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The Picture of Dorian Gray
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PAST Group Reads 2019 > Picture of Dorian Gray- April- SPOILER Thread

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message 1: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
SPOILER WARNING. Don't read until you've read the book.

Use this thread to discuss the events in the book, and the philosophies or lifestyles of the author and characters.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments I read this just in the last year; I think it might have been for another group.
I expected to find it much creepier. Meh.....


message 3: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I got about half way yesterday. By now, Dorian has seen a change in the painting. His mouth looks cruel after he broke a girl's heart. He vows to improve, but soon he forgets his good intentions. He knows that Lord Henry is a bad influence on him, so will he continue to see him?

Most people don't have the opportunity to gain feedback on their actions, and to realize how their character is actually changing. Will he take this chance to change the direction of his life?

Would you?


message 4: by J., Your Obedient Servant (last edited Apr 14, 2019 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
Linda Abhors the New GR Design wrote: "I read this just in the last year; I think it might have been for another group.
I expected to find it much creepier. Meh....."


Same, Linda. I didn't find it as scary as it had been represented to be.


message 5: by Ella (last edited Apr 14, 2019 02:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Loads of thoughts I'll just throw out -- haven't thought much about any of this or looked anything up:

>I don't think it's scary in the BOO sense, but then neither is Frankenstein or many of the other things we'd now call horror.

I think it's supposed to be scary in the human sense or spiritual/soul sense -- Dorian realizes, despite how much he may think he wants to do good, he's not all that into it. Even with this gross horrible thing in his house, he can't bring himself to change. He downplays the horror of murdering Basil (but it was just that one teeny murder, and he did say all of those horrible things to me....) and that's an order of magnitude over breaking someone's heart.

> Part of reading it now v back in the 1800s, is that I didn't want to blame Dorian for Sibyl's suicide, I didn't take Basil's declaration of infatuation and love for Dorian as a "bad" thing. Actually - I don't even think it read like Wilde thought it was a bad thing. (Surely he didn't actually think it was bad b/c he's the guy who said "love that dare not speak its name" right? And he spoke really eloquently when on trial about loving the same gender, that much I do remember from some previous attempt to read this book.) It's more like Dorian used that as an excuse to kill Basil b/c he was upset about the painting.

> Much later in literature, Steinbeck writes Cal... can't remember the last name of the family right now -- but there's a scene in which Cal behaves and thinks to himself almost exactly the way Dorian thinks to himself "I will be good" then "do I only want to be good to congratulate myself for being good?" in so many words. I'm pretty sure East of Eden is supposed to be about Cain and Abel not Dorian Gray, but it's interesting that the two have almost exactly the same inner monologues about "being good."

I find Cal whatever-his-last-name-is to be heartbreaking, but I don't find Dorian heartbreaking, and I wonder why? Perhaps it's because Cal doesn't find so much delight in outward appearances and also I don't think he's actually such a bad guy. I don't even know if I think Dorian is actually a bad guy. I think he's truly vain though.

> I always thought that the picture was a very explicit transaction, Faustian bargaining, but it turns out that Dorian just wished it -- if wishes were horses and all that...

> Why is it so important to warn us about the pursuit of art over all else? It's interesting that both Wilde and Dorian himself think about becoming Roman Catholics (I think - not actually sure about Wilde now that I think about it.) What's that about, and surely it's related to the glory of art over the glory of god or something, right? I honestly don't know.

> I thought the final part between Lord Henry and Dorian was really exquisite. I could feel how exhausted Dorian was, and Lord Henry comes off pretty badly in my estimation. There's loads of commentary on the social mores of London during that time, and I wonder if there was an actual person Lord Henry is standing in for, or if it's just that Wilde truly wanted to heap scorn on the dandies of London? Lord Henry just comes off as SO shallow and not at all a real friend. I don't like him at all.

> One thing I am unsure of -- is James Vane real? I mean, I know he technically is Sibyl's brother, but the way he shows up and vanishes (much like the woman in the whorehouse to whom he speaks) seems almost like an hallucination or Dorian castigating himself. Is that just me? He is real, right?

> Also I loved the ending.

> Famous Oscar Wilde quotes in video on GR (via YouTube): https://www.goodreads.com/videos/4856...


message 6: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Apr 14, 2019 03:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) NancyJ wrote: "I got about half way yesterday. By now, Dorian has seen a change in the painting. His mouth looks cruel after he broke a girl's heart. He vows to improve, but soon he forgets his good intentions. H..."

There is a gender/class/wealth entitlement thing going on with Dorian. He has absolutely no reason to quit his immoral lifestyle whatsoever, painting or no. There are no consequences, other than those internally, and maybe going to Hell after death. Wilde set it up so that some Society influencers stopped being associated with Dorian, but others kept on being friends, like what happens in real life (see Michael Jackson or Donald Trump, history of). Dorian is aware of his moral crimes, but continues on for decades. Wilde being Wilde, he kills off Dorian when Dorian decides to delete himself from the Internet, so to speak, his profile...

: p

Ok, ok, Dorian wanted to go straight, but he never got the chance to find redemption. Was it justice he died before gaining personal redemption (was destroying the painting redemption? No, not imho) even though he finally processed his actions into feeling some shame? Was feeling shame the same thing as being redeemed? No, not, imho.

What about all of Dorian's victims/fellow sinners, probably hundreds of prostitutes, drug addicts, other people he introduced to the Dark Side who became addicted to Vice?

I wish the threat of public shaming OR a magic mirror/painting actually could cause people to reflect logically on the morality of their choices, or on the slut-shaming of others, so to speak, but the evidence is that many people take much joy in immorality, being free of either moral or public restraints. Clearly many people ignore personal moral feelings, if they have any.

Morality - innate or cultural?

I feel moral restraints on my behavior, but I have no idea which of those feelings come from innate biology, or from culture.

I suspect while some morals have a biological base, it is quite clear morality can be turned on its head through culture, i.e., teachings that women should be restricted to making babies, making their entire focus in life housework and raising children, leaving behind all education and careers to men because it is the moral imperative commanded by God, our Maker who we owe all obedience - or we ignore the teachings of every holy book in the world and instead do the OTHER moral thing, based on science, of permitting women the same rights and freedoms of men.

Many African women are horrified at the anti-fgm campaign, seeing it as wicked that women are allowed sexual desire. Many religious women are horrified women are working career women, unmarried and childless, working and eating side by side with men who are not relatives, hair and bodies uncovered.

What does Dorian do that is so awful? It is not clearly told, but I think it is such things as paying for sex or having sex from both genders, affairs, and maybe sex with juveniles, using drugs (opium?), drunkenness, maybe S&M. Fun to guess, right? Oops, murder...

; )


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Aestheticism was a hot fad philosophy in intellectual circles during Wilde's era.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesth...


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) People thought Lord Henry was Wilde's stand in.


Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments There's definitely an entitlement thing going on! That's for sure -- and I think that was Wilde's commentary on posh London, right?

I got the impression that Dorian was a shallow, entitled gadfly with little thought of morality or much beyond beauty and fame before the painting. He is beautiful himself and wants to surround himself with possessions (including a fiance) that best flatter that beauty. Though even early on, there's some irony -- Dorian sets himself apart from Henry by mocking him (like about Henry insisting on calling Shakespeare "The Bard" etc.)

It seems like almost an innocent or certainly idle thought when he thinks the about aging and the painting together. Then the magic starts and now he's pissed off and goes after Sibyl, then he's upset about that and goes after Basil. Then after Basil, despite having opium available to him in his fancy house, he goes off deliberately in search of more depravity in the form of the opium dens, which lead him to more debauchery, etc etc. He's leaning in to corruption. There is some relief in that, I'd imagine, for a person who is so worried about status and what people think, but it's not clear that Wilde would agree with me from the text itself.

So I was wondering what came first - the "bad" or the painting? I'm guessing the idle wish that somehow got fulfilled (by the love of a man rather than a woman?) is the catalyst, but again - it's not clear that Dorian himself alone made that happen. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.


message 10: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Aestheticism was a hot fad philosophy in intellectual circles during Wilde's era.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesth..."


I am not a literary scholar, but from my read of this particular book, despite the preface (which I've just learned was added AFTER the first publication of the novel as a defense of the novel "for the novel's sake"), it almost seems like Wilde was deliberately straining against the pure aestheticism of Henry and Dorian. Dorian is straight-up dull before the painting actually. Lord Henry is the one pushing Dorian into the beautiful world, while Dorian floats along.

In fact, without the preface, this book could be read as deeply moralistic.


message 11: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Apr 14, 2019 04:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I think Wilde believed Morality was a stupid ridiculous concept, intellectually, difficult to pin down philosophically. He was also extremely witty, cynical, somewhat wealthy and privileged, and gay, which colored his own viewpoints, whatever they were.

I think this book reflected, in a safe way, his own cynical feelings - that people have a subjective moral logic, subject to change, depending on the situation, and on who has been publically demonized for the moment. Pinning down what was considered immoral by public standards into a judgement by a surprisingly fluid and changeable painting, supposedly immutable and normally unchangeable was Wilde's underlying commentary of silly social mores.


message 12: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I absolutely loved the ending. It was perfect.

Hearing that it was scary caused me to imagine that there might be something coming up with the devil and the hell, possibly with Lord Henry as the devil or his agent. But I like the way it turned out.

Lord Henry's philosophical bs sounded smart and witty at first, then funny, then really tiresome. I imagine that this style of speaking was reinforced in Wilde's social set, and that he became very good at it. I also suspect he was making fun of it. I'm pretty sure Henry contradicted himself a lot, but I stopped paying attention to the specifics.

I think this story was inspired by the shame felt by a boy who was plagued by thoughts and desires that were considered evil and immoral in his community. Being gay was more than enough to lead to the kind of gossip, snubbing, etc. that Dorian experienced, but Wilde couldn't actually write about that, so he had to get creative and hint at other ways Dorian could corrupt himself and others.

It's easy for a young man to vow to stop having sex, but that's a hard vow to keep if he has a strong sex drive and available partners. Especially if someone gives you a yellow book with interesting porn. If threatened with assault or blackmail, I suppose it could eventually escalate to homicide. It always always seemed to me that youth is a much greater factor in the sex lives of gay men.


message 13: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "Loads of thoughts I'll just throw out -- haven't thought much about any of this or looked anything up:

>I don't think it's scary in the BOO sense, but then neither is Frankenstein or many of the o..."



Lot's of interesting thoughts. It didn't occur to me that James Vale might not be real, but I suppose Dorian could easily get paranoid due to drugs, guilt, and all that.


message 14: by Parker (new) - added it

Parker | 204 comments I was speaking about scary in a psychological sense, at least to my 14 year old mind.


message 15: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments I just remembered (b/c I finished another notebook) a line in Home Fire about a married couple:

"She was the portrait to his Dorian Gray" The wife shows all the turmoil and strife of her husband's life. I thought that was a perfect way to characterize what often happens in couples or families.


message 16: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "I just remembered (b/c I finished another notebook) a line in Home Fire about a married couple:

"She was the portrait to his Dorian Gray" The wife shows all the turmoil and strife..."


That's a great line. I love literary references like this in books. I also really like books about books (or authors).


message 17: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments It's nice that I've finally gotten to a place where I can often see one book "in" another one. I remembered when rereading Huck Finn the time I first noticed something like this.

It must've been in the late 90s, so I was still reasonably young, but a grown-up, and I was reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. He uses the term "howling fantods" a lot in that, and I knew what it meant b/c Twain calls the same feeling "fan-tods" -- oooh, I felt SO smart for a second there.


Kimberly | 33 comments Just finished, and I knew at Sybil’s death that we were in for a bumpy ride. I continue to reread the murder of Basil. I found the whole scene to be chilling.

How far will Dorian go? All the way to murder. Listening to his thoughts while traveling to the opium den was also very interesting. He was looking for respite from the weight of carrying this “secret” around.

I found the writing to be interesting, and really loved the visual imagery of an old man and beautiful portrait at the end. Masterpiece—- but I will not read this again. The book depressed me!


message 19: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Kimberly wrote: "Just finished, and I knew at Sybil’s death that we were in for a bumpy ride. I continue to reread the murder of Basil. I found the whole scene to be chilling.

How far will Dorian go? All the way t..."


Great comments. I love how he always tried to rationalize his guilt away. Guilt really weighs you down I guess. I read another book this year where a character felt a strong need to confess a secret he held for decades. Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne - it's a very clever and interesting book. It's not as gory or supernatural but I kept thinking about it as I was reading this book.


message 20: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Apr 24, 2019 03:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "It's nice that I've finally gotten to a place where I can often see one book "in" another one. I remembered when rereading Huck Finn the time I first noticed something like this.

It must've been ..."


Haha I had the same feeling about Circe recently. I saw references to her in The Count of Monte Cristo, I, Claudius and at least one book involving Italian art.

I forgot to ask you about the Women's prize. Is that national? International?


message 21: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Aestheticism was a hot fad philosophy in intellectual circles during Wilde's era.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesth..."

I am not a literary ..."


Ah, I think I know what you mean about straining away from it. At times I felt he was making fun of it. There was something about the rhythm and structure of Henry's lines. I felt like Wilde could have played mad libs with a sentence structure, and just substituted in new key words each time. I could be way off on this as I only had the audio. I think he said something like "there's nothing worse than ___" many times with completely different ideas. It reminded me of companies that claim Customers are #1, employee's are #1, quality is #1, etc. They can't all be #1!


message 22: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Parker wrote: "I was speaking about scary in a psychological sense, at least to my 14 year old mind."

Yes, I felt that too. There was a lot of tension, and it's scary to see someone spiral down so much. We don't know what he'll do next, or what will happen. It's a slippery slope - from one secret, to another, and eventually murder to cover it up. Or.. what if someone I know has the potential to kill someone?

For some reason I was expecting the devil to appear to take his soul or make him do something in return for his beauty. The funny thing is I saw the movie when I was very young, but I probably merged ideas from two different movies in my memory.


message 23: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited Apr 24, 2019 07:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I think Wilde believed Morality was a stupid ridiculous concept, intellectually, difficult to pin down philosophically. He was also extremely witty, cynical, somewhat wealthy and privileged, and ga..."

Interesting. Wilde was privileged but he also had something to hide. I think in his case it might have been psychologically healthy to reject the cultural values that you feel compelled to violate. Otherwise you'd devolve into self hatred (like Dorian did). Though he did end up going to jail because of his sexuality.

I've been reading a little about Greek mythology and ancient Rome, and I noticed that they had a very relaxed attitude about sexuality - for men anyway. It was no big deal if a god or a man was gay 2000 years ago.


message 24: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments NancyJ wrote: "For some reason I was expecting the devil to appear to take his soul or make him do something in return for his beauty. "

Yes. I'm pretty sure I already said this somewhere in all these threads, but I thought that it was a Faustian bargain too! I had no idea the catalyst wasn't pure evil or a trade. Poor Dorian didn't really even ask, outright, for this -- he just kind of tossed off a wish and got it. Imagine if every little thing you wished under your breath actually came true! I'd be screwed!

Yep, Nancy, the Greeks are well known for their male sexual freedoms. Not so much for the protection of children or women's rights though. I don't even know if they saw it as different from heterosexuality. They saw it all as sort of a continuum - which has been an idea that has traction much more recently too.


message 25: by KP (new)

KP | 26 comments Kimberly wrote: "Just finished, and I knew at Sybil’s death that we were in for a bumpy ride. I continue to reread the murder of Basil. I found the whole scene to be chilling.

How far will Dorian go? All the way t..."


That scene with Basil was chilling and shocking. He knew Basil loved him.

How far will Dorian go? All the way to hell I'm sure. I agree with the people who said it was a Faustian bargain. He said all the right words. Oscar Wilde wanted us to wonder. He didn't have Dorian sign in blood, or find a crossroads, but he spoke of evil and temptation.


message 26: by KP (last edited Apr 27, 2019 10:26AM) (new)

KP | 26 comments Ella wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "For some reason I was expecting the devil to appear to take his soul or make him do something in return for his beauty. "

Yes. I'm pretty sure I already said this somewhere in all t..."


I see it as a Faustian deal. Dorian said he'd give everything for it. He said he'd give his soul for it. Before he made the wish, Harry was seducing him with ideas about beauty. He said giving in to temptations or senses will purify the soul. The words had "touched some secret chord.. another chaos..." in Dorian. Dorian thought about the terrible power of words, and the magic in them. Harry was watching him and he was pleased with himself when he realized the words hit the mark. Harry enjoyed being a bad influence. As the church lady on SNL would say, "Or could it be... SATAN?"

If wishes could send you to hell, there won't be anyone in heaven.


message 27: by Ella (last edited Apr 27, 2019 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Wait, so Lord Harry is a stand-in so far for both Oliver Wilde himself and Satan. Kewl ;)

Well, if Harry is standing in for the demonic, then the take-down of the upper classes becomes even more vicious than I thought it was before. And you're so right, Kgrinch, I just reread that part and there is something going on there that I missed before.

Now I'm actually more confused by some part and much less by others -- in the exact opposite direction than I was before, and I see why people have made this book their lives' work.


Kimberly | 33 comments I wish I could “like” your comments!!! Y’all are bringing out so much more from the text!!!

In your opinion what was the worst act Dorian committed?


message 29: by NancyJ, Moderator (last edited May 01, 2019 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Ella wrote: "Wait, so Lord Harry is a stand-in so far for both Oliver Wilde himself and Satan. Kewl ;)

Well, if Harry is standing in for the demonic, then the take-down of the upper classes becomes even more v..."


Do you think he was criticizing superficiality and aestheticism* too? Harry represents both the upper classes and aestheticism I suppose, plus he's the devil on Dorian's shoulder telling him to go ahead and do whatever feels good. I don't find that inconsistent with the idea that Wilde put some of himself in Harry as well as in Dorian. (Dorian is the young Oscar Wilde, and Harry is the older more cynical Wilde, as well as men that may have "corrupted" him in his youth?)

*I agree with your earlier comment about aestheticism, though I'm not sure my understanding of it is accurate.

If Wilde agreed with the idea that youth and beauty are more
highly valued by gay men (compared to people in general), then it could be seen that he was criticizing an unhealthy attitude within his own sub-culture.

In my mind, Harry fits a stereotype I've seen in movies of cultured, witty, urbane, well dressed, snobby, cynical men, who may or may not be gay. In classic films he was played by George Sanders.


message 30: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
This discussion will move to the Past Group Reads folder soon.


message 31: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Well I'd just like to thank everyone for this great discussion. I get so much more from these books when a group helps point out things I may have missed or glossed over. Thank you, GAR group - you make me a better reader.


message 32: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
I feel the same way Ella! Discussions make a big difference to my understanding and appreciation of these books. It's so much nicer than just moving onto the next book.


message 33: by Chris (last edited May 16, 2019 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris | 55 comments Just finished this, don't have a lot to add to the comments. I actually loved the Lord Henry character, he was so droll even though I know he was the catalyst for the corruption of Dorian through his seductive words and whatever that book was he gave him I suppose just more of his philosophy of life...Youth, beauty & pleasure seeking is all that is worth living for. But we have free will and Dorian let those words and the validation of his youth & beauty portrayed in the painting bring his Faustian bargain to life.
The story reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. A morality tale told through a fantastical sequence.


message 34: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Chris wrote: "Just finished this, don't have a lot to add to the comments. I actually loved the Lord Henry character, he was so droll even though I know he was the catalyst for the corruption of Dorian through h..."

He was that! Some of the Twilight zone episodes were very memorable. I remember one about a beautiful woman who is going in for plastic surgery, and I couldn't understand why. I've never forgotten the twist at the end. (view spoiler)


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