Emily Michelle's Reviews > The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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Feb 04, 2011

really liked it

This actually earns 3.5 stars from me, but I rounded up to 4 because it's definitely not a 3. The book has an interesting premise: Poe asked in "The Telltale Heart" whether your conscience would let you get away with what is otherwise the perfect crime; Wilde asks the same question here about a life of dissipation and sin. He seems to argue that it won't work; although Dorian's sins never really affect him, they still seep into his life and those around him and taint everything. The last half of the book is very compelling, with Dorian finally pushed to the edge by his life of immorality, and I was reading with bated breath to see if he'd succeed in changing his life.

However, the book loses half a star for the poor pacing and structure. The last half may be good, but the first half is fairly dull, and then there's this bewildering chapter in the middle that goes into excruciating detail about the history of tapestries and jewels and in no way furthers the plot.

It also loses an entire star for Lord Henry, who is the most tiresome character in this (and possibly any) book. I realize he's important because he's the one who first tempts Dorian into hedonism and excess, but he's given way more space and dialogue than is needed to fulfill that purpose. It feels like Wilde, known for clever and funny plays like The Importance of Being Earnest, decided to try and shoehorn all his characteristic fast-paced wordplay into the book by shoving it in Lord Henry's mouth. The result is literally pages and pages of him saying clever, cynical things to clever, cynical people, and it's the same thing over and over (but never actually advancing the plot) until I just started skipping pages every time Lord Henry opens his mouth.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if Wilde had given his book to an unsympathetic editor with an unforgiving red pen, it could have been great. As it is, though, it's still pretty good.
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