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A classic tale of lust, greed and vanity!
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Member Name: sassypat456
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Date: 10/04/11, updated on 10/04/11 (114 review reads)
Advantages: Meaty, great characters, strong themes, excellent storytelling
As an exquisitely handsome young socialite, Dorian Gray appears to have the world at his feet. He is adored by everyone he meets, and is blessed to have wealth, good looks and an endearing nature on his side. Flitting between parties and events he becomes friends with talented painter Basil Hallward, who in turn introduces him to Lord Henry Wotton.
With the title giving the game away a little, Dorian sits for Basil who paints an extraordinary portriat of him which captures his breathtaking appearance and seems to personify everything that is attractive about the young and naive Dorian. The portrait is painted early on in the book, and is a central element to it, but more about that a little later...
While Basil is portrayed as a fairly decent character, it is fair to say he is infatuated with our main character, believing him to be picture perfect in every way. Lord Henry, while equally fascinated with Dorian, is a harder, more selfish character who speaks his mind and seeks to educate Dorian and mould his character by introducing him to alternative, and often controversial viewpoints.
As an impressionable and somewhat innocent young man, Dorian is eager to learn from the confident Lord Henry and soaks up the barage of compliments from both himself and Basil, who tell him he is the most beautiful creature in the world. As time goes on Dorian becomes obsessed with the notion of achieving eternal youth and beauty, and becomes more and more petrified of his looks and subsequent popularity fading. So he decides to sell his soul in return for good look forever more.
Like I said earlier the portrait is central to Dorian's rapid decline into a Victorian London underworld, where he is involved in many unspeakable sins, most of which are never mentioned, merely hinted at. A whole spiral of events sees our main character become a very ugly, vain and mean-spirited man on the inside, yet his beauty never fades and so he manages to lead a double life, attending high society events and sleazy establishments at the same time. But the portrait itself is undergoing changes and seems to be taking on horrific features mirroring the horror in Dorian's heart. It seems the lifelike portrait is testament to the true nature of Dorian's transformation from innocent boy to hardened man but will anyone else realise the mystical properties of the portrait and the secrets it masks?
This book really is a triumph and when I decided to read more classic literature recently this was the first book that appealed to me. As the first and only full length novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a masterpiece and showcases exceptional storytelling, giviing way to strong characters, and fantastic descriptive ability.
With themes of lust, debauchery, corruption and vanity and hinting at all manner of unspeakable things for the time, its release caused uproar and its content shocked many people. Living in the world we do today, I have read a lot worse and can't say I was shocked by it, however I did find it very thought provoking. Watching Dorian unravel on the inside yet remain calm and collected to the outside world was interesting and fascinating. There are macabre elements to this book which is probably why it is calssified as gothic horror. While it is not horrific by modern standards, it is a very dark tale, which draws the eager reader in to its story.
There are no likeable main characters in this book, although Basil is the most likeable at a push. While he is kind-hearted and harmless, he is also a bit pathetic and his admiration of Dorian is irritating, making him less endearing as a result. Lord Henry, meanwhile, is detestable, and as a selfish, outspoken and condescending character he was not possible to warm to. He is rude and obnoxious and seems to take what he wants from life, regardless of other peoples feelings. Dorian is of course affable at the beginning, but his vanity and subsequent decline, makes him an increasingly sinister man indeed.
The climax of this book is excellent but I cannot say much without giving it all away. It had me on the edge of my seat and was unexpected, but perhaps inevitable with hindsight. It is also very, very clever.
The whole story is, in fact, very clever. Wilde has remarkable talent for linking certain themes together, and reflecting Lord Henry's influence and views into the very heart of the character of Dorian. His narrative ability paints a great picture of Victorian society and it many layers, classes and prejudices. Yet it is still very readable and relevent today, despite me usually being a fan of chick lit!
With Dorian's collapse of character, we are reminded how often we judge people by their outward appearance, regardless of the evil, insanity or cruelty cowering within. We are all too happy to assume good looks equal a good nature, and of course this is certainly not the case with Dorian Gray. We are also reminded of the limits society has put in place, and the barriers which are not to be crossed.
This really is a wonderful novel to get stuck in to and it has stood the test of time, making it one of the greatest books of our time and a great introduction to the genius of Oscar Wilde.
Summary: A fantastic read!