The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Book CoverFrom The tale of a youth whose features, year after year, retain the same appearance of innocent beauty while the shame of his abhorrent vices becomes mirrored on the features of his portrait.

Why I Chose It: I want to read more classic literature that I never got a chance to read during school. I stumbled across an app called “Books – 23 469 Classics To Go” by Digital Press Publishing, which has access to all the classics that are in the public domain. If you want to check out how I felt reading a book on my phone, check out last week’s post. I’m super excited to read more classics, and The Picture of Dorian Gray was my first choice!

The Review:

I’m going to start off by saying that there are spoilers in this review. Generally I try to avoid spoilers because I don’t want to ruin what happens in a book for anyone, but I’m going to be a little more lenient with this one, because I really want to talk about what happens. Plus it was originally published in 1890, soooo I figure I’m allowed to. ;)

Dorian is actually really hard for me to review. From an English student perspective, I absolutely loved it. I forgot how much I enjoy literature from this time period, and within the first sentence it had sucked me in. I am in love with the language. The sentences are so long and full of wonderful descriptions that I was in love with the novel simply based on how it was written.

But in terms of the actual story I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. This is because I went in to the novel assuming that I knew pieces of the story already. The basic idea is that the portrait of Dorian ages, while Dorian himself remains young and beautiful. While I wasn’t sure how Dorian managed to make his portrait age instead of himself, I assumed it was something spectacular.

Well…not so much. On a whim, Dorian says a prayer that he would remain youthful, and that the painting could age instead of him. Somehow, this prayer was answered. I was so disappointed! I was looking forward to a curse by an angered witch or some evil deal with the devil, but the book is so much more vague than that. It just happens.

I also believed that one of the main parts of the story was that Dorian could not look at his own portrait without dying. I may have gotten this idea from the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. From what I remember the Dorian in that movie has immortality so long as he never looks at the portrait. I totally thought was from the book, but is actuality, Dorian looks at his portrait all the time. I actually kind of liked that part in the book, because Dorian becomes haunted by it. The portrait shows the consequences of all his horrible deeds, drug use, and aging, and he would sit there and stare at it. It represented who he was on the inside. Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, I did find it very interesting.

The rest of the story unfortunately didn’t quite hold my attention. For example, after Dorian realizes that he can do anything with very little consequences, he does many “dark deeds” that are referenced in the story, and anyone who befriends him will soon lose their reputation and good standing in society. But the story doesn’t tell you what he does. I kept wanting to know what bad things he was doing! I was frustrated that I kept reading that there were rumours about Dorian Gray, but never got to actually hear what any of those rumours actually were. (Although it was fun sometimes guessing what they could be). I also found that the book ended rather abruptly – the ending completely made sense, but still, abrupt. I don’t know that I was entirely satisfied or entertained.

So this book is a tough one. While I loved the writing and the over all ideas, I just kept looking for more within the story. I think I was just expecting more darkness to the story and all the juicy details, but really the story is about Dorian and his struggle with his own sin. It would be cool to take a deep look at how the themes of beauty, vanity and pride play out in this book. A very interesting read, and I totally wish I could have read this in school to write a paper on it, but I digress. I am glad I got to read it, and definitely worth picking up if you like reading classics.

Rating: 3 / 5


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