Ravi Zacharias once said, “If a storm could be embodied, it would have been embodied in Oscar Wilde.” Born in Dublin in 1854, Wilde was a brilliant writer who defied convention. His turbulent and scandalous life turned heads and raised eye- brows throughout the world. Yet he captured the imaginations of thousands of readers with his penetrating analyses of the human heart.
Of all of Wilde’s famous work, the most brilliant is his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The story revolves around a young man who, upon seeing a portrait of himself, wishes he could trade his youth and beauty for a life of excess and extravagance. In Faustian style, Dorian trades his soul for his youth.
The life of the character Dorian Gray paralleled that of the author. In addition to various addictions, Wilde was most widely known for his openly homosexual relationships. Yet, he was a man in turmoil about his own soul. He once wrote, “Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.”
Wilde and his most famous character demonstrate their relevance to me in the lucid depiction of the human condition plagued by sin. Wilde reminds me that
our souls will not be concealed forever, that every soul has a face. We may escape the physical damages of sin, but we cannot escape its rendering effects on our souls.
It appears, despite a short, intense life of depravity, God used the penetrating questions Wilde raised in Dorian Gray, and he converted to Christianity on his death bed. He penned these words two years before his death in 1900:
And every human heart/that breaks/In prison-cell or yard,/Is as that broken box/that gave/Its treasure to the Lord,/And filled the unclean/leper’s house/With the scent of/costliest nard./Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break/And peace of pardon win!/How else may man make straight his plan/And cleanse his soul from Sin?/How else but through a broken heart/May Lord Christ enter in?