di's Reviews > The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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's review
Apr 13, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: classic, 1001-books-list, top-2010, favourites, crime-mystery-thriller

I fully recommend picking up an acclaimed book without having the slightest clue what it's about. It can make for some worthwhile surprises. And in the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray: wow. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't quite this.

Ok, actually, I'll admit that maybe I was expecting something more along the lines of The Importance of Being Earnest. Light and full of laughs and Wilde's brilliant one-liners. The Picture of Dorian Gray is, however, dark, disturbing and fascinating. It is full of witty epigrams (spouted from mouth of the super cynical Lord Henry--who reminds me of one of those little red devils on the shoulder from the old Disney cartoons) but I was not laughing out loud by any stretch. There is a heaviness to Lord Henry's words that takes the humor from them. I suppose it's that they subtly foreshadow the fate of Dorian Gray.

So the concept of this book (if you're not aware and want to know) is not new: selling one's soul for eternal youth. But Wilde's take on it is unique and vivid--the beautiful Dorian Gray continues to appear young and innocent while his portrait (a physical representation of his soul) ages, withers and becomes increasingly hideous as the years pass. The story gets darker with every turn it takes and culminates in general seediness, murder and a couple of other forms of death. Sound pleasant? Somehow the most disturbing parts to me, though, are the descriptions of the painting as it changes. Maybe that's because it is through the painting that you can see the thoughts and actions of Dorian Gray that are not described in the story. Yuck.

I am intrigued by Wilde's fascination with the soul. This was more than just the basis for a story as Wilde was apparently 'troubled by spiritual matters and seeking a safe haven for his soul' (according to the intro to my addition). This fascinates and moves me. I can sense that there is a little bit of Wilde in all three of the main characters (and he said so himself in letters), so I feel saddened by the hopelessness of the story.

I think this book is a sad and striking representation of the concept of real beauty being much deeper than the eye can see. Oscar Wilde intrigues me. The Picture of Dorian Gray is quite brilliant but not for the faint-hearted.

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