When it comes to book to film or TV adaptations I have a friend who believes you have to accept that they are different mediums so they are never going to tell exactly the same story in the same way. I cannot disagree with his perspective, however, I do believe there are certain aspects of each story that need to remain the same throughout whatever medium they are in in order to keep the story true to itself.
When it comes to a Picture of Dorian Gray, I read the book and instantly fell in love with it. For the two weeks that have past since reading it I have mentioned it to nearly every person I have spoken to. It is such a tragic and beautiful story and I am so glad I went into it not knowing anything about the storyline or the characters. All I knew was that Oscar Wilde wrote it and Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for being homosexual in the Victorian age. My love of a book can make me extremely defencive towards it (see my Wuthering Heights blog on tumblr if you need any sort of proof of this).
The point I am finally going to get around to making, is that in Dorian Gray the image of Dorian himself is important to the story. The story is based around Dorian’s appearance and physical beauty. Before I got into why it is important to remain loyal to the appearance, I want to use the novel to explain what the appearance is.
“I really can’t see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves.”
This quote comes right out of chapter one. While Basil is talking about the painting he says that there is too much of himself in it. Taking him too literally, Henry says the above From this we know that Basil has a harsher look than Dorian who, supposedly, looks like a young God.
“Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him”
This quote comes again from Henry in chapter two this time. In these two chapters we have a clear enough image of Dorian that anyone with artistic talent could probably show us what Basil has painted. With this image in everyone’s mind, I can continue to explore why it is important to the story.
For me, when it comes to reading a Picture of Dorian Gray, this image of him holds a lot of significance because Dorian is portrayed as being innocent looking, with the type of face that was trustworthy and that no one could believe belonged to someone who did harm. The story then goes on to follow Dorian as he does do terrible things, things that would age a person prematurely, things that would leave a person worn and aged and with a darkness in their eyes that people would begin to question but it doesn’t happen.
The fact that Dorian doesn’t have that look, that he doesn’t become that image is what makes Basil say
“Mind you, I don’t believe these rumours at all. At least, I can’t believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even”
A large part of this comes of course from Basil’s niavety and artists eye but that’s not the subject point of this post. From this it’s clear that Dorian’s looks keep people from seeing him as someone capable of anything bad. The looks that Dorian holds have to be those of youthful innocence else there is no need for him to exchange with the photo because it is already two late.