The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Book Review)

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What this book is about:

Dorian Gray is a charming, extremely handsome young man of wonderful character that seduces everyone he meets. When one day Dorian is having his portrait painted by his friend and very talented painter, Basil Hallward, he meets Lord Henry, a strongly opinionated man on every subject one can think of. Lord Henry has an exquisite influence on Dorian while musing on his charms and good-looks. Such influence that Dorian makes a wish that his portrait will bare all signs of growing older while his body shall remain forever young. For that he is ready to exchange his very soul.

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Even though this book is written in quite simple but still beautiful and carefully composed language and the idea of the book itself is also pretty straightforward, this is a story of many layers that created complex thoughts in my mind. Three very interesting characters that angered me, confused me, amused me and saddened me. A plot slowly unravelling from beauty to horror. Numerous brilliant quotes coming from Mr Wilde (some of them I loved some of them I found appaulling).

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

P1030863Indeed, this book cause quite a stirr-up back in its time (1891). As probably most people know by now, in this story we follow young Dorian Gray from a third person perspective which makes this more horrifying I believe. A third person perspective doesn’t allow the reader to completely immense into a characters mind and thus we cannot but blame Dorian for his dreadful deeds. To me, the third person perspective took away all the sympathy I could have for him…and Iliked it! After all, this is the story of a boy so vain that sold his life in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. But is this story really about Dorian or is it about the people that surrounded and thus influenced him, I wonder? After all, when you are constantly being told how perfect you are you will either completely believe it or absolutely refuse to see it (did Lord Henry influence me too much that Istarted my own philosophies? Oh well, it’s all good fun..until someone paints your portrait!)

Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.

P1030862A very prominent image that we are presented with throughout the book is how the inside can differ from the outside. Dorian with his angelic features is a totally corrupted person with no morals and no sense of ethics. Still, in todays society it has been observed that beautiful people are viewed as more successful, smart and happy than not so beautiful people. Of course as Oscar Wilde has taught us looks shouldn’t dictate how people will treat and view you..but…they do.

To define is to limit.

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Brilliant quotes, really! I deeply enjoyed the dark, gothic atmosphere and sardonic style of the story. A very prominent theme, mostly in the beginning of the book and less so throughout is the idea of art. Art can be anything and Wilde is a huge advocate of its existence as something to be admired rather than understood. Youth and good looks also play a huge role of course in the novel. Saddly, it is true that once people enter old age they’re viewed by society as a burden and thus experience feelings of depression and uselessness. Society and the social environment are most of the times very shallow. This is another theme that Oscar Wilde wanted to present and which goes hand in hand with the previous one. People are judged on account of their looks first and foremost. The inside will be reviewed after the outside has been accepted. But finally, the theme that for me was the most interesting one was the influence that people we admire have on us. I think everybody has experienced this kind of influence that I’m talking about. When you idolise someone and suddenly the world is translated in the way that you think this person would translate it. So interesting..I’m talking about you Lord Henry!

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

P1030864Next time you have a song stuck to your head remember Mr Wilde and just listen to the freaking song. It will get unstuck once you yield to it! Anyway..I’m very glad I read this book; it certainly made me think and question and ponder. Still, I found that at times I was getting a bit lost. There were a few huge paragraphs with references to people and art of an era that I know almost nothing about and so I got a little overwhelmed. Moreover, I actually listened to a free audiobook which wasn’t that well executed but still..free! These elements don’t allow my head to give a 5 star rating and there I go Mr Wilde overthinking art.
All in all, this is a brilliant classic to read. It’s simply written, the writting is just amazing and the story is horrific. If you are trying to get into classics this is a good book to start I think. I don’t think there is a group of people I wouldn’t recommend this book to..Maybe, people who don’t enjoy classic literature? Still, give it a try, be open to art!

Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray and if so what did you think of it? Who was your favourite character and which theme did you find most interesting? I think this book gives room for a lot of discussion.
View all my reviews

This is the audiobook I was listening to (while reading along). As I said , I didn’t enjoy it much but it’s free and I thought I should share it.

I’m a BookDepository affiliate. If you want to buy a book online and you go through my link (below), I’ll get a small commission:

BookDepository: The Picture of Dorian Gray (the edition illustrated in the pictures)

One Comment Add yours

  1. I thought that this was a brilliant book. Wilde surely has a way with words.

    Like

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