The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian GrayI have been meaning to read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ for absolutely ages – as I’ve mentioned, I find it easy to take classic literature for granted, knowing that it will always be easily available especially in electronic format, so it tends to get pushed down to the bottom of my TBR list.  ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ should have been bumped up to the top of my list sooner.  The novel tells the story of a young man named Dorian Gray, who has a portrait painted of him by Basil Hallward.  Dorian meets Basil’s friend, Lord Henry (Harry) Wotton, who believes that youth and beauty are the only things which really matter in the world and Dorian subsequently becomes heavily influenced by his ideas about aestheticism.  However, the story takes a sinister turn when Dorian makes a wish that only his portrait should age and wither while he would look young forever, thus selling his soul for eternal youth.  As you can imagine, the moral of the story is something along the lines of ‘be careful what you wish for’…

Having made his name as a playwright, this is Oscar Wilde’s only published novel.  ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is often classified as a Gothic work but while the themes are dark, it isn’t a supernatural book like ‘Dracula’ for example, and it also contains a lot of wit and sarcasm.  The story is driven more by character than plot and with the exception of one very long and largely unnecessary chapter about Dorian’s obsession with aestheticism half way through the novel, the writing was not repetitive or tedious to read.  The plot is well paced and the language is highly readable and not archaic at all.  The ending is somewhat inevitable yet Wilde sustains the tension as Dorian approaches his fate, as well as a sense of urgency and impending doom.

As you would expect from Wilde, who had an exceptional talent for writing witty one-liners in his plays, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ contains some very memorable quotes.  My favourite is probably when Lord Henry says: “There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating – people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.”  Wilde’s distinctive sense of humour is present throughout the story and his experience as a playwright is also evident in the balanced and well-written dialogue. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is written with seemingly effortless style and wit with brilliantly flawed characters.  Not to be missed.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

  1. I bought this for my bookclub a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, Dorian Gray has been over-looked in the fever pitch to latch onto Christian Grey. After reading your review I look forward to reading a classic that is well written (yes, dig to the latter Grey).

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  2. I steer clear of classics because I feel there is a compulsion to ‘like’ and praise them simply because they have been classified as classics! This has probably kept me from reading many great books but that’s Ok, coz there’s no shortage of great books to be read is there?

    This one sounds right up my street however…will give it a shot soon 🙂 Great review!

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  3. inkyscribbles94

    One of my favourite books of all time – your review definitely does it justice 🙂

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  4. I love this book! It is fantastic!

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  5. Looking forward to reading it even more now! This book is waiting for me on my TBR shelf 🙂

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  6. ifnotread

    A great review. I love this book to bits. I wouldn’t put it in the Gothic category either but then again, Wilde is a category of his own, right?! I agree that it is very ‘readable’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. I was surprised by how incredible Dorian Gray was when I finally got around to reading it a few years ago. The dialogue is clever, wicked, witty, cynical, offensive .. basically, it is all things I admire and respect. One of my favorite lines is “She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.”

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  8. So glad you like this novel. It is one of my most favourite reads 🙂

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  9. I tend to do the exact opposite: I focus too much on classics and I forget reading some contemporary books and some of the newly published ones… XD
    The Picture of Dorian Gray is of course on my TBR. I hope I will still read it this year as it sounds really great :).

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  10. I also recently read this classic and wrote a paper about it. Oscar Wilde is really a must read! Full of wit, sarcasm, and aestheticism. Loved it.

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  11. Underappreciated because of the greatness of his plays.

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  12. Saw the movie and in the process of reading the book. I love time period material.

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  13. Pingback: The Best of 2012 Survey | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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