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The Picture of Dorian Gray (Collector's Library)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2012
In my opinion, Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a truly wonderful book, well worth reading- several times if possible. Although some readers, critics, and reviewers here have claimed sections to be tedious and irrelevant, I cannot disagree more. The novel reflects Dorian Gray's psyche, and as such the possibly felt tedious feeling felt upon reading some of the middle sections (which make up no more than an eighth of the novel at most!) are far outweighed by the fact that these feelings are presented as being likewise felt by Dorian Gray. Surely it is a good thing- nay, a truly remarkable thing, that Oscar Wilde has written the novel such that the very emotions and feelings felt while reading the novel are in fact first hand for some sections, rather than vicarious or second-hand (which is the case for all emotions in most other novels!).
At any rate, even if the perhaps-overly-lengthy descriptions towards the middle of the novel, and witty dialogues are seen as negative points (which I strongly disagree with! In my opinion they can only be seen as positive points), then they are far outweighed by the rest of the novel. After all, only about a fifth of the novel is composed of sections where the descriptions become quite lengthy, and the dialogues perhaps unrealistic in their wit.
As far as I was concerned, every moment reading it was a pleasure. As I drew towards the end of the novel, I could already feel myself wanting to read it again, and although I could not call the novel gripping- as an action-novel would be described- I think the very beauty and poetry of the words used by Wilde make the pages turn far better than any amount of action could.

For buying the novel, I would strongly suggest the cloth-bound, 2008, penguin edition hard-cover, with introduction and notes by Robert Mighall (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Picture-Dorian-Gray-Clothbound-Classics/dp/0141442468/ref=tmm_hrd_title_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1338842947&sr=1-1). There are three reasons for this:
Firstly, it is the revised edition from 1891, and therefore has the additional chapters.
Secondly, the notes contain the original 1890 wordings for more important sections, as well as highlighting some of the double meanings, and explaining some of the more obscure points.
Thirdly, it's a quite nice edition in my opinion... Its the one I used for my A2 English Literature coursework, and was absolutely perfect for it. The notes proved to be invaluable, and the novel took quite a rough beating (several times it was thrown about in my rugby kit bag, or pressed in all directions amongst my other books etcetera, and... I'm quite happy to say it is still in near-perfect condition. Beyond a slight fading of the pattern on the front of the cover (which did, quite funnily, coat my rugby kit in glitter), it could almost be new. Considering most books aren't put through quite so much punishment, I think under normal circumstances, this edition would last a life-time of reading and still be in relatively good condition by the end of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2011
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a Faustian novel, and one of the first ground-breaking pieces of gothic literature along with novels such as "The Castle of Otranto" by Horace Walpole and "The Mysteries of Udolpho" by Anne Radcliffe. Based on this merit alone it is worth reading. If you're a connoisseur of literature it's mandatory, and if you're not, it's highly recommendable.

It tells of the life of Dorian Gray, who, upon meeting Basil Hallward (his painter's) friend Sir Henry Wotton, begins to fret over the ephemerality of his youth, and makes an involuntary wish for...Well I don't want to ruin it for anyone, so I'll leave that out. Chances are, going in, you know the premise of the novel, but I still don't want to risk a spoiler. Either way, slowly, he starts to lose himself, and the gentleness of his nature, and he is driven to "sin".

It's a good read in many ways. For one it is an easy read, it can be enjoyed whether you are sitting at home or travelling. In another it is thought provoking, you could pull about two hundred quotes out of it and apply them to your daily life (and I'm not exaggerating). And lastly, the story line is gripping.

If you're approaching this after experiencing Wilde's plays then I should warn you, there is no comedy here, in fact there is barely even a resemblance to the tone of his plays (although some of the dialogue is fairly similar).

Either way, this is a damn good read and I certainly recommend it.

If you're interested in gothic literature, this is highly, highly recommended, as are the above titles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2011
We first meet Dorian Gray as a young man, precociously handsome and with a charming nature. He is having his portrait painted by the unassuming Basil Hallward when he first meets the cynical thinker, Lord Henry Wotton. Hallward adores Gray and is concerned by Wotton's influence over him but Gray himself hangs onto Wotton's every word and cannot help falling under his spell. Wotton manages to convince Gray that his looks are his most important asset and should be maintained and exploited as long as they last. This leads Gray to ponder the portrait and declare that he wishes his looks would remain and the portrait would age instead of him.

As time goes on Dorian Gray loses his pleasant nature and becomes a vain young man, succombing to vices of drink, drugs and women. His youthful looks remain and, to his horror, the handsome charmer in the portrait becomes less and less likeable as it ages. Gray gets away with cruelty and a lavish lifestyle as people cannot believe such a youthful and pleasant countenance can contain a rotten soul. To the reader this raises the question of how we perceive others by appearance alone - can we really judge a book by its cover? Are our looks, as we age, a reflection of the life we have led, whether we have been cruel or kind, selfish or generous? I think to an extent yes, we can look at people and see sadness in their eyes or the lines of a lifetime of laughter. Of course looks can be deceiving and we should never be quick to assume things about others.

One aspect of the novel that fascinates me is the action of the murderer. Having committed the most atrocious of crimes and got away without suspicion, the murderer cannot help but give himself away. A mixture of disbelief and revulsion takes over and he needs to repent somehow whilst still having the instinct for self-preservation - telling people outright that he did it, knowing they won't believe him. It reminds me a little of Raskolnikov in Crime & Punishment and his struggle to hold himself together and his need to pay for his crime.

This is a wonderful novel, full of Wilde's philosophy and imagination. It goes off on tangents now and again but the force of the novel as a whole is immense. The story is humorous, surprising and tragic and has a fitting and dramatic ending. Definitely a book that everyone should read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2011
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" was the only novel written by Oscar Wilde. The basic idea behind it is well-known even to those who have never read the book or seen any of various film adaptations. A beautiful young man named Dorian Gray possesses a portrait of himself, painted by his friend Basil Hallward. Dorian, who is very vain about his looks, expresses the wish that he could remain young and beautiful while the portrait grows old, only to find that he has made an unwitting Faustian bargain, because this is precisely what happens. Influenced by the hedonistic philosophy of another friend, Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian gives himself over to a life of debauchery, remaining forever young while the signs of ageing begin to appear on the painting. The portrait, moreover, does not simply reflect Dorian's chronological age. It also acts as a reflection of the state of his soul. By the end of the story Dorian is no more than middle-aged, but the picture is that of a hideous old man, disfigured by a life of sin and vice.

When the novel was first published in 1890 (in magazine form) it was highly controversial, for two reasons. The first reason was its undoubted homoerotic overtones, although Wilde toned these down somewhat when the novel was published in book form the following year. Explicit gay sex scenes would, of course, have been taboo in the 1890s, but coded references to famous homosexual lovers from history and mythology (Hadrian and Antinous, Edward II and Piers Gaveston, Jupiter and Ganymede) can be taken as an indication that Dorian's debauches are not exclusively of the heterosexual variety. There is also an indication that Basil's feelings for Dorian, and possibly Lord Henry's as well, go beyond mere friendship.

The other reason why the novel was so controversial was that Wilde was wrongly thought to be espousing Lord Henry's world view and advocating a love of beauty and pleasure as the only good in life. This impression was strengthened by Wilde's Preface, which consists solely of twenty-five epigrams about art, including "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all". These statements appear to align Wilde with the literary and cultural movement known as Aestheticism, or sometimes as the Decadent Movement. This movement adopted as its slogan "Art for Art's Sake", interpreted by many of its followers such as the French poet Theophile Gautier as a denial of the idea that there was any association between art and morality.

Wilde's epigrams, however, should not be taken as the Twenty-Five Articles of a prescriptive artistic credo; they were rather intended as provocative aphorisms intended to stimulate discussion. The author himself frequently wrote works with a quite overt moral agenda- children's stories like "The Selfish Giant", social satires like "A Woman of No Importance" and "An Ideal Husband", poems like "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". Indeed, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" itself can be interpreted as an overtly moral work. In a letter, Wilde said of the three main characters: "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps"- an interesting remark, given that Basil is both the only character in the novel who is a creative artist and also the representative of a traditional, and often explicitly Christian, morality, which contrasts sharply with Henry's amoralism. Henry is a cynical dandy, much given to witty aphorisms, but like other similar characters in Wilde's works is not to be taken as a self-portrait of the author.

If Dorian is a Faust-figure, Henry is his Mephistopheles, but he is a devil less corrupt than the man he tempts. For all Henry's cynicism, he never descends into the depths of depravity in the same way as his protégé does. He never quite has the courage to practise what he preaches, being guilty of what might be called inverted hypocrisy, making himself out to be worse than he really is. As Basil says to him "You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing." Dorian's sins, however, are not limited to sexual debauchery and drug addiction (he becomes an habitué of opium dens). His callous behaviour drives his fiancée, the young actress Sibyl Vane, to suicide, and in an attempt to preserve himself from exposure he resorts to blackmail and murder.

One thing that does link Wilde to the Aesthetic movement is his undoubted love of physical beauty; the story is written in a very rich, lush style with many striking descriptive passages, such as the opening description of the beautiful summer's day on which Dorian first meets Henry. Yet his attitude to Aestheticism is a critical one, and is perhaps closer to that of earlier writers such as Ruskin and Morris, both of whom promoted an appreciation of beauty not as an end in itself but as part of a wider political and social agenda. Wilde clearly saw the limitations, and the dangers, of a cult of beauty divorced from moral and human concerns. It is perhaps significant that, after committing his murder, Dorian sits down to calm his nerves by reading the poetry of Gautier, the writer most closely associated with the "art for art's sake" ideology. He breaks off his engagement to Sibyl after seeing her give a bad performance in the theatre; her explanation for the decline in her acting skills is that, having discovered real love, she can no longer be inspired by fictional love. For him, artistic concerns are paramount over human ones; for her, it is the other way round.

As one might expect from the only novel of a highly original, idiosyncratic writer, the book occupies a unique place in the history of English literature. It is sometimes classified as Gothic fiction, and the work to which it bears the greatest similarity is perhaps another classic "Gothic" novel from the late 19th century, Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", published five years earlier. Like Stevenson, Wilde wanted to explore the duality within the human soul between the virtuous public side and the darker private side which we are compelled to keep hidden. As a homosexual forced to conceal his homosexuality, this theme had an obvious appeal for him.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a complex, multi-layered work, and there is insufficient space in this review to touch on all its many aspects. It is, however, a work which well deserves its status as a literary classic more than a century after the death of its author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2009
In roughly three weeks Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes comes to DVD in the UK (and I intend to buy it. I have a region free DVD player and sadly there was never a US release of this film). I haven't seen this film version yet and I know it strays from the original novel but that's not the worst thing in the world. I've seen a version where Basil was a woman and it was set in the nineteen sixties with really bad acting. Now that was terrible. And there's also the 1944 version of The Canterville Ghost that turned it into World War 2 propaganda. So I don't mind what they've done with the Ben Barnes version of Dorian Gray.

But since I am waiting for this adaptation I would like to write a review now for the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I LOVE the work of Oscar Wilde. Allow me to stress that. I absolutely love the work of Oscar Wilde. My two favourite works of his are The Canterville Ghost and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. While he remains flawless, a portrait of himself grows uglier every time he sins. He cannot die unless you destroy the painting.
Thanks to temptation and vice Dorian falls into hedonism and debauchery. As he externally remains pure and untainted his soul bears the burdens of his actions as reflected in the painting. Dorian learns the hard way that it's not physical beauty that matters but the inner beauty of one's own soul in qualities of kindness, mercy and compassion, things that he had lost along the way for selfishness, hedonism and greed.

Dorian's fall from grace is a road lined with wit and humour. The story is riddled with clever epigrams (witty, short sayings) mostly said by the morally questionable character, Lord Henry.
Lord Henry is a surprisingly naive character who plants bad ideas and temptations into Dorian's head while he, himself, doesn't seem to actually commit any sin he talks about. He even has the naive notion that people of their status don't do things like murder, as if such crimes are vices only of the lower classes.

The picture of Dorian Gray is a very good and interesting read that talks about social conformity, morality, hedonism, and good and evil. The messages are not heavy handed and it's an intelligently written story.

People of Oscar Wilde's era who called it an immoral book were made uncomfortable by Dorian's descent and lack of redemption but ultimately he was punished for his sins. Others noticed the subtle hints of homosexuality and bisexuality in the story but these things were kept subtle as this was a Gothic Victorian novel.
Many people over-estimate how much homosexual content there is in this book or they don't see it at all but in fact it was actually very subtle and you only notice it if you are looking for it.
However lines such as 'The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curve of your lips rewrite history.' - which was engraved in a cigarette case given to Dorian by Lord Henry make the relationships obvious to the astute reader.

The sexuality of the characters isn't even an issue. Poor Oscar Wilde was far ahead of his time in this regard.

It's Dorian's decadence, hedonism and selfishness that cause his downfall and prove the moral lesson of the story; the value of the soul and inner beauty over external eternal flawlessness.
Dorian might have had eternal youth and beauty but it was at the price of the eternal beauty and youth that comes from a good natured and kind soul. And Dorian, being an aesthete could only see this transformation when his soul was physically manifested in a portrait that changed with the changing of his nature.
The 1940s movie adaptation of the story (the first film adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray) held the hope of redemption in showing that in acts of compassion the portrait could change for the better. This was something the novel lacked though it is still a fine novel.
Oscar Wilde was right when he said there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. There's only well written or poorly written books and The Picture of Dorian Gray is very well written.

This isn't an action packed thriller (though there are some intense moments). This isn't a romance about an immortal with a teenage lover (though something of that does happen). This is NOT Twilight. This story actually has substance.
This is more of an exploration of a character's nature and all of human nature in the process, the flaws of modern superficiality, selfishness and hedonism and the power the spiritual can still have over human consciousness. It's sad that for all of Dorian's shallowness he had to physically see it to feel the weight of his conscience instead of just knowing what he was doing was wrong but this is the flaw of the character and the reason behind his downfall. Dorian was a true aesthete to a dangerous extreme. Oscar Wilde was making a statement about society that many even today either don't get or don't want to get.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is written in a nice flowing prose. It's written in a third person perspective novel, not first person perspective, not alternating, and certainly not epistolary (which was a very popular style of fiction writing in Oscar Wilde's time).

I strongly recommend The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is a true classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I finally decided to pick up this classic work of fiction because of the recent film. Rather ashamedly, I have to admit that I had never considered reading it before; I didn't even know what the plot was. However, upon reading the synopsis which explained that it is about a young man who offers up his soul in exchange for eternal youth, I was immediately intrigued.
Dorian, who is having his portrait done by a friend, Basil Hallward, is struck by his incredible youth and beauty which is captured by the painter. Although it is a reflection of his own appearance, Dorian is quite jealous of the portrait, as he realises that it will never mar with age and the passage of time, unlike his own body. He wishes that it should be the other way around - that the picture should change over time but that he would stay as he was when it was created. This wish, along with the influence of his other friend, Lord Henry Wotton who lives a decadent life, is what finally brings about his downfall. While Dorian enjoys a life of excess and pleasure, he is not physically altered by his lack of morals - his picture, however shows the signs of what is going on within his blackening soul.

Although this novel was written in a very different time to us now, it remains relevant because of the subject matter. When everyone seems to be so obsessed with outward appearance and how we can best cheat the ageing process, it makes you wonder what we may be sacrificing on the inside. There is a fair amount of consideration about what makes a person 'shallow' within this book, and it does make you wonder as you read what sort of a person you yourself are.
Although the style of writing may put some people off, I thought this book put across interesting points to consider. It would be interesting now to see the film, to see how the two compare.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2009
Though The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short book it has hidden depths and very dark undertones. We first meet the image of Dorian Gray in a painting which Lord Henry Wotton sees at his artist friend's house, Basil Hallward and falls in love with the painting as he thinks the person depicted may be one of the most beautiful and alluring people he has scene. When Dorian then arrives Henry sees in the flesh he is even more so. Soon the two people Bail is closest too and never wanted to meet have struck up an unlikely friendship and under Henry's influence Dorian comes to believe youth and beauty are the only thing that matter. He then makes a fateful wish as he wants never to grow like the painting of him. He soon notices that indeed the picture does begin to age and as it does so it gets crueller looking as if the painting is the true Dorian himself.

Now if the plot wasn't enough the book is also very much about society and which on a first read years ago I didn't care for I completely and utterly loved. Looking at the upper classes who have endless money to burn and too much time on their hands other than to `chase the dragon' or embark on affairs the thing they go very well is gossip and discuss. I could easily write endless wonderful quotes from the book as to what they say "he is sure to be furious and I couldn't have a scene in this bonnet. It is far too fragile" and also how they are described "she was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked like they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest" in fact so many quotes it would probably make up 98% of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 February 2008
3*

(I have a lot to say about this one)
It would be easy to dismiss this book. The writer and his characters, I think, lack the moral compass. That said, Oscar Wilde had something to say about what sin does to a person and how it can even affect one's countenance. There is no cure for a hard heart or a life lived only to watch out for one's self. Only tragedy follows such a path, as the lead character in this book learns. Dorian Grey once yelled out a heartfelt plea to remain for the rest of his life as beautiful as he was at that moment. His wish was granted and he never aged from that point. The painting that he had just sat for, however, did change...with each and every selfish act he committed. Dorian's actions were not always even meant to cause the amount of pain that they did, but they did nonetheless. His gilted, innocent lover even killed herself over her remorse at having lost his attention and respect over something so temporal and silly. From that moment, for Dorian, each hard and selfish act only lead to more of the same. Disaster continued to follow. Eventually he decided to change and live a life that was pure. After one selfless act of love he expected the portrait to have changed back to one of beauty and when it did not he chose to end his life.

Originally I would have rated this book as 1 *. It took me about 80 pages, and a big devotion to go that far, in order to sort of get hooked by the book and its tale. Overall I like what the book says about a life lived not only IN sin but a life that even reveres sinfulness. For that I can finally say I am glad I read it and can understand its long-standing as a classic of literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2008
Oscar Wilde's only novel, a curious mixture of the Gothic, the romantic and the comedic, was reviled by many critics of the day for being a filthy, corrupting work and was used as evidence against Wilde at his trial.

It's the tale of a young man who retains his youth and beauty while his portrait, hidden in an attic, grows hideous and ugly as a reflection of his sins. Within this framework Wilde played with some of his favourite themes - morality, narcissism, the nature of Art.

Although the tale of a young man selling his soul in return for eternal youth was not a new one, Wilde introduced a new element - the witty, detached observer, Lord Henry Wootton. Firmly based on Wilde himself, Lord Henry utters some of Wilde's best lines - "There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about", "Young men want to be faithful and are not not; old men want to be faithless and cannot" and so on.

The book also had darker similarities with Wilde's own life. The double life of Dorian echoed the double life of Oscar - by day elegant socialite playwright, by night the seedy procurer of "charming dear boys".

'Dorian Gray' was one of the earliest English novels to deal with homosexuality. Basil Hallward, the painter of the fated portrait, 'worships' Dorian in a way that affords only one interpretation. The first meeting between the two is described in a way that was very daring for the time.

Written in a lush, opulent style that is occasionally turgid with overwrought descriptions, 'Dorian Gray's dashing, amoral tone provided the Age of Aestheticism with its hedonistic figurehead. It is both a celebration and a renunciation of pure pleasure-seeking; Dorain Gray is a man in decay.

Read it with tongue in cheek for the lurid melodramatics and an ear cocked for Lord Henry's maxim - "The books that the world calls immoral are the books which show the world its own shame."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2010
Oh, Oscar you were amazing and never more so than here! Wilde's only novel is everything one might expect from the greatest wit of his (and possibly of any) age. Wilde isn't merely clever or just funny, he is also wise and insightful. It is tempting to see Wilde as the court jester of the late Victorian age but Wilde was never a licensed wit and he was-and still is- is deeply subversive. Just what was it about Oscar Wilde? His sexuality, his Irishness, his brilliant mind, his dandyism? Probably a combination of all of these things. In anyone else's hands Dorian Gray would have been merely a trite horror story; however, Wilde's genius transforms it into something very special and profound. Jokes date quickly and on the rare occasion that they last beyond a few decades it is usually down to the fact that the joke maker has touched upon a truth so profound that it touches the essence of what it is to be human. Hamlet and Macbeth aside can any work of fiction contain as many classic quotations as Dorian Gray? Probably not.
We, of course, know what happened next to the author and in many ways Wilde's own demise mirrors that of his fictional hero though-of course-there were wholly different reasons for Wilde's tragic (and undeserved) downfall. But I can't help thinking that a writer as fearless as Wilde would have fallen in whatever age he had lived in. Dorian Gray is as worthy a testament to Wilde's genius as it is possible to read.
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