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June 01, 2018 Friday 04:37:03 PM IST

THE PICTURE OF OUR SOUL

Reflections

DORIAN GRAY was in seventh heaven as he looked at his own magnificent portrait painted by the well known artist Basil Hallward in his London studio. However, as he continued to admire his own portrait with amazement he got lost in his thoughts. “How sad it is I shall grow old, horrible, and dreadful,” he said to himself. “But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be young always, and the picture that was to grow old. For that I would give everything. Yes, there is nothing in the world I would not give my soul for that!”

 

Surprisingly, his wish was granted by God.

 


From that day on, Gray always remained young and handsome while his portrait gradually showed signs of ageing. When he found out what was happening he began to indulge in all kinds of immoral pleasures, thinking that nothing bad would ever happen to him. Lord Henry whom he had met and befriended at the studio always encouraged him to seek the pleasures of life as if there was no tomorrow.

 

Gray’s family and friends were horrified at the way he was leading his life. They tried to admonish him but to no avail. His adventures in the world of passion and love led to the suicide of an innocent girl. However, Gray never lost sleep as he had consciously stopped listening to his conscience.

 


In the meantime, Gray was stunned to notice a change in his portrait. The face in the portrait looked different from what it looked like before. It definitely showed signs of ageing. Moreover, there appeared a touch of cruelty and evil on his face. It was no longer the self-same handsome face of Gray. The portrait was beginning to reflect the picture of his callous and unrepentant soul. Thereafter, every time Gray looked at the portrait he shrieked with fear.

 

Artist Hallward who heard about Gray’s wayward and sinful ways felt sorry for him as he had great admiration for him as a model. When Hallward was preparing to move from London to Paris for six months he decided to pay a visit to Gray. While meeting with him the artist found out there was much truth in what he had been hearing. He was surprised and shocked at Gray’s moral collapse. However, Gray was not willing to admit his moral decay. He tried to cover it up with lame excuses.

 


While Gray continued to defend himself, Hallward said, “I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that I should have to see your soul.”

 

“To see my soul!” Gray muttered as he shuddered.

 


“Yes, to see your soul,” Hallward said.

 

“But only God can do that.” Gray laughed.

 


But it was a mocking laughter. “You shall see it for yourself tonight,” Gray said. “Come with me. You shall see the thing that you fancy only God can see.”

 

Gray took him upstairs where the portrait was kept. “So, you think it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw that curtain back, and you will see mine.”

 


Hallward didn’t know what was happening. “You are mad, Dorian,” he muttered, refusing to draw the curtain.

 

Immediately, Dorian drew the curtain, uncovering the portrait of Dorian which looked ghastly and loathsome. Hallward was shocked and couldn’t believe it was the portrait he had painted. However, his signature at the bottom revealed it was his own handiwork.

 


While Hallward stood there dumbstruck, Dorian explained how his wish was granted by God to remain young and healthy always while the portrait aged in his place.

 

“My God, if it is true,” Hallward exclaimed, “and this is what you have done with your life, why, you must be worse than those who talk against you fancy you to be!”

 


Gray agreed it was true but refused to reform his life as begged by Hallward, saying it was too late to repent. Their encounter that night ended with Gray murdering Hallward.

 

As Hallward said to Dorian in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, only God really knows how our soul really looks like. However, if we closely examine our soul we may get a good idea of how it is. Our thoughts, words, and actions will always have an impact on our soul. In fact, they will be reflected in our soul. If that is the case we can always get a picture of our soul by examining our thoughts, words and actions.

 


If we don’t know how our soul looks like, it is because we fail to examine our life. All the thoughts, words, and actions of Dorian were reflected on his portrait. And he knew they were really bad. But he refused to reform his life even after he saw them reflected on his portrait.

 

Does he not represent those who refuse to make changes in their life even when they know there are heading in the wrong direction?

 


Dorian was able to escape from the clutches of law for his crimes. However, he could not escape from his crimes which finally led to his death at his own hands.

 

We may not be able to see the way God sees our soul. However, if we look closely, we will get a clear picture of how our soul looks like. If the picture of our soul looks beautiful let us thank God for helping us walk in the right direction.



But if the picture of our soul looks horrible, let us make it beautiful by repenting and reforming our life.


Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI


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