Reviews

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Review)

How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!

Basil, the painter, puts all his soul into his full-length portrait of Dorian Gray. The painting is the most beautiful work the artist has ever created and after speaking with Lord Henry begins to think beauty is the only thing worth pursuing in life.Upon seeing the finished portrait, Dorian so strongly desires to stay as young as he is depicted instead of growing old that his wish ends up coming true. Throughout his life, the painting is hidden and kept locked away. It shows the wear and tear of Dorian’s life and sins while his face remains beautiful. Is a beautiful life the only one worth living, or has Dorian received more than he wished for in the end?


This book was selected by my book club this month and I was pretty excited to start reading it, which might have been this books downfall. Sometimes, I get so excited to get my hands on a book or movie that when I finally read or watch it, it fails to meet my expectations. Not that I didn’t enjoy this, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Overall, I am glad I was finally able to read this book. Here are the Pros & Cons:

PROS:

  • The story was a little bit of horror, a little bit of romance, a lot of dialogue, and a bit of suspense tossed in for good measure. Dorian cursing himself and his painting was both expected (because I knew a little bit about the story already) and unexpected. When it happened, it was still a bit of surprise and the amount of damage that was shown on the painting over the years was shocking. Dorian really did some damage in his lifetime.
  • I felt like it provided a clear image of the time. The dialogue, while it wasn’t my favorite part of the novel, was dated and I mean that in a good way. Lord Henry had something to say about everything and everyone and was never a man to not have an opinion, which leads me to my next point.
  • The characters were striking. At one point, I didn’t like any of them. I hated Lord Henry, I despised Dorian, and I thought Basil was a bit snooty. As time went on, I still disliked Henry (but he gets a dose of karma in the end), I felt bad for Basil, and I almost sympathized with Dorian, just barely.
  • The preface was one of my favorite aspects. The preface was added after the first publication as a sort of “Here is what I think of your criticism” from Wilde. In it, Wilde defends his novel about criticism, remarks on how his novel should be read and explains the artist’s role in society.
    • “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
  • The length is long enough to provide a detailed story but short enough to not be too difficult to get through. One of my problems with large books is that, usually, I get bored at some point because too much of it seems like filler. With Wilde’s novel, it was just the right length to enjoy and take my time with it.

CONS:

  • I felt myself having to analyze the dialogue for hidden meanings. The banter back and forth was a little boring at times. Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite parts about being an English major is dissecting texts, but I don’t like to have to do this all of the time with my personal readings. I want something that is more entertaining than the texts I have to read for school and, at times, this novel was more work to read than fun.
  • The story was slow to get moving. I had trouble getting into it at first and even after  I made it to the halfway point, I had trouble diving in once I picked it back up. Some books, 2 sentences in and I’m transported to another world, but with this novel there were some chapters that I was reading just to get through to the next chapter and I wasn’t enjoying.
  • The last 1/4 of the book was the best part. I list this as a con because, as a whole, much of the novel has not left a mark on me. There is the part in the beginning where Dorian’s painting is revealed and then the series of “Oh my gosh” events in the end, but much of the novel is a bit of a blur. It isn’t memorable.

While I enjoyed reading Wilde’s classic novel, it didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. I would, however, like to see this movie come to life. I think the plot is fascinating and appeals to a wide array of audiences and should be a book that everyone reads at some point or another. Honestly, I am surprised I haven’t been assigned this novel and were instead assigned The Importance of Being Earnest recently, but I am not quite done with school. There is still a chance Dorian Gray will appear in my future and I am fine with that. I do not regret reading it, I just think my expectations were a little high since I have heard so many “That book is amazing” comments.

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