“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde


artemisiconAll our books are packed so once we move I promise to update all my pictures!

I know, this review is kind of out in left field according to the regular books I read. But I’ve read so much about Dorian Gray through pop culture, and so much about Oscar Wilde for that matter, that I couldn’t help but pick it up.

Many sources create their own version of Dorian Gray, which led to an image of him being created in my mind. Suave, gentlemanly, sexual, devil-may-care attitude. Even the modern show Penny Dreadful’s has their own version of Dorian Gray, and he follows along those lines as well.

So when I started reading the book, I was not prepared for the hateful, emotional, juvenile, and all out brat that is Dorian Gray.

That’s not to say it ruined the book; this was the original version of Dorian Gray, and the other stories are the romanticized versions of his life the book ghosts over. Reading the book NOW, instead of when it was published, I didn’t see it as scandalous. Then again, I live in the age of HBO and 50 shades of grey. At it’s time, it was incredibly scandalous and I can understand why.

Dorian was an impressionable youth who was praised for his beauty. So much so, that it became all he cared about. That’s not to say he wasn’t intelligent, or talented, it was that his beauty was all that was seen of him. He develops a sort of relationship with another man who opens his eyes to a new way of thinking. This led to Dorian’s downfall. He was taught almost everything is fleeting and what people praise as good and just, are just ideas. He awakens Dorian’s vanity and flames his self-love even more. He is slowly learning that there really are no consequences to any action, and he loves the way Lord Henry can turn a room and astonish, inspire, or disgust everyone in it.

Dorian then hires an artist friend of his to paint his portrait, out of vanity. But once the painting is done, it absorbs any evil and cruel thing Dorian does, leaving him young and beautiful. Dorian goes on a modern day bender, which I think is where it was left open to interpretation for a lot of modern telling because Wilde hinted at sex parties and opium dens, but those were only spoken through rumor. (I really need to look into my copy and a few others, because apparently around 2011, an uncensored version was published!)

His cruelty saw no bounds, and neither did his vices. This book was seen as scandalous, and Wilde painted in a horrible light, but instead of trying to be a fluff-piece, he wrote it as a cautionary tale. A young man sold his soul for youth and beauty, an in turn watched his moral compass crumble and things he may not have considered in the beginning, were common place by the end. Even murder didn’t make him pause. The book raises a lot of issues on internal beauty vs. external beauty, and art vs. life.

It was a short book, a little bit of an odd read because it was first published in 1891. But, it is an interesting tale, and even without the balls, opium dens, and magic, still rings true. I read it to find out the original story of a common pop culture character (I think I’m up to 6 references that I know of), and I don’t regret that. It was a good book, but not something for everyone. If you’re interested in classics and about Dorian Gray’s original concept, I’d recommend picking this book up.

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