Publisher’s Synopsis: In Oscar Wilde’s famous novel, Dorian Gray is tempted by Henry Watton to sell his soul in order to hold on ot beauty and youth. Dorian succumbs and murders the portrait painter Basil Hallward, who stands between him and his goal. Though in the end vice is punished and virtue rewarded, the novel remains one of the most important expressions of fin de siecle decadence. It is the preface to the expanded edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray that Wilde coined the most famous expression of this aesthetic: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well-written or badly-written. That is all.”
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Quills
Review: Honestly, I loved this book. It is definitely going into my list of all-time favorites. I’m not sure exactly why, but something about this book just really gripped me. In so many ways, the subjects explored in this novel are extremely relevant today.
Dorian Gray decides to trade his soul for eternal beauty. At least, that’s what I thought this story was about; however, Gray’s decisions are so much more complex than that. Yes, there is a painting that ages and changes according to the decisions that Dorian makes while he stays vivaciously young and hansom. However, the degradation of his soul as seen by the changing picture and the increasingly evil acts that Gray commits are complexly nuanced. The changes that he undergoes after the painting of the portrait are due to the influence of Lord Henry. If anything, this story definitely shows the dangers of negative influences.
In many ways,this book is also like a philosophy text. Lord Henry espouses a particularly hedonistic and cynical philosophy that serves as problematic from a current viewpoint in many ways. Even more, Wilde’s novel is considered by many as a kind of book for the aesthetics. He seems to be arguing throughout his book that art should only exist for art’s sake. I find this to be problematic because I think that this particular piece of art exists for more than just beauty’s sake but to teach a lesson. Even more, I think that Dorian’s downfall shows the dangers in not listening to the lessons that the various forms of art are trying to teach us.
But that’s just my humble opinion. I’m sure it has many flaws. Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this wonderful piece of fiction. It’s definitely something that stays with you long after you’ve read it. The characters are remarkably unforgettable. Wilde is amazing and I definitely want to read more of his works. He was a scandalous personality in real life and his fiction definitely carries some of that zeal.