Thursday, September 12, 2013


  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Book by Oscar Wilde
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. Wikipedia

  • Oscar Wilde said:  “Basil Hallward is what I think I am; Lord Henry what the world thinks of me; Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps.”  Consider this as you read the book. 
    One of the several tragedies in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and yes there is more than one tragedy here, is how Dorian uses his influence to drag others down.  Readers are often told that Dorian attracts others because of his youthful beauty.  And Dorian’s society whispers about the downfall of many who had been close to him; some fall to opium, others despair and suicide.  When a person has a considerable asset, like Dorian’s appearance, I think it is important that they are aware of its effects on others.  Because when we admire someone we give them power to influence us and have some sway on our views and decisions.  We need to be careful how we use our strengths. 
    Summary in a Sentence
    When he sees a remarkable portrait of himself showcasing his youth and beauty, Dorian Gray utters a wish that his portrait would age instead of him; when he later sees this wish granted he indulges in many sins which degrade his soul and the image in the painting, but not his looks. 
    Themes within the text
    A brutal murder occurs.  There are provoking discussions of evil and the effects of sin.  Throughout the book men flirt with married women and there are references to adultery.  A chapter describes Dorian’s lust and hunt for opium.  However, the concluding message is that you can’t escape the effects of your actions. 
    The Language and Style
    Wilde displays an exceptional ability to describe places.  He established setting beautifully and thoroughly in passages such as this:
    The Opening Paragraph:
    "The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light
    summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through
    the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate
    perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."  

    Later in the text:

    “The room looked as if it had not been lived in for years.  A faded Flemish tapestry, a curtained picture, an old Italian cassone, and an almost empty bookcase – that was all that it seemed to contain, besides a chair and a table.  As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle that was standing on the mantelshelf, [Basil] saw that the whole place was covered with dust, and that the carpet was in holes.  A mouse ran scuffling behind the wainscoting.  There was a damp odor of mildew.”

    You may learn several new words reading this book (which is a requirement for me to dub a book “good”) including 'ennui' which means “listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from boredom” (according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary).   As you read, make a note of new words and look up the meanings if you can't work them out.

    Usually in a novel the reader can work out who is speaking by the character's unique voice. One of my problems with Dorian Gray: although what the characters talked about differed, there was little distinction between how they talked.  If I was to flip open to a random page in the book and read something in quotation marks I’d have a hard time identifying the speaker just off of the way it was worded. Perhaps this was because Oscar Wilde saw himself as all three main characters.

    Philosophy and Exploration of Ideas
    Wilde has his characters spending a lot of time talking...about a lot...there was too much philosophy and lengthy exploration of ideas for me.  Although I do have to give it to Wilde for merging an interesting plot with so much ideology. 
    Why it is in the Canon of Western Literature
    This is an intellectually engaging book which explore ideas, often new ideas. A peek into a past era and the way people lived and spent their days. It’s always interesting how the lifestyle, values, and taboos of the author’s time period are revealed in a book.  For instance, I couldn’t believe how little people like Dorian and Henry did with their time. 

    What is A Picture of Dorian Gray about?
    A Picture of Dorian Gray is about many things, including art, adoration, sin, and many more fascinating topics.  Oscar Wilde must have been a very thoughtful, observant person because the book is just chuck full of insights and well thought-out ideas.  Just two examples:
    “Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us.”
    “It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.”


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