on 5 July 2014
Like a lot of 19th century classic novels, this now seems wordy and long-winded. The story itself is an excellent fantasy with a moral . I can understand why many people give up after a few chapters - we have become so used to instant gratification and simply- written fast-moving novels, that we no longer have the patience for loquacious descriptions. The first time I read this, way back in the 70s, I skipped through the long (and slightly tedious) descriptive passages, and concentrated on the story, then went back and read the 'boring bits'. There is also a huge amount of classical reference - obviously back in the 1800s far more people had a classical education - and flowery dialogue, much of which is unnecessary to the plot and be skipped on the first read.
Dorian Gray himself is an unlikeable character even from the start, being rather fatuous and shallow, but after being 'taken in hand's by Lord Henry, he becomes thoroughly unpleasant and it is difficult to feel any sympathy for him, even at the end of the novel when he realises the error of his ways.
Of course, if this novel was written today, it would be far more graphic and peppered with foul language but most of the hedonistic behaviour is only hinted at, leaving it to our imaginations to determine just what Dorian got up to. There is a strong homosexual undercurrent to the novel, as one would expect. I wonder if the original draft was more graphic, or if Wilde deliberately leaves us to imagine, in order for us to discover our own mental corruptions?
All in all, a book well worth persevering with - and even if you skip the boring bits on first read, go back and re-read them, you'll learn a lot.
on 27 April 2014
If you've ever wondered where some of the most famous witticisms of Oscar Wilde can be found then look no further - it's right here. How about: "There's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about" - it's in this book. The character who comes out with all of these delicious, pithy sayings is Lord Henry Wootton - a man who would "sacrifice anyone for an epigram" apparently.
Pretty much everyone knows what happens in this book - it's the famous story of a man who makes a Faustian bargain in which he retains his youthful good looks whilst his portrait ages for him, whilst his actions become more and more depraved. However, if you've never read it, you won't know that there is some beautiful writing in here. The description of the garden in which the first scenes take place are delicious; and these are paralleled nicely with the later urban scenes, in which the description reflects that of the garden, and yet there is now an overtone of superficiality as Gray loses his patina of youthful innocence.
One of the real strengths in the book, in my opinion, is the fact that it is never really revealed just how depraved Dorian has become - it is merely hinted at. We get the hard facts of his seduction of an actress and his murder of the artist, but there are lots of other things that we just never get to know. As with all gothic novels, it is what is not being said that adds to the chill of the novel. This is a classic example of fin-de-siecle literature with all of the themes of degeneration and the dangers of aestheticism prevalent within it. It compares, I thought, quite nicely with Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan. The novel was interestingly quoted quite heavily during Wilde's trial as supposed "evidence" of his debauchery. Of course, that was a nonsense, as the novel is a work of art - and art and artistry is one of the main themes of the text. Beautiful book - cannot recommend it enough.
on 18 April 2013
Well what can you say I enjoyed the flm and decided to read the book and I certainly wasn't disappointed I found it quite fascinating and an enjoyable read.
on 30 October 2014
So, after watching the film ' Dorian Gray' which I thoroughly enjoyed and found very thought provoking, I thought it appropriate that I read the book in which it had been adapted from, written by the infamous Oscar wild, whom I haven't had the pleasure of reading before. Golly was I impressed! Wilde was so descriptive the whole way through, allowing the reader to Gage an insight into the deep emotions of Dorian which could not be conveyed so meticulously in the film, and described surroundings with such fluidity. I never felt like the story dragged, it went at a perfect pace with no unnecessary details. I gave it four stars however, because in the middle of the story, in my opinion Oscar Wilde did let the story drag just a bit due to too much information in how much Dorian had learnt from reading. Generally though it was a GREAT book, defiantly one to read! Already a fan of Oscar!!:)
on 4 January 2015
I was surprised to discover that this was the only novel that Oscar Wilde wrote. First written in serial form in 1890 and published in a magazine, Wilde later revised it and it appeared as a book a year later. It was this later version that I read.
The story focuses on the life of Dorian Gray who, as a young man, has his portrait superbly painted by Basil Hallward, an artist who is infatuated with Gray. With its homosexual undertones it is easy to appreciate that this was a controversial story when it was first published.
In exchange for maintaining his youthful beauty as had been expertly captured by Hallward, the narcissistic Gray sells his soul and while his appearance in the picture ages and becomes depraved, he, himself, remains ever young and innocent looking. The price he pays, though, is high and he becomes increasingly degenerate as he dedicates his life to the pursuit of pleasure at the expense of all else. He sinks into an abyss, bringing others down with him.
From the time of the painting onwards, Gray is much influenced by his good friend, Lord Henry, who already lived an hedonistic lifestyle and carries the responsibility for Gray doing likewise. Lord Henry comes across to me as boorish and boring, intolerant of the views of others and always ready to give what he considers to be pithy comments on life, but which struck me as usually rather inane remarks. (It's interesting, therefore, that Wilde is said to have considered that he devised the character of Lord Henry to reflect how he believed he, himself, was perceived by the world.)
Lord Henry and Gray made a fine pair. Both were vain, selfish, snobbish, arrogant and self-centred but Lord Henry kept a better grip and didn't follow Gray down the road of corruption and depravity. Nevertheless, of the three main characters in the book, only the artist comes across as a decent human being.
This is an excellent story and an easy read, especially the early and later chapters. Chapter 11, which marks the downfall of Gray, I found slow moving and tedious, mainly because it contained little dialogue but the pace quickly picked up again.
Despite being first published in 1890 the story contains ideas not out of place in the 21st century. One I liked was "... we live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities". Or another gem, "To get back to my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable".
on 21 July 2016
Bought this for my daughter for school. And if she likes it anyone will cos she's a teenager who doesn't like anything! She said she'd have given it five stars if the back cover had blurb ....... Kids!
on 10 October 2012
I knew the central theme of this book so well that I had almost persuaded myself I had read it, but I am glad to have convinced myself otherwise as I would have missed out on a pearl. It works on several levels: first as a superior horror story, with Dorian Gray effectively selling his soul for eternal youth, with all the marks not only age but of debauchery, sin and eventually murder appearing on the portrait which he has locked away in his attic; secondly a morality tale of vice, remorse and retribution; thirdly as a philosophical discourse on hedonism and its consequencs as practised by a section of the upper classes in late Victorian society; finally as a comment on contemporary attitudes to homosexuality, still illegal at this time and for the best part of a century afterwards (the author Oscar Wilde was of course notoriously imprisoned for transgression).
The language is deliberately mannered and at times almost overblown, teeming with typical Wildean epigrams and paradoxes which are usually articulated by Gray's mentor, the cynical Lord Henry Wotton, who leads Gray into self-destructive pleasure-seeking. In the background of the narrative nature imagery abounds, setting into relief the stiflingly artificial lives and discourses of high society.
The novel might best be described as a blend of gripping story and moral essay or discussion involving the active participants (like Plato's'Republic'). It is the story, however, and the final image of bloody atonement, that remains longest in the memory and for which the book is justly famous.
Reviewer David Williams blogs regularly as Writer in the North.
on 4 March 2013
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is always worth a re-read; it is easy to forget what a masterful piece of fiction it is. The concept is well-known and barely needs repetition; Dorian Gray's youth is maintained whilst his unreptentantly sinful lifestyle is reflected in the degradation of a previously beautiful and flawless portrait of the titular character.
Wilde's philosophical musings are immense and he deftly conveys the lack of "accepted" morality of Lord Henry with sympathy and wit. Dorian veers from being a sympathetic protagonist, caught in a web of his own egotistical urges and then to a heartless, arrogant and hedonistic man who shrugs responsibility for any of his actions and passes it to anyone else but himself.
Thankfully, the philosophical arguments between Gray and various other characters regarding the merits of hedonism and an aesthetically pleasing life do not distract the reader from the plot; they enhance and increase the understanding of the characters.
This is a wonderful novel which explores so many themes and more than that, it is just a fantastically written and absorbing novel. Absolutely recommended.
on 17 October 2014
I think this is a bit dated now. I wanted to read some classics, but Oscar Wilde keeps going off on rambling tangents. When it gets back to the story then It's good, but otherwise I think that there are far better classics to read. I probably skim read at least half of it just to ensure I got to the end. I guess if nothing else, it's an insight into a lifestyle that no longer exists any more.
on 16 February 2013
I definitly give this novel a 5 star rating. I have read several classics and truly love all of them. I dont think that so far i have ever read a bad one.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde certainly has to rank as one of the best!! This is an absolutely exquisite book, with several points that make it stand out for me. The style of the language, to me, is astounding. I would describe it as aloof and haunting, yet truly beautiful, which could only have been written by a master of his art.
I feel, at several points, some of which have been popularly highlighted, really do make you stop and think. They give you something to ponder on, if you are so inclined. i have read a lot of books thoroughout my lifetime and i am not sure i could say that any modern writers could do this like Oscar Wilde has.
There is a clever use of the controversial throughout, with hints of homosexuality in the upper classes, even though it is never actually mentioned explicitly. There is also the use of sheer vanity and becoming obsessed with self image. Also how lessons can be learned when it is too late.
Charachters are very intense, with strong personaliries. All of these points when put together, make for a rather dark book containing several hidden messages. This is written in an almost gothic style and in some ways is not unsimilar to the novels written by Thomas Hardy.
Overall, i would say that this is one of the most cleverly written classics. Oscar Wilde was a genious!!