Book Review: Oscar Wilde’s “The picture of Dorian Gray”

Meet Dorian Gray: Beautiful and admired, every woman’s object of desire and most men’s target for jealousy. While posing for painter Basil Hallward, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton who pulls Dorian into a hedonistic downward spiral – but no matter how immoral Dorian’s acts, these hideous deeds never leave a mark on him. Instead, it is a strange portrait of Dorian, tucked away in an attic (why are there always eerie things in attics?), that changes over time – the more depraved Dorian gets, the more frightening his portrait becomes. Soon, things run out of control, and the reader knows it can’t end well.

If you haven’t read "The Picture of Dorian Gray" yet, run to your nearest bookshop and get a copy – now. This book – the only novel Oscar Wilde ever published – is one of the best nineteenth-century gothic novels out there and it’s pretty unusual too. It’s packed with the quotable lines Oscar Wilde is known for, many of which have found their ways into notebooks and other author’s works. It’s short, too; no more than around a hundred pages. Also, there are no monsters or vampires lurking about the shady London we read of in this novel, unless you consider the decadent and pleasure-seeking people, and there’s little in the way of grisly murders.

The strength of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is what isn’t told: there are many strange things going on, some of which are only hinted at. And to boot, the magic behind the picture itself is never explained, but then the workings of the supernatural isn’t really the point here. In fact, the painter himself doesn’t play a big role once the painting’s done, but it’s rather the creepy Lord Wotton who with his constant sarcasm and lack of every trace of moral that leaves the reader wondering. Is he the devil himself? Or does he just uncork the natural hunger for pleasure that simmers in Dorian’s soul – and perhaps in all of us?

Read “The picture of Dorian Gray” if you haven’t – chop, chop away to the bookshop you go!

/ Ruefus

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