The Picture of Dorian Gray | book review

Hey guys! It’s my first book review of 2017 and I made sure to make it a good one. Oscar Wilde has been one of my favorite writers for a while now and I’ve finally gotten around to reading his infamous The Picture of Dorian Gray. I picked this up two years ago in Canada and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since — until now.

The Synopsis

Dorian Gray is beautiful and there’s no doubt about it. Everyone knows his name and adores him, especially his good friend Basil. Basil, a painter, is obsessed with Dorian and creates his greatest masterpiece with Dorian as his subject. But when Dorian meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry, everything starts to change. Lord Henry has a very crude, cynical outlook on life, and he preaches his theories and philosophies to Dorian. Henry tells Dorian that youth is the most precious thing in life, and that without it, Dorian will slowly wither away into nothing. Dorian becomes frantic, and seeing Basil’s beautiful painting of himself in all his youthful glory, shouts that he would trade anything in the world – including his own soul – to remain eternally youthful, like the painting. He should have been careful of what he wished for.

The Plot

The idea of this novel is incredibly interesting to me. The story is told in third person and focuses on Basil, Henry, and Dorian. A lot of the novel revolves around Henry teaching Dorian his theories and philosophies, and it’s really quite interesting to read about. The dialogue is fantastic — Oscar Wilde is a master at dialogue, and he proves it here. The banter between characters is great and really keeps you engaged in the story. The novel starts off pretty strong, then gets a little slow, then picks up with excitement, then teeters off again until ending with a bang. It was a crazy rollercoaster and it was a lot of fun to read. At one point in the novel I just lost it and almost threw the book. It was like, 2am and I just shouted WHAT!? at the book and my girlfriend was not amused. I was also not amused, Oscar Wilde… Thanks a lot… Towards the end it started to get a little predictable, but it was still interesting to read. It took me a little while to read because the content was so heavy, but the lighthearted dialogue was a nice break. I was a little disappointed that it took almost half the novel to even mention the importance of Dorian’s painting, but that’s okay. I would definitely read this again.

The Characters

There is only one character in this whole damn novel that I actually like, and it is Basil. That man is so wonderful. You hear less of him throughout the novel and that made me sad. He reminded me a lot of Nick Carraway from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I had so much sympathy for this man while reading the novel. Most of the novel focuses heavily on Dorian Gray, of course, and at first I was okay with that because he seemed like such a cool character, but the closer he got to Henry, the more I hated him. I really liked Henry and his cynicism for a while, but then I started to realize how disgusting and horrible he was. Dorian just became a carbon copy of Henry and that upset me. Dorian blamed Basil for his decent into madness, but I know it was actually Henry’s fault. Henry’s theories, philosophies, and books poisoned Dorian, and that is a fact. It’s hard to read a novel when you dislike the main character so greatly, but Oscar Wilde made is possible and actually interesting.

The Writing

This is Wilde’s only published novel, and it’s a damn good one. Every word, every sentence, bleeds sarcasm. Wilde is such a fantastic writer! This novel is so quotable! I loved it. He’s so cynical towards women, especially American women, and it’s kind of hilarious:

“She behaves as if she is beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.”

That’s not even the worst comment he makes. It’s terribly degrading, but I find it funny. I love Wilde’s writing and I encourage you to read this. Just…try to remember the time period in which it was written.

Favorite Quote(s)

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

“I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.”

“As it was, we always misunderstood ourselves, and rarely understood others.”

“There is a fatality about good resolutions — that they are always made too late.”

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

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