Stephen's Reviews > The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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Mar 15, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: easton-press, audiobook, horror-classic, classics, literature, horror, love-those-words, rogues-and-scoundrels, classics-european
Read from January 29 to 31, 2011 , read count: 2

PortraitOfDorianGray-review
Arguably literature's greatest study of shallowness, vanity, casual cruelty and hedonistic selfishness, Wilde lays it down here with ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!! This was my first experience in reading Oscar Wilde and the man’s gift for prose and dialogue is magical. This story read somewhat like a dark, corrupted Jane Austen in that the writing was snappy and pleasant on the ear, but the feeling it left you with was one of hopelessness and despair.

The level of cynicism and societal disregard that Wilde’s characters display towards humanity is simply staggering. Despite the dark (or more likely because of it) this is one of the most engaging, compelling and lyrical pieces of literature I have read. The quality of the prose is nothing short masterful.

I assume most people know the basic outline of the plot, but I will give you a few sentences on it. The three main characters are Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton and Dorian Gray. Basil Hallward is an artist who after painting a picture of Dorian Gray becomes obsessed with him because of his beauty (the homosexual vs. art object love Basil feels towards Dorian are left vague, likely because of the time it was written). Dorian then meets a friend Basil’s, Lord Henry, and becomes enthralled with Lord Henry’s world view, which is a form of extreme hedonism that posits the only worthwhile life is one spent pursuing beauty and satisfaction for the senses.
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.
Well at one point, Dorian utters the famous words quoted at the beginning of my review and the “Faustian” bargain is struck.

While this story is often mentioned among the classics of the Horror genre (which I do have a problem with) this is much more a study of the human monster than it is some boogeyman. My favorite parts of the story were the extensive dialogues between the characters, usually Dorian and Lord Henry. They were wonderfully perverse and display a level of casual cruelty and vileness towards humanity that make it hard to breathe while reading. Oh, and Lord Henry reserves particular offense for the female of the species, to wit:
My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
. Photobucket

YES folks...he absolutely did.

One of the most intriguing quotes I have seen from Oscar Wilde regarding this book is his comparison of himself to the three main characters. He said that he wrote the three main characters as reflections of himself. Wilde said, “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.”

I was somewhat floored by this as I found Dorian to be a truly stark representation of evil and could not see how Wilde could find an idealized form within the character. When I say evil, I don't mean just misguided or weak-minded, someone bamboozled by the clever lectures of Lord Henry. I found Gray to be selfish, vain, inhumanly callous and sadistically cruel. I intend to try and learn more about Wilde’s outlook on this character as it truly escapes me.

Regardless, this is a towering piece of literature. Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters and a deeply moving story. A novel deserving of its status as a classic of English Literature. 5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!!

P.S. For of audiobooks. I listened to the audio version of this read by Michael Page who has become one of my favorite narrators. His performance here was amazing.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 63) (63 new)


message 1: by seak (new) - added it

seak I've always had this book on my radar, I should really read it already. Thanks.


Mike (the Paladin) Hi Stephen, we agree on this. I to thought Dorian was THE villain of the piece. So many zero in on Lord Henry, yet from the very first, even before his "deal" he's perfectly willing to manipulate Basil. From Dorian's point of view the world circles him, he seems to me possibly to be even a sociopath. His "repentances" (multiple) are much like the thief who's not sorry he stole, but is very sorry he got caught.

The story also made me curious about Wilde himself.


Stephen Seak wrote: "I've always had this book on my radar, I should really read it already. Thanks."

That is exactly how I felt when I finally decided to read it. I certainly thought it was a great read/listen.


Stephen Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "Hi Stephen, we agree on this. I to thought Dorian was THE villain of the piece. So many zero in on Lord Henry, yet from the very first, even before his "deal" he's perfectly willing to manipulate B..."

Exactly so. Of course, Lord Henry is pretty bad despicable too but he comes across as kind of a moral rabble-rouser who is more there to explain Dorian's actions to the reader (since Dorian has no ability to self analyze) then to CAUSE them. It certainly was a fascinating read.


Mike (the Paladin) Me to. Over the length of the book I came to think of Lord Henry as one of those who talks a lot just to hear himself, that he was being "outrageous" for effect. And I've come to think that Wilde was a bit like that. In spite of his reputation as a "libertine" (in the vernacular of the day), the book comes out, in the end, to be very "traditional morality" conscious.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) This was my first exposure to Oscar Wilde, and I find I am very captivated with his writing. I went on to read The Canterville Ghost and love that one as well.


Petra Eggs I've just read Constance The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde and so many of Wilde's attitudes are expressed in the fiction of Dorian Gray. It seems to me now less pure fiction than a way to tell the world what he thought of it.


Stephen Lady Danielle "The Book Huntress" wrote: "This was my first exposure to Oscar Wilde, and I find I am very captivated with his writing. I went on to read The Canterville Ghost and love that one as well."

I agree. I liked the Canterville Ghost as well.


Stephen Petra X wrote: "I've just read Constance The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde and so many of Wilde's attitudes are expressed in the fiction of Dorian Gray. It seems to me now less pur..."

That would make the quote I referenced above make a lot more sense. I was really taken aback that Wilde would see Dorian Gray as his idealized form, but your comment seems to support exactly that. I will have to check out Constance The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde.


message 10: by mark (new)

mark monday oh my gosh, i LOVE that image of wonder woman, her expression is awesome, particularly with that Oh No You Didn't! that probably makes even gayer than i ever suspected. stephen, i am going to be stealing that image, my apologies in advance.


Stephen Mark-

I am glad you like it and please feel free to use it anywhere you want. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


message 12: by Sunsette (new) - added it

Sunsette Hey Stephen! I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. I think now, after reading your review, it shall be next on my list. Thank you!


Stephen Natasha wrote: "Hey Stephen! I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. I think now, after reading your review, it shall be next on my list. Thank you!"

I hope you like it, Natasha. I think you will.


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Stephen wrote: "I found Graye to be selfish, vain, inhumanly callous and sadistically cruel.

I get this all the time, even from my wife.

I haven't read every single one of your reviews, but this must be one of your best.

As a master of irony, Wilde might have been joking about his identification with Dorian, but there was a side of him that would have done anything to avoid being bored or boring.
Dorian is anything but boring.


Stephen Thanks, Ian...I am glad you liked it.

....the addition of the "e" to Gray...very funny.


message 16: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Stephen wrote: "Thanks, Ian...I am glad you liked it.

....the addition of the "e" to Gray...very funny."


Wilde started it. He added "Dor" to the "Ian".


message 17: by Anna (new) - rated it 1 star

Anna Too depressing and chose to not finish the book. I am already well aquainted with darkness and didn't need any more.


message 18: by Anna (new) - rated it 1 star

Anna I do think your review is astute. It is exactly what repelled me...hopelessness and despair.


Stephen Anna wrote: "I do think your review is astute. It is exactly what repelled me...hopelessness and despair."

I can understand that, Anna. This is definitely a very dark tale peopled with some really shallow, despicable people.


message 20: by Matt (new)

Matt "Arguably literature's greatest study of shallowness, vanity, casual cruelty and hedonistic selfishness..."

You can only write about what you know. Wilde's biography would treat him at times no better, and I'm not sure that Wilde at his worst isn't worse than Dorian. Wilde is one of the great tragedies of humanity - nearly unsurpassed gifts and talent and nearly completely wasted life.

I think the attraction of Dorian to Wilde is that Wilde sees Dorian as braver than himself and more true to his self (more perfectly himself) than Wilde is. I think it would be a mistake to think that everyone creates the same heroes. You are right to find Dorian a truly stark representation of evil; what however makes you think a stark representation of evil is unattractive to everyone?


Stephen Matt wrote: Wilde is one of the great tragedies of humanity - nearly unsurpassed gifts and talent and nearly completely wasted life."

I need to read a biography of Wilde because it sounds like it would be fascinating.

Matt wrote: I think it would be a mistake to think that everyone creates the same heroes. You are right to find Dorian a truly stark representation of evil; what however makes you think a stark representation of evil is unattractive to everyone?"

Good Point, Matt.


message 22: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Matt wrote: ""Arguably literature's greatest study of shallowness, vanity, casual cruelty and hedonistic selfishness..."

You can only write about what you know. Wilde's biography would treat him at times no better, and I'm not sure that Wilde at his worst isn't worse than Dorian. Wilde is one of the great tragedies of humanity - nearly unsurpassed gifts and talent and nearly completely wasted life."


I haven't read any of Wilde's biographies, so I don't know how they paint him or his life in contrast to his writing.

He was 46 when he died.

His last five years consisted of two years in prison and three years in ill health.

I don't know whether it is accurate to say that the 41 years before then (or even those years) were "nearly completely wasted".

At some point, he made the following self-assessment:

“I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.”

This might have been more witty than true, again I don't know.

There have been a number of biographies.

There is an interesting comparison of two here:

http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=...


Richard Derus I found Gray to be selfish, vain, inhumanly callous and sadistically cruel.

In short, a typical beautiful adolescent. I so do not miss the teen years, my own or my daughter's.

Quite the post, my man. Your spirit was moved! Thumbs up from me.


Stephen Thanks, Richard. Reading this story was so much fun and I hope to revisit it often.


Stephen Richard wrote: "I found Gray to be selfish, vain, inhumanly callous and sadistically cruel.

In short, a typical beautiful adolescent. I so do not miss the teen years, my own or my daughter's..."


My oldest daughter is almost 12. Are you saying that it might be a good idea to prepare the U.S.S Parenthood for some possible rough seas ahead?


Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "Are you saying that it might be a good idea to prepare the U.S.S Parenthood for some possible rough seas ahead?"

I am saying that very thing. Get out your life-jacket, you're goin' overboard in the North Atlantic during the perfect storm for, oh, let's say six years.

*there there, pat pat*


message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye It's much worse if you only have daughters.


Stephen Ian wrote: "It's much worse if you only have daughters."

Holy crap, I'm in trouble.


Stephen Richard wrote: "I am saying that very thing. Get out your life-jacket, you're goin' overboard in the North Atlantic during the perfect storm for, oh, let's say six years.

*there there, pat pat*..."


Does alcohol help?


message 30: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Alcohol and GoodReads.


message 31: by Stephen (last edited Nov 19, 2011 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen Ian wrote: "Alcohol and GoodReads."

Sweet...at least there's a chance that I will survive.


Richard Derus Ian wrote: "Alcohol and GoodReads."

LOL

GoodReads didn't exist in my kid's teen years. *vibrates with envy*


message 33: by Stephen (last edited Nov 19, 2011 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen Richard wrote: "Ian wrote: "Alcohol and GoodReads."

LOL

GoodReads didn't exist in my kid's teen years. *vibrates with envy*"


I am just very thankful that you and the rest of my GR support system shall exist during my time of parental trials and tribulations. *thanks lucky stars*


Richard Derus Wow! I was just over in Will's review thread for The Death of the Liberal Class, after you liked his review. Quite the seminar on civics, as we once called it. The untrammeled rise of corporate power nauseates me. To hear corporate execs whine about how their profits are down because of taxation makes me want to vomit. Listen a-hole, your profits aren't like your penis, you aren't the only one who decides what to do with 'em.

Taxes are like greens fees. The USA is like Pebble Beach. You show up there and expect to play a fast 9 holes without a) buying a membership and 2) paying your dues, whaddaya think the course runners will do to you? Hint: The security guard and the black ball are involved.

*fumes*

Oh, yeah, I was so ticked I forgot to say "got yer back, kid" and good luck on the whole adolescence thing. I send cyberhugs. Your ego will need them.


Stephen Thanks, Richard.

Yes, that is quite the discussion going on over there. One of the many shades of wonderful that is Goodreads.


Loederkoningin What a perfect appetizer your review is.


Stephen Thank you, Loederkoningin. I'm glad you liked it.


message 38: by Evan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Evan "this is one of the most engaging, compelling and lyrical pieces of literature I have read. The quality of the prose is nothing short masterful." PERFECTLY STATED!


Raagini Suresh Great review!!


Mikael Great review! One of my all-time-favourite novels : )


Archit Nanda An excellent review!!! I was going to write a review of this book but as I see 'You have said it all.' Great Review


Natalie I read this book about fifteen years ago and reading your review has made me want to pick it up again - Thank you for reminding me of the joys of reading Oscar Wilde!


message 43: by Buck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Buck Ward I enjoyed your review, but to compare Oscar Wilde's prose to that of Jane Austen is insulting to Wilde.


forestsprite Oh, you HAVE to read The Importance of Being Ernest. It's a play, so quite a bit shorter, and my favourite of Wilde's works.


message 45: by Biju (new) - rated it 3 stars

Biju Bhaskar His plays are very good. A Woman of No Importance is great


Vicki G Until Dorian Gray II was birthed on the day Rush Limbaugh entered the world. Shallowness, vanity, cruelty and hedonistic selfishness took up a new definition when Rush Limbaugh was born.


Collectingbees I loved this review! :D


Ha-Linh Thank you for your reviews. I'm truly enthralled by this novel but it is also hard to express my feelings toward it. I also think Dorian is selfish, self-centered and shallow. All he can do is focus on his own feelings and to fine the highest satisfaction of the senses. But are we all somehow similar? Dorian is just the most extreme version of a person who utterly enjoys individualism and aestheticism. After the first half of the book, he becomes much more cruel, it is because he does not have to suffer for what he has done. If each of us does not have to be responsible for what we do, do we act like him (to some extent)? Wilde's writing reveals the dark side of a normal person. I'm only 23 by the way, thus I'm sure I do not know much about life. I was also surprised about what Oscar thought about himself in comparison with the three characters. I always hope/believe that he is Basil :)


message 49: by Annamarie (new) - added it

Annamarie Beautifully written review.


message 50: by Eman (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eman Great review.


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