Oscar Wilde Revisited


We all know “The picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. A denunciation of complete perversion in the elite of Victorian society, both brought up by the evil mind, soul or whatever of one aristocrat and nurtured by the tremendously hypocritical and perverse morality of that age governed by a widow for decades, a widow that owed nothing to Shakespeare and his “Merry Wives of Windsor.” We all know the role of the painting that takes all the evil of Dorian Gray while Dorian Gray remains as pure and young as he was when he sat for the portrait. We all know that when he dies in front of his portrait his body takes all his age and villainy back and the portrait returns to its youthful original semblance, because it was only a semblance covering up the ugliness of the character in this unchanged and unchanging portrait, at least after Dorian Gray’s death.

Brian Ference twists the story slightly and the artist, a female painter comes across a dead female wolf in the forest that died one leg bitten by a wolf trap. Next to her a wolf pup was still alive. She decides to pick the pup and her friend Dorian Gray approves and becomes its godfather of sorts by giving it his own name. The painter paints Dorian Gray with the pup and that’s the strange transformation of the story. The Dorian Gray on the portrait remains youthful and pure, but the wolf transforms itself with age. The pup had become an adult wolf and as such had left the painter’s home and escaped to the forest; This wolf will become the monster Dorian Gray is in his life and every crime of poor Dorian Gray will make the wolf even worse.

The wolf reenacts the Jack the Ripper saga in London and it raids all animals possible in the countryside, creating a real panic both in the countryside and in London. But this monster appears to be the faithful follower of its master, Dorian Gray himself. Strangely enough at the end he will attack and kill the artist when she is shown what her painting has produced and when she rejects her affiliation to this horror. The wolf takes care of the body. Sometime later, Dorian Gray in front of his portrait, wants to destroy it and to destroy the beast. So he summons it and tries to kill it but fails. Instead the beast devours its dead master after killing him.

And there you have what you knew all along. This final devouring session occurs on a full moon night and the wolf escapes to the forest but on the following day in the wolf’s lair Dorian Gray is alive, unharmed, naked and covered with blood. He manages to go out of the forest and find the artist’s country home, deserted of course since she is dead. He cleans himself and finds some clothing and decides to live a new life. Indeed. The life of a werewolf.

Oscar Wilde’s story is a tremendous denunciation of the ugliness of 19th century life in Great Britain. This aspect disappears here completely because of the tone and also of the fact that we know it does not come from that time. There is no distance and thus the story is just a story told to us in modern time. It becomes then a tale of imagination. Werewolves are both famous and infamous. They have been slightly used by Stephen King in the traditional way in his “Cycle of the Werewolf” and then the werewolf is the local preacher and thus Stephen King targets the hypocrisy of Christian religion in America. The whole myth was transformed by Anne Rice, the same way she transformed vampires, in her recent, though short, series. Her werewolves only attack criminals, just like her vampires, and they have to take care of those from the past who do not want to behave like that, and thus they are a way to sanitize modern society. Under this vision there is the belief that criminals cannot be reformed, no matter what the crime may be. It is a very dubious and pessimistic vision of society that is in a way extremely American. Nothing to do with the British series “Being Human.”

Brian Ference goes back to the tradition and the resuscitated Dorian Gray at the end is so cruelly naïve, since he does not know he is a werewolf and, even worse, he does not know he will not be able to escape his fate every full moon night. He swears he is going to lead a normal peaceful and moral life, but that is a full lie.

The story is interesting in many ways and the next episode will probably re-assess the picture, or the portrait since we have to find out what happened to it. Is the wolf still a monster there or has it gone back to his old form as a pup?




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