166 of 174 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2006
Dorian Gray at the age of eighteen seems blessed beyond all other young men, possessing wealth and beauty. While having his portrait painted by the artist Basil Hallward, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a cynic and thinker who convinces Dorian that his youth and beauty are his most important possessions. Falling under Lord Henry's spell, Dorian wishes a fateful wish, that he would hold onto his youth and beauty, while his portrait would feel the effects of time and life.
And with his wish granted, Dorian Gray sets out to test all of the virtues and vices that life has to offer, free from the fear that his experiences will leave a mark upon his face. But, to his horror and dismay, Dorian begins to realize that while the mirror reflects the state of his face, the picture reflects the state of his soul.
This book is considered one of the modern classics of Western literature, and it is easy to see why. The book shows off Oscar Wilde's (1854-1900) writing talents to great effect, with the book seeming more like poetry at times. But, the story itself is quite fascinating. "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" asks Lord Henry, quoting Jesus Christ.
Overall, I found this to be a fascinating read. Oscar Wilde was a great thinker, and in many ways this book shows him at his best and at his worst. Which character represents Mr. Wilde, Lord Henry, Basil Hallward, Dorian Gray, or all three? I would say all three.
This is a great book, one that everyone should read, a book about living and what you do and what you are underneath. I give this book my highest recommendations!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2003
I chose to read this book after watching the original black and white movie in class, even if I didn't understand it due to my absance for the first half of the film. I was very pleased with the book, and the beutiful style of Wilde's prose. It was so sensual in his description.
The book follows the highly narcissitc Dorian Gray, who after having a portrait of himself painted, wishes he would not age and the painting does. The statement be careful what you wish for is stark and powerful here, as we witness the slow demise of the aristocrat. The characters are built wondefully, with Wooton being a personal favourite. The settings are rich in vivdness and the language sublime. This is surely a masterpiece.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2010
I always felt until now that works by Oscar Wilde would be overly flowery and "superficial" and only got this book because it was free on Kindle.
I could not have been more wrong.............Like the earlier reviewer suggested I had a very vague notion of Dorian Gray and the ideals he stood for but reading the novel it seems incredibly relevant to todays image obsessed society and the linked declines in morality.
The book itself is dark in places but still infused with humour and insights into human society and is a delight to read.
On the strength of this experience I have ordered several other "Classics" by authors I otherwise would not have touched.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Dorian Gray is the classic portrait of selfishness, sin & redemption, told with Wilde's signature whit, charm & insight. While aestheticism & morality are often perceived as concepts which are at odds with one another, Wilde's position is that youthful good looks reflect spiritual purity because a sinful life will become etched upon the world-weary wrongdoers' face. But as Dorian owns a portrait which ages while he does not, he gets away with "the terrible pleasure of a double life" because his ever-youthful face remains the picture of innocence. However, he cannot prevent his selfish pursuit of pleasure from staining his psyche.
The novel centres on the relationship between Dorian, the painter & lover of beauty Basil Hallward (who seems implicitly in love with Dorian) & the cynical Lord Henry Wotton, who leads Dorian along the path of corruption. Each of these characters represent parts of Wilde himself, who once wrote "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be - in other ages, perhaps".
As it was written in 1890, this book is charmingly dated in places. Given the religious mores of the time, it's much more restrained than Oliver Parker's 2009 film, with many incidents being implied, rather than filmed close-up in widescreen. There is also much rumination on sin, plus the existence of an afterlife, in which Gray will eventually get his comuppance, is taken as read. However, Dorian is incredibly relevant in our modern society where fame & beauty are seemingly considered much more important than morality.
While some of the concepts in the book seem a little dated, there is still much to ponder & it's worth reading purely for Wilde's charm & penetrating insights. A true classic.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2010
I am a slow reader, for English is not my native language, however, it did not take so long even for me to finish the Picture of Dorian Gray. This is so fascinating book. First, the plot is inviting that Dorian remains forever young and beautiful while his portrait grows old and corrupt absorbing all his sins. Then, the story itself is eventful such as an actress Sibyl Vane's suicide, murder of Basil Hallward, and James Vane's vindictive act for her sister, etc. Even without realizing it I was engrossed deeply into the world of the author. It may be because Wilde is playwright who knows exactly where to accentuate the story and where to withdraw to please audience or reader.
Wilde also inserts many paradoxical epigrams mostly marked by seemingly experienced but naive character, Load Henry which are so amusing and puzzling. It is as if I was trapped into the author's strategy to perplex reader playfully with his wits and pungent cynicisms about society, matrimonial life, art and so on.
Also, the story is filled with hedonistic notions occasionally insinuating Dorian's visit to opium den or his homosexual relationship with Basil Hallward, but they are not clearly mentioned anywhere, and these undemonstrative expressions leave the story so enigmatic that makes me wonder what in fact happens behind each scene. What interests me most is that Dorian's dissolute life may be displaced with the author's own real life which was always rumored for his homosexuality. I have a feeling that Wilde may have wanted to confess his inclination to his own sex ambiguously somewhere in this story.
Isn't it true irony that Wilde's own life was devastated by his own creation of the book as Dorian ended up being haunted by ghost of people whom he did so much wrong, then tried to be redeemed from his sins by slashing the portrait, but was avenged by it or "himself" at last?
It is pity to learn that this story was so severely criticized due to its immorality back then although this is full of entertaining factors as well as essences of genuine literature. Even as Asian residing in a small island country of Far East, I found this story very individual, entertaining, inviting, and this is one of the most interesting books I have ever read of English classic literature.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2007
Oscar Wilde was not afraid of the dark side of human nature and I'm quite sure he knew his demons very well.
Dorian Gray was a susceptible and easily led young man who believed his own press.
Fantasic story. Read it as such or delve deeper and you will find a much darker thread that will perhaps be visible the next time you look in the mirror.
Our society, so caught up in the aesthetic, would perhaps benefit much from the lesson that is contained in the Picture of Dorian Gray.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2007
It is rare that I would award five stars, but no other work could be more deserving. This novel is magnificently and intelligently written, conveying many themes vividly and simultaneously.
The novel chiefly addresses the role of art in (Victorian) society, and does so while maintaining an intense depiction of London life during the period. Wilde considers life as a play; a book; or a piece of music. Dorian, who represents at the beginning of the novel a shallow yet unspoiled character, is gradually corrupted and is taught by Lord Henry to consider looking on his life as an outsider - banishing reality and imagining that he were a spectator of an extensive play; the plot of which is his own life.
By revealing to us the grave consequences of doing so, Wilde also ensures that the reader has a clear idea of the hypocrisy and dangerous attitudes of 19th century polite society. The reader feels fascinated by the erudite conversations between Lord Henry and his friends, often appalled by the carelessly constructed opinions. Such opinions are at the very heart of Dorian's corruption and eventual downfall, and we gradually begin to see his mind consumed by Lord Henry's thoughts. The distant narrative also allows the reader to come to his own conclusions, which perhaps makes the novel even more powerful.
The plot is fantastically simple, and indeed very little happens other than dinner parties and trips to the theatre. However, this makes the work nonetheless gripping (with a potently dramatic ending), and this book is certainly not waffly or tedious. Far from it; Oscar Wilde delivers a masterpiece to all of us, and reveals the terrifying consequences of vanity, thoughtlessness and, most of all, sin.
"The Picture Of Dorian Gray" is a masterpiece without doubt, and for £2 is difficult to reject. A "must read" for anybody.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2009
Buyers of any Bill Amberg Penguin Classics will find their books safely deposited within a box. Opening the box, unwrapping the cover and reading the inlay card is an experience in itself as it feels like opening a luxury gift and the card describes how the leather was made (no cows were slaughtered, they died naturally) and the process it went through.
The book has a leather cover and leather book mark, and the feel of the book whilst reading the book gives it a quality feel of luxury. I think this is the start of a new trend, luxurious books either in leather or other quality materials.
Now for the book itself, I've just received these books and looking forward to showing them off whilst reading during the rush hour traffic.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Oscar Wilde's writing is renowned for its intelligence and wit. I found it so irritating I couldn't finish the book.
The first problem for me was the pompous chatter of pompous people who have never done a day of work. For some reason, it is wonderful to read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and many others writing about people who fall in the same category, but Oscar Wilde's characters were, for me, dull and annoying.
A bigger problem is the famous Oscar Wilde wit. Every few lines we meet a comment which at first glance sounds pithy, witty and wise. After a while I found that most of them were not clever and wise but over-clever, contrived and pretentious. So that you can judge for yourself, I have copied below a sample of such comments. To avoid bias, I have taken them in order, starting at the beginning and including the ones I thought were genuinely good.
If you are tickled by these quotes, you may enjoy the book. If you share my opinion of them, I strongly recommend reading something else.
"there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about"
"beauty ends where an intellectual expression begins"
"Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration"
"There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction...The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world."
"the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties"
"Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know"
"I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible"
"Conscience and cowardice are really the same things"
"she is a peacock in everything but beauty"
"You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one"
"I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects"
"I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else"
"genius lasts longer than beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves...the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value."
"Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love:"
"Each class would have preached the importance of those virtues, for whose exercise there was no necessity in their own lives"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've long had a vague idea about the picture of Dorian Gray, but have never read the book itself. I thought it was about time I remedied that failing. I remember reading a novel about Oscar Wilde a few years ago, and about his wife and marriage, and thinking what an odd fellow he must have been, and impossible to live with.
Basil Hallward has found his perfect muse, the young, beautiful and enigmatic Dorian Gray. Basil's friend Lord Henry Wotton finds himself giving advice to Dorian to ensure he enjoys every moment of his youth, for it is fleeting. As Dorian views the finished portrait of himself that Basil has just completed, he finds himself dreading aging, and envying the portrait for remaining ever young; if only he could find a way that would allow him to remain young and the portrait age instead. In a wonderful gothic tale, the portrait takes on the aspects of Dorian's life as he explores the world of the senses to its fullest. The degeneration, or is it in fact the true revelation of his nature is shocking to follow.
The unfolding horror of Dorian Gray is wonderfully captured in this Victorian novel; I can see why it would have been considered shocking in its day. Wilde did not shrink (at least in this uncensored version) from references which although tame to us in this day and age, would have been considered risque or inappropriate in his day. And the inner darkness of a man's soul is not something that would normally be written about in this way; I think maybe some of those in Wilde's circle who would have read this book may have been touched by it being a bit near to the bone. But certainly there is depth in the analysis of a man and his conscience in this book, and the writing is philosophical as well as very evocative of a very different time and place, and the men and women who lived there. I'm really glad I read this; I think it is a classic that has stood well the test of time.