Oscar Wilde is one of my favourite authors of all time, not for his plays, but for the only novel that he wrote. He is a fascinating and tragic figure, exactly the kind of person that I gravitate towards in my literary journeys. I encountered The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was around 17 or 18, and was just starting to realise that as a human being who was capable of critical thinking I was allowed (and even encouraged) to ask questions, and to dig into and unpack morality. It was also around the same time that I realised that as a young lady in a very patriarchal and strait-laced church, I had many questions that I could not exactly ask out loud if I wanted to remain a respectable member of the Church. As things turned out, I did not have to worry about being respectable as much as I had to worry about the mantle of “rebellion” being thrust onto my shoulders, but that is a story for another day.
I think that the discovery of this book led me to the eventual discovery of the joys of asking questions, and may or may not have set me on the path towards self-actualisation. As odd as it may sound, it was this novel that gave me the tools to dissect, among other things, what temptation was outside of biblical norms, and what it could possibly mean to pursue something that you thought you desired to the very bitter end. Most of the book is very quotable, and my copy is very heavily highlighted, flagged, and annotated, but for today this is the quote that I think is most relevant:
“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.”
Thank you, Oscar Wilde, for giving me the freedom to ask questions.
(Excerpt: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, who was the first figure who introduced naive, teenaged me to the idea that pleasures and experiences are both temporal and permanent.)