Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

I realize I’ve been reading a lot of fluff lately. I can always tell I’m doing it when my brain starts to feel like its starving. So, I thought I would insert one of my favorite classics of all time in order to break up the paranormal YA stuff. Wilde is one of my favorite writers of all time, and Dorian Gray ranks up there with my favorite books. However, if a reader is looking for the light-hearted humor of The Importance of Being Earnest, they will not find it in this novel.


The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic horror novel which explores the themes of decadence, vanity and unrestrained pleasures. Dorian Gray is an incredibly handsome and frequently-fawned-over young man. Artist, Basil Harwood, paints a stunning portrait of Dorian which draws the admiration of Lord Wotton. As the three men are admiring it, Dorian says he would give anything for the portrait to age instead of him.


It isn’t long before Dorian begins to notice minute changes in the portrait, a cruel twist of the lips, evidence of his debauchery lining the eyes. It becomes apparent that Dorian is getting his wish – the painting is aging instead of him. As the novel progresses, Dorian slowly becomes a monster inside, ruled by vanity and pleasures, but it is the figure in the painting which shows the physical evidence of Dorian’s cruelty.


This novel might have been written in Victorian England, but it still resonates today. It shows obsession with youth and beauty is destructive and dangerous. It affects not only Dorian himself, but also his admirers. Harwood and Lord Wotton compete over Dorian’s attentions and seem to be in love with him. Their obsessions deteriorate their relationships with the women in their lives. There are homosexual undertones throughout the novel, but they are not explored. If I remember correctly, these passages were entered into evidence at Oscar Wilde’s sodomy trial, where he was eventually convicted.


The Picture of Dorian Gray is different from Wilde’s other works; yet, he stays true to himself. Wilde’s comedic plays display is humor and biting wit. He was famous for poking fun at the aristocracy and their frivolities. Dorian Gray is dark and disturbing, yet holds true to Wilde’s social criticisms of the day.




Overall, I give The Picture of Dorian Gray


Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks (There are a few places where it slows down…)


Compelling Characters – 4 bookmarks


Social Commentary – 5 bookmarks


Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Let me just say, I have not seen the recent movie made of this book. My casting goes purely off my imagination. Robert Pattinson (Dorian. He is the definition of male beauty for me, and he's capable of portraying cruelty brilliantly!), Colin Firth (Basil Harwood), Samuel West (Lord Wotton).

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