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Monday, January 30, 2006

Chapter Eighty-Seven, in which are shared more Wilde Thoughts

We have touched on many points in the debate between reality and fiction in Chapters Eighty-Two and Eighty-Four. Further reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, continues to spark more thoughts. Though recent events have made this a subject of current affairs, it is a major theme in the novel we are presently engaged in writing, and a willful exploration in our everyday life.

I. When the actress Sibyl Vane declares her love for Dorian Gray, she explains "You taught me what reality really is." This is ironic, since Dorian's love for her is not real. Or, to be more precise, his love becomes real when he declares it, when he realises it; however, it is based on fiction--Sibyl's talent in conveying passion through drama.

Note the truth this serves to illustrate: just as writers may have their own sense of what is real and what is fiction, so, too, may a reader. As another example, consider the reader who believes that what a writer claims as a disease of addiction is actually unreal, imagined, a fantasy--a mere weakness: the writer feels he is offering a truthful portrayal; the reader feels the writer is a liar.

When Dorian discovers Sibyl has lost her acting talent, he believes he has been cheated, that she presented to him the guise of reality, that she is a liar. When Dorian rejects Sibyl, she does not believe him, she thinks him a liar. Which is reality, really?

II. Later in the tale, the narrator tells that Dorian "used to look with wonder at the black confessionals and long to sit in the dim shadow of one of them and listen to men and women whispering through the worn grating the true story of their lives." When is man more honest than when standing before his god? We all have masks, public personaes that we change with the situation. Our friend Leander tells truths to us that are different from the truths he tells Erato taht are different from the truths he tells Big Brother. Does that mean he lies to one or all of us? George Costanza once gave Jerry Seinfeld some truthful advice on how to beat a lie detector machine: "It's not a lie if you believe it." Tales, memoirs, and autobiographies are not confessions. Only our god knows when we are lying.

III. In view of his finished portrait of Dorian Gray, the painter Basil Hallward comments that "We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty." Written over one hundred years ago, this statement is still, or once again, timely. Tales, memoirs, and autobiographies are works of art in their own way. Who would deny a man his own reality? What is reality, really?

In the independent film Unknown (Graye Horizon Pictures 2005), the protagonist exists in a world that is (possibly) a complete fabrication of his mind. Though events in his present life may be only imagined, he experiences them as real. His imagined reality even goes as far as to believe actual reality (as experienced by the other characters in the story) is a fantasy of his mind. The times when he has trouble functioning is when actual reality is forced upon him.

Let each of us tell his own story. Let each of us make of his life a work of art. Let each of us see the beauty in everything, and not quibble about what is real and what is fabrication.

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