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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


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

I loved this book. It combines wonderful writing with a striking and engrossing plot and it has contemporary resonances that make it truly worthy of the overused label “classic”.

Dorian Gray sees his youthful beauty captured in a painting and wishes that he could stay like that for ever and the picture age instead.

Dorian’s wish is granted and the picture becomes twisted and ugly as a result of his selfish hedonism in his perpetual youth.

All of this happens after Dorian falls under the influence of Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry advocates the pursuit of pleasure at any and all costs and the hazard of a virtuous and peaceful life. Dorian is suggestible and Lord Henry’s influence is profound.

Painter Basil Hallward expresses more conservative views but his words are not heeded, and Dorian takes steps to evade him because does not want Basil to see what is happening to his painting.

The story is both horrifying and hypnotic to watch. It was widely believed in the Victorian era that you could see a man's character on his face and, as Dorian becomes depraved, selfish, and cruel, this is etched upon his portrait until it becomes too much for him to bear.

The book is filled out with long conversations about conversations covering a multitude of themes. Sometimes they disturb the pace but the characters are psychologically true and that carries the day.

And best of all, the language used in this book is a joy. Wonderful, flowing, vivid descriptions of characters, places and actions verge on poetry. It may be a bit too flowery for some, but it is the kind of writing I love.

I am only sorry that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is Oscar Wilde’s only novel.


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