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!
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.
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.
Finally published in April 1891 `The Picture of Dorian Gray' must rank as one of the literary masterpieces of the late 19th century. As the portrait is completed, the young Dorian Gray - wealthy, decadent and impossibly handsome - wishes for it to age whilst he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure.
As Dorian's wish is granted the book becomes a story of decadence, of murder and of suicide: locked away in the attic of his palatial London house, the portrait ages and, over a period of 18 years, reflects every aspect of his self-indulgent and hedonistic lifestyle. Until, finally...
The novel itself (the only novel written by Oscar Wilde) contains, of course, a superb collection of his epigrams. At several places, particularly when Lord Henry Wotton is expounding - ad nauseam? - some subtle point of morality, it's easy to appreciate Oscar's comment `I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.'
Or, from a different and much earlier source, comes that more profound question `For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'
In 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945 (region 2) was produced as a movie starring George Sanders.
on 23 February 2015
Set in the 19th century, London, the story begins on a beautiful summers day with two wealthy men talking. Basil Hallward, a painter and Lord Henry, who lives a luxurious, decadent lifestyle.
They are at Basil's house and Basil is telling Lord Henry about the painting he has created of a young, stunningly good looking man called Dorian Gray who comes and sits for him. He explains how Dorian Grey has changed the way in which he paints, how he has improved his character, his art and his view on life including his obsession with him.
By chance, whilst Lord Henry is there, Dorian drops by. On being introduced to Lord Henry, even his cynical character is surprised at the beautiful looks of Dorian. He observes Dorian for a while and comes to the conclusion that while Dorian is extremely handsome he is not really aware of his good looks.
Lord Henry decides to take Dorian out into the garden and have a quiet word with him and basically tells him he has youth and looks on his side. But these will only last a few years, and when they begin to fade, nobody will be interested in anything he has to say or do. So he should live for the moment using and taking everything he can by utilizing his looks and youth to live life to the full and experience the sensual world.
These words really strike a chord with Dorian as nobody has ever pointed this out to him before.
Dorian returns to inside Basil's house and resumes to sit for the picture. Basil completes it and tells Dorian he will not be exhibiting it but will give it to Dorian as a gift.
When asked to look at the finished painting, on seeing it, Dorian bursts into a fit of tears. Exclaiming that he hates it as he declares that as he ages this picture will remain the same and be a constant reminder of the beautiful looking man he once was. Going as so far as to demand he wants the painting destroyed. Basil is about to do so by slashing it with a knife, but just at the final moment, Dorian tells him to stop and says he will keep the painting. He takes the painting home. He wishes that the painting would age while he maintains his looks. He gets his wish...
Dorian falls in love with an amateur actress, Sibyl Vane, that performs at a dingy theatre in Holborn. He goes to watch her perform every night in various different roles. He is in love with the way she acts as much as her beauty. They meet regularly backstage and they are enamoured with each other.
One night he invites Basil and Lord Henry to see her perform. At this point Sybil has decided she is no longer fully in love with her art of acting and prefers to dedicate her love to Dorian. The night Basil and Lord Henry are watching her, she performs extremely poorly. They both dismiss her to Dorian saying she's nothing but a mediocre actress with a pretty face. Not only does this humiliate Dorian but it also causes him to lose his affections towards her as her charm for him was the combination of her art and physical beauty. He cannot accept her with just one of those facets. After the end of the play he goes back stage and very abruptly breaks off the romance with her, leaving her a crumpled sobbing mess on her stage room floor.
On arriving home Dorian takes a look at his self portrait and notices that the mouth has significantly altered in a crude hideous fashion. He thinks about what he has just done to Sybil and his wish of the picture to age in his stead. This intensely bothers him. He feels the painting is showing him his true soul, and every sin he commits the picture will distort further. Unable to look at his distorted mouth any longer he drapes a tapestry over the painting and decides he will make amends with Sybil and regain his love for her.
Shortly after ending their affair Dorian is informed by Lord Henry who brings him the paper which states that Sybil Vane was found dead in her dressing room after having consumed prussic acid. He is initially shocked but the callus Lord Henry tells him not to waste his grief on her, that they would never have been happy together and to forget her. Lord Henry lends him an influential, dark book of corruption which seems to make a strong impression on Dorian and from this point onwards his character significantly changes. He leads a double life. Attending lavish dinner parties with London's elite and alternately, in disguise, would frequent opium dens, behave promiscuously, drink heavily and get into fights with sailors. He would use his ageless good looks to lure people in to becoming friends with him but after some time of his company these people would leave the room whenever he entered, talk of his misdemeanours behind his back and couldn't even bare to look upon his face. It was as if his mesmerising visage was now working against him...
There is also a subplot where by Sybil's younger brother, James, had sworn earlier in the novel that if he ever believed that Dorian has treated his sister badly he will hunt him down and kill him.
One night Dorian decides to take a look at his portrait and is horrified at what he sees. A haggard, old, withered man looks back at him from the picture.
Without spoiling the culmination of the novel, from here on, Dorian is pushed over the edge.
I enjoyed reading this book as I have heard so much about what a great piece of work it is but I've never really known what it was about. I read it out of curiosity really.
It's definitely a philosophical book regarding vanity, looks and how people are treated in society if they are considered extremely attractive.
Clearly you have to suspend disbelief in terms of the story line but there is certainly a clear moral lesson that the author is conveying by the end of the novel.
For the first half I felt that Lord Henry carries the story with his theories on love, women, marriage, all in a generally cynical and hedonistic fashion. He was the most interesting character in the book.
From the moment Lord Henry sees Dorian Gray he views him as something innocent and easily corruptible for his own pleasure. It's as if Lord Henry lights Dorian Gray's blue touch paper, sits back and waits for the fireworks. By the end of the novel Dorian is a flake.
It's an extremely elaborate read, that I felt required a fair amount of concentration. There were subjects that could have been described in half a dozen sentences that had extensive paragraphs written in order to get the message across. However the novel is also extremely eloquent and transports you to a bygone era which was enchanting to read.
Even though this is the 'toned down' version of the novel, which Wilde had to rewrite because the original offended the Victorian publics sensibilities, the homosexual undertones are still very clear at the beginning.
For fans of high society living in the Victorian era, this is a must read on your list.
In case this gets cross posted by Amazon this review is for the Wisehouse Classics edition, which has original illustrations here, which are certainly worth looking at. Although these show up perfectly okay on a normal kindle e-reader on a tablet device they can also be enlarged if you so desire.
I have read this story countless times, seen two film versions and even a stage play, but like many other people this story has stayed with me long after I have closed the book, and I thus come back to it again and again. This is the only novel by Oscar Wilde and if you follow the publication history of this you will see why that probably is. What Wilde wrote was originally censored for its publication in a magazine, and then Wilde re-wrote and extended the tale for its final book publication, which is what we are presented with here. Originally when this story first appeared in ‘Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine’ it caused a bit of an outrage and the story was also used against Wilde when he was prosecuted.
Nowadays though, with all the things we are presented with in the media and what we see on the internet some will consider this very tame. Although arguably it has never been what is mentioned in the tale, it is what is hinted at and how good your imagination can be.
I expect most people who decide to read this will already be quite familiar with the tale and so know the main plot. Dorian Gray of the title is soon to come into money, is a bit vain, relatively kind hearted and means well, and very handsome, and then he meets Basil Hallward, an artist, who wishes to do his portrait. So far not much to write home about, although Basil obviously makes Dorian vainer, and there are definite tones of amorousness between the two, and then he meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. As a friendship develops between Dorian and Lord Henry, Dorian is led into a more hedonistic lifestyle. What Dorian doesn’t realise though is that he has unwittingly entered into a Devilish Pact caused by the portrait of him. As Dorian’s life becomes more lurid, perverted and diabolical he never seems to age, but his portrait becomes something truly terrible to behold.
One of the reasons this works so well is that apart from a few details and some undertones of promiscuity between males and females we never really know what Dorian’s actual actions are. We know that to become involved with him can leave you tainted, but we have to use our imaginations to create what we think he gets up to. Another reason why this works and is still very popular today is due to the fact that it plays upon our vanities. With cosmetic surgery, Botox and numerous unguents that are supposed to make us stay looking young on the market, it would seem that many of us are afraid of getting a wrinkle or blemish. Indeed whilst this remains so then there is no reason to suppose this book will fall by the wayside. And on top of that this story is a really good read with some scintillating dialogue between the characters.
Lengthy conversations form the majority of this tale, which is an early urban fantasy.
A young dandy called Dorian Grey enjoys society in London and has his portrait painted, but a lot of the artist goes into the work. Grey is influenced by an older man who thinks women are trivial decorative creatures and only youth and beauty matter. Grey becomes absorbed by such ideas and makes a pact that his portrait should grow older instead of him. Meanwhile he manages to fall for a penniless young actress and changes his mind. But the portrait starts to reflect his growing selfishness and cruelty, then as Grey discards the girl, preferring to collect obscure art, it ages instead of him in the attic where he has hidden the revealing work.
The reflections of society are interesting, and we can clearly see what Wilde was not able to say, that some men are more attracted to beautiful young men than they are to women. The threat of revelation was enough to force a man to a dreadful deed. We also see that women have intellect by following a few conversations with them. Family loyalty is important to those who have a close family and the rich of the day think hardly at all of the poor or servants.
I enjoyed the mounting tensions and seeing Wilde's famous lines in context. "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about," is one. We see a good portrait of London and some country life. To me the book reads as unbalanced by having a long drawn out slow start with individuals speaking for ten minutes each, whereas the end is active, decisive and hurried. This is why I am not giving it a higher rating. But I am glad I've read it.
on 8 May 2014
This looks absolutely gorgeous! It was exactly what I was looking for. I'd seen the other books in this collection such as Dracula or Grimm's fairy tales and fell in love. So, I decided to look to see if there was anything in that collection that I genuinely liked as a book and came across this one. I love Oscar Wilde's style and I'm sure most people looking at this will as well so I won't delve into the book itself. However, I will say it was a nice surprise to find the book also contained many of his plays as I clearly hadn't read the description properly to find that out. The book is stunning, the gold edges perhaps might seem a little tacky to some readers, but for me it was perfect. Great purchase and I'd recommend to anyone who is a fan of Wilde or a lovely looking book.
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.
on 11 August 2016
The Picture of Dorian Grey was stylistic and well written with a beautiful use of the english language. I awed over the smooth flowing of colourful words that created vivid pictures and feelings inside. It was like reading melted chocolate spilling down the sides of a soft cork tree. The characters were all dandies and spent too much time revering one another. Dorian Grey was a stupid man, easily manipulated by others and didn't appear to have a mind of his own. Even his own thoughts came out of somebody else's head. Lord Harry was a manipulating sadist that took pleasure in sneering at the world and ruining it, which he did so with Dorian Grey's head. Basil Hallward was clearly a homosexual that had wanton amorous feelings for Grey and so fawned him until his head exploded with vanity.
Everybody adored Dorian Grey, I got that quite early on and didn't have to be kept telling it repeatedly. Those particular lines of dialogue referring to people's reverence of the main character were cringeworthy. Admiration can come through in a story by actions, the way somebody treats somebody else and how people react to a person. I did not keep having to be told, 'Oh! I love you Dorian Grey because you are so handsome and genteel.' Lord Harry's dialogue was unique. He spoke in his cynical, satirical way, grated on other people and was quite boring if not disturbing in his mal-intent. His dialogue was also marred with his persistent veneration of the main character. Those were the times when Lord Harry came across as not only annoying but rather wet. Why couldn't we have seen more story, more events? I could have gotten the same message through that! Through dialogue alone is such a lazy way to write a story.
I love the idea of The Picture of Dorian Grey that has a powerful message underneath it. Vanity is the brutalist of sins and falling in love with oneself is indeed a dangerous game, for who can one love beyond if one only loves oneself? The book hinted at a supernatural undertone, that Dorian Grey had made some sort of pact with the devil to keep his face young and only mar the picture in return for his cruelty and corruption. If I had been Oscar Wilde I'd have done something with that, not made it a mere coincidence that Grey got that gift of a young face because he happened to wish for it. Everything was just a little too easy, a little shoulder-shrugglingly unremarkable. I feel as though the author either didn't sit down and think about how his story could be better before writing it or that he simply got lazy and couldn't be bothered with it. There were corners that he cut, things he could have done better in order to wow me. Why did we not see when Grey led to the disgrace of his fellow men? Why did we not see when he disgraced women and made them outcasts of society? I wanted to read a kind of Jekyll and Hyde story. I wanted murder, sex, rape, lies, homosexuality, all the sins of man and we got little or none of it. What a cheat.
The story lacked. There was one of sorts, beginning with a young and very handsome dandy called Dorian Grey who was innocent and sweet. It progressed through his early years, showed him on the beginnings of his path to cruelty after his mind had been poisoned by his own beauty and wicked words and fawning spoken to him by his friends Lord Harry and Basil Hallward. Then the story skips forward in time, misses out all of Dorian Grey's crimes and instead fills the pages with very prettily written paragraph after paragraph of description about his love for arts, clothes, jewellery and other tedious things. Oscar Wilde loves describing things down to the minutest details. Admittedly they are well described but what am I as a reader supposed to get out of 'he had a pretty rose' described on an entire page? Wilde missed out all his character interactions, Grey's growth and recession happened off stage and was later referred to as exciting events which we did not see. The story in effect was all in hindsight. I found myself getting frustrated every time the author did this. Why did I not see that event? I would think upon being told about of his evilness and cruelty without being shown. I wanted to see it!
I am not a particular lover of action but I do enjoy it in a story to watch a character's change and with Dorian Grey I feel like we missed it. After splurging out paragraphs about his wealth and the vanity in Grey's life the author returned to him for one powerful scene where he murdered his friend Basil Hallward. This spectacular scene and the powerful emotions had me on the edge of my seat, as did a couple of others. Grey murdered Basil because he resented him for painting the picture that had ruined his life and marred his soul.
Those incredible scenes, flashes of brilliance were so few and far between. If the author had written more scenes like that, gripped me to those pages in that way, I couldn't hold off the stars. This had the potential to be marvellous but sadly I have a feeling, the author indulged himself in quite the same way as his disturbing main character. Oscar Wilde has a rare talent with words but loves to write reams and reams of simply pretty sentences, hot air if you like. It little or no substance and didn't move the plot forward. The fluff didn't add to the characters and therefore I classify at least 80% of these pages as pointless.
Dorian Grey had a remarkable ending but sadly the events that led up to it were wishy-washy and unimpressive. I am disappointed I didn't get more out of this. It has left me feeling dissatisfied and robbed. It astounds me quite frankly that people have rated this so highly! The Picture of Dorian Grey is not an easy read and one drifts in and out of interest, mind wondering on what to make for tea, instead of reading the story, or lack of story more accurately.
What a shame. This could have been amazing. If only Oscar Wilde had gone to a little more effort. The Picture Of Dorian grey reminds me of the movie Citizen Cane in that it goes down in history as being a truly beautiful work of literacy and art, without actually moving me in anyway other than to make me go 'yeah. That's pretty. Oh I like those colours.' But perhaps that was deliberate? This whole message behind this book is that something only surface deep is shallow and dull, so he wrote his book as such. Coincidence? Ha.
Read The Picture Of Dorian Grey if you want to know how to write nicely. Do not read this to inspire how to write a good story.