the heartlessness of Henry, his lack of grief, his calculated corruptions, I can’t blame Henry entirely for Dorian’s demise. Lord Henry was Dorian’s test for determining whether or not his purity would remain intact, as moral corruption degrades and crumples any semblance of conscience. Henry was a test of temptation and false promises, but it was Dorian’s decisions that lead him to fail. Henry represents the trials and tests of the world around us, the temptations we must resist and the fleeting pleasures we must sacrifice.
We have learned of the endless ideals held by the heavens, painted forever in shades of optimism. We have been cautioned regarding the earth’s twisted vines and their ability to trap. We have been told the story of the one who both the heavens and the earth tried to make their own. We have learned the story of Dorian Gray, and somewhere along the way, I ended up slipping into a skin I never thought I’d find myself fitting. I didn’t mean to understand Dorian Gray; I wasn’t looking to mourn for him, but I did. I miss the potential he could have had, but I can’t help the callousness I feel towards him. He got what he deserved; he sacrificed heaven for an inner hell, became mundane when he could’ve been extraordinary. He was tragic, but he wanted to be. He made me wonder, though I didn’t want to. He made me hate him for his carelessness, his cruelty, his lack of reserve. He made me mourn for what could have been. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again-
Nobody has ever challenged the authority I held in my own mind as Oscar Wilde has.
6 thoughts on “The Heavens, The Earth and The Boy In Between”
Wow! I can’t get over what an excellent writer you are! The way you think and the way you construct your thoughts into sentences is just beautiful. Your first paragraph was breathtaking in its insight, and I’m really in awe of your ability to take complex ideas and convey them to readers with such clarity and precision. I know I’ve said this before, but I am so glad that we are in a family group together because I think I have a lot to learn from you.
I loved that you isolated certain sentences from the bigger paragraphs – this was a really effective way of making your lines stand out and highlighting their importance. You also have a great sense of timing and balance; I felt like every paragraph ended exactly when it needed to, and you broke your paragraphs up enough that you gave your readers time to breathe in between them, but not so much that it felt fragmented.
It was really interesting to have you characterize yourself as Basil, because most people have said that they strongly related to Dorian or even to Lord Henry, but not many have likened themselves to Basil. I appreciated the honest uniqueness of that. And then to have you speak as if you were Dorian, and then to have you describe the effect Lord Henry’s words – it made your personal analysis feel very well-rounded, as you examined each of the three main characters in one way or another.
Another thing I really liked was that you wove into your writing quotes and reoccurring concepts from the book. This helped everything feel more authentic, somehow, as if it served to prove what you were saying. It wasn’t overdone nor was it underdone; again, you seem to have a great talent for balance.
I also have to say how much I adore your title. It fits perfectly with what you are talking about and has a wonderful way of being both beautiful and true.
There isn’t much for me to offer improvement-wise, and the one thing I have isn’t even really something for you to fix, rather something new for you to consider adding to future pieces. I really like it when writers consider how their words will sound when they write them – for example, using euphonic diction for intimate, personal sentences or cacophony in harsher statements. This is a little thing, but I know it will elevate your writing and I know that you are clever enough to work it in effectively for future writings. It’s just something that will subtlety invest a little more meaning into your writing.
Also, just remember when publishing pieces on the blog to do so in your name category – I think you may have forgotten to do that this time (this piece is currently uncategorized), which just means that people won’t be able to find it very easily when they look for it, or they may just not know you put anything up in the first place (which would be tragic because everyone needs to read this!) That’s an easy fix, though, so no worries! 🙂
The honest beauty of how you write is just enthralling. Hijab. That may just be my favourite thing about your style – it is honest and beautiful at the same time, which is rare. Most beautiful things are very false, but not this. Every time I read something you write, I feel like I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, and I hope you know how amazing you are. Really, you are. You’re going to do amazing things, Hijab, I know it.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for both your kind words and your insightful feedback! I totally forgot that I had to publish in my name category- thanks for catching that! I love the idea of including euphonic diction and cacophony into my writing; that’s something I totally wouldn’t have considered incorporating, and it would be so epic to be able to incorporate my message into every single letter of my writing!! I’m really excited to try that out! Also, it’s funny that you mention balance as one of my strong points in writing, because it’s probably my biggest issue in real life. It’s nice to know that I’m able to maintain some aspect of balance in my life! Now, if only I could incorporate that into Chemistry…
Truly, Ziyana, thank you for taking the time to read this post of mine, and for your incredibly sweet comments. I’m really looking forward to growing both as a person and as a writer under your guidance, and I’m looking forward to a spectacular year.
You are such a brilliant writer–I truly mean that. Whether I am reading your poetry, your prose, your stories, your criticals, your analyses–every, you name it–it is all so truly enlightening and extraordinarily beautiful. Everything.
I loved the stylistic choices you made in writing this piece–the repetition of ‘and yet’ and the sentence when you talk about the authority of your mind being challenged–the natural weaving of quotes and themes from the book so organically in your writing–the way you ‘romanced’ the reader with your beautiful diction and syntax, leading us down into the darker elements of the book. It was so masterfully done, and it was strikingly affective.
You so easily got your point across in a very fluid and articulate way–there was no doubt how you felt about the book by the end of this analysis, and the message of the piece was very clear. It was so interesting to have you say that you would never have read this book of your own accord because of the content and the themes–so interesting, in fact, because it is for those very reasons that I would have read this book of my own accord. (What that says about me as a person, I don’t want to know.)
One of the only things I would offer in terms of improvement would be to be weary of overcomplicating your sentences with your profoundly significant ideas–sometimes it is better to split these up into smaller sentences for the sake of overall coherence and for the sake of making the sentences look less ‘intimidating’ to the reader.
Overall, this is a brilliant piece, written in a beautiful way. Well done!!
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read through my blog! It’s truly an honour that a writer as spectacular as yourself would go through my attempts at blogging. I was a little worried that the point of my blog became slightly vague partway through, so thanks for reassuring me on that aspect of the blog. As for what wanting to read Dorian Gray because it’s a book on pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle says about you- well, I think that just speaks to how intricate a person you are! Books are great because we live many a life through the characters they represent. A willingness to learn from and understand another person’s lifestyle, not shying away from the darker aspects of life- I think that’s a great perspective to apply.
Thanks also for catching my loaded sentences, as that’s definitely something I get carried away with when writing. I’ll make sure to apply that advice to future blog posts as well. Once again, Hope, thanks for your time. I genuinely love your writing, and I’m looking forward to growing as a writer by learning from you!
When I read your title, it made me think of Purgatory, because that is where humans go when they neither go to heaven or hell. I read your first sentence and it was a really good hook for anyone reading your amazing piece, as it describes the contrasts of how experience influences one’s soul. Hijab, you are a brilliant writer and poet, even if you don’t believe so yourself. I loved the way you put the line, “And yet-nobody has ever challenged the authority I held in my own mind as Oscar Wilde has.” by itself to reinforce its significance. I liked how the spacing between the first and second paragraph were so large, and it made me pause to read the sentence very carefully.
I loved how you pretended to be Basil and then described how you felt as you watched Dorian slip away. Your words lead me to believe that you were Basil himself wishing away Lord Henry, and I think the best quote you have is, “a rose that went from snow white to blood red in a heartbeat.”
I usually write my comments as I read the post so that I don’t forget anything I thought about, but Hijab, your emulation of Lord Henry as you watched him within the eyes of Basil is fantastic. WOW! I loved how your words and transitions throughout the piece are so euphoric as Ziyana said, and how carefully chosen your words are. Your piece and writing is brilliant, and as are you. I loved the parallel structures as you wrote about your contrasting feelings toward Dorian, it made the tone of your piece very poetic-sounding.
I also loved how you repeated the sentence again at the end, and I’m mesmerized by the visual you chose; it tied the whole piece together!
In terms of improvement, I think you should fix some comma usage in the paragraph about Basil, but that’s about it!
P.S. Your writing is so enrapturing-it made me gasp out loud! 🙂
Thanks so much for reading my blog! I really appreciate it! I’m amazed at how perceptive you are; I was initially going to write this piece with Basil as a kind of Heaven, Henry as a kind of Purgatory and Dorian forming his own Hell. However, I didn’t think I knew enough about Purgatory to write it in to my response. Nevertheless, I applaud your observation skills. Good job picking up on that! I wasn’t sure if I carried the theme of experience throughout the piece, so thanks for clarifying that for me. Reading the book, I held a sort of soft spot for Basil, so I’m glad the perspective I took on Dorian made sense to both my readers and the blog. On a side not- I think it’s really smart that you write your comments as you read! I think that’s something I’ll start doing as well!
Thank you also for catching my comma issues; my sentences just keep running longer than they should, don’t they? Honestly though Kelley, you flatter me WAY too much. If I am brilliant in any way, be it through my writing or my personality, it’s a reflection of the greatness of those around me. I’m infinitely thankful to be in a family group with you, Hope and Ziyana; you are all such amazing individuals, and I truly am so excited to embark on this journey of learning with you! Thanks for being an awesome friend, and for pushing me to join AP!