The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Book Review

Spoiler alert.

Interestingly, I think I would have enjoyed this novel more if I had had to study it for English because then I would have been able to understand and appreciate it a lot more.

Nonetheless it kept me fairly engaged – that is, other than the long philosophical sounding passages. At first I tried to read and grasp every sentence but halfway through the book I only skim-read them instead.

Anyway I was really drawn to this novel simply because of the concept: the extraordinary picture of Dorian Gray – painted by Basil Hallward, who is “charmed by his looks”. Dorian’s sinful acts and ageing translate into grotesque features which gradually appear on the painting whilst Dorian himself remains youthful. I had to find out more!

The blurb (I cut out the bit I just explained above) seems to sum up the themes of the novel well I think:

But when Sir Henry Wotton visits and seduces Dorian into the worship of youthful beauty with an intoxicating speech, Dorian makes a wish he will live to regret…The stage is now set for a masterful tale about appearance, reality, art, life, truth, fiction and the burden of conscience.

The novel is only about 200 pages which is manageable. I found the first couple of chapters a bit boring to be honest. It wasn’t until Sibyl Vane that I became more engaged but after that, certain events felt kind of predictable – especially on the last pages.

I feel like the gothic genre is like a tragedy by nature and if there’s a name in the title, you have an idea of what will happen to that character. After everything Dorian did, you can imagine how hideous he must have looked in the end.

Basil’s demise was an exception. I wasn’t expecting that. Poor Basil. Now that part of the novel was really…grisly? Sordid? Not sure what describes it well. By this point I didn’t really admire any of the characters, not that I think I was supposed to, just how they were written. I think that Dorian Gray by the end of the novel is very self-centred, shallow, impressionable, dishonest and monstrous. (Why Dorian listened to virtually everything Sir Henry Wotton said is what I’d like to know.)

It’s hard for me to think of a specific thing that made me like this novel because it’s certainly not my favourite book. I think not being able to understand everything was part of its charm for me – the challenge. And the romantic undertones because the kind of genre it falls under is great but I find it a bit dry without any intimate aspects (like in Jekyll and Hyde – I find that lawyer Mr Utterson as dull and reserved as he’s described to be). I guess that goes for most things I read or watch.

One thing I will say though is that it’s a thought-provoking novel because it presents a lot of ideas about life and people and it has characters that I can connect with better than in the other gothic stuff I’ve read/began to read (The Man of the Crowd, Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde). And as someone who likes art, I found ideas about that particularly interesting.

There were also some odd remarks about women but I feel that’s par for the course given the time the novel was written and maybe because the author is Oscar Wilde. As far as I can remember, most of these remarks came from the peculiar Sir Henry Wotton (he seemed to take pleasure in influencing the young Dorian). At first, the comments made me frown but they amused me afterwards. One of them was “When a woman marries again, it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs”.

And these are some of my overall favourite quotes:

To define is to limit

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter

My final verdict is that The Picture of Dorian Gray is worth a read if you think you’d like this sort of thing.

Notes: featured image taken on my camera

What book are you currently reading? And if you have any gothic fiction recommendations I’d love to hear them. 🙂

Sorry my first review was a mess, I’ve realised I need to keep focused so here is my second attempt at a (still clearly  amateurish) book review…If you don’t try you can’t succeed 😛

I noticed the posts that I don’t expect to do well actually get more likes, it’s strange – maybe this could be one of them.

Song: Love The Way You Lie by Eminem ft. Rihanna (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelHwf8o7_U)

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3 thoughts on “The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Book Review

  1. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray this year, too! And honestly, i really enjoyed it! I enjoyed most of the philosphical paragraphs, too, but generally, Henry’s view and thoughts on women sometimes made me so mad that i wanted bang my head on a wall. And Basil…That, my friend, was unexpected for me and i was quite shocked. Also, this is the first book that i highlighted this much sentences and quotes. *o* My fave quote was: “None of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.”

    I’m currently reading Red Skies Under Red Seas by Stott Lynch and a bunh of other books but mainly RSURS. *-*

    Liked by 1 person

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