Friday, December 30, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde
published 1891
completed November 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray centers around Dorian Gray. Shocking, right? Basil Howard, a talented artist paints a portrait of Dorian. Lord Henry happens to visit during one of these sittings and Dorian is fascinated by Lord Henry's hedonistic lifestyle. Upon completion of the painting Dorian expresses that he would trade his soul for the painting to take the signs of his aging so that he could forever remain in his current state of beauty. His wish is granted.

The hedonism espoused by Lord Henry inspires Dorian to a life of narcissism and debauchery. People find difficulty reconciling Dorian's outward appearance with the whispering they hear about his personal life. It's thought-provoking to consider the affect of that kind of lifestyle. It seemed to snowball for Dorian. His depravity started out simple until he got to the point where nothing was unthinkable. Once someone goes down that road, how easy is it to go back to respectability? Dorian tried, and it seemed like he could, but inside he hadn't changed. He couldn't seem to evoke any true concern for anyone outside of himself.

I can't pretend that I understand all or even a small amount of what Wilde meant by this book. I found it dark and intriguing. Despite this being a novella of less than two hundred pages, it's a dense read. It took much longer for me to read than expected, but I did really enjoyed it (with the exception of one chapter detailing tapestries and jewels). Wilde's writing is superb, and as such, there are no throw away lines. It was a slow read for me as it took time to digest almost nearly every sentence. I look forward to reading this one again to hopefully pick up more insight into its meaning.

Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray? What did you think? Any insights you'd like to share?


  1. I read this one in high school and I loved it. I'm curious how I would feel about it if I reread it now. It's such a fascinating look at the difference between happiness and beauty.

  2. Melissa--I'm sure you would still love it. It seems like one that you would get more from each time you read.

  3. I listened to this as an audiobook last October. I loved it, but yeah, there was a lot going on with Lord Henry. I wasn't really sure what to make of all that.

  4. I don't like slow reads very much - I know, I'm shallow. But I do like well-written (and therefore often slow) books. I wonder what I'd think of it...

  5. I literally laughed out loud when you mentioned *that* chapter. I enjoyed this one too, especially Wilde's language but can't pretend to fully understand it either.

  6. Woo-hoo! I have finally found a great book blog again! Sorry, I tend to become a little overexcited whenever this happens, but good blogs which deal with classics are just so rare! Oh, by the way: Thanks to your review my expectations for The Picture of Dorian Gray are set very high, so I hope I won't be disappointed when I read it later this year :)

  7. Trish--I'm glad I'm not the only one that didn't completely understand the book.

    leeswammes--This is a tough one to recommend, because I think it's not really for everyone. It is short, so it might be worth the effort.

    Trish--Ha! I remember during the tapestry descriptions thinking, what the crap is this? It didn't seem to fit the rest of the book. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

    Cassandra--I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I hope you enjoy The Picture of Dorian Gray when you read it later in the year. It's pretty dense, but the writing was really great. I hope I didn't ruin it for you but getting your hopes up too much. :)

  8. I also read this in high school. For me that was so long ago, I don't remember how I felt.
    However, I did enjoy your review.
    Mike Draper

  9. I don't think I've read this one because I do know I saw the movie a loooong time ago. I should probably read and wtch these both again.

  10. Care--I haven't seen the movie, but the book is pretty great. I hope it's one you enjoy if you do end up reading it.

  11. Isn't Wilde's prose just wonderful! He's so obssessed with the idea of beauty... (Peacock feathers and blue China and sunflowers adorned his Oxford dormitory, if I recall correctly.) interesting to see what he does with it in Dorian Gray!

    Lovely blog, Kristi! You should read his fairy tales, if you haven't already!