Book Time Off
Posted on October 19 2018
‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’: A Review
As well as being cycling enthusiasts, we at Roz Buehrlen HQ also harbour a great love for books – ranging from the classics to the more contemporary. In this spoiler-free review, we shall briefly explore the only novel by one of the greatest writers of all time: Oscar Wilde.
Dublin born and acquainted with Bram Stoker, Wilde was a dandy and a champion of the values of Aestheticism, a movement originating from Romanticism that advocated for the view that art should be for art’s sake – beauty for beauty’s sake. Wilde was the celeb of his day and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ caused great controversy when it was first published in 1890 due to the story’s homoerotic undertones and was criticised for being an immoral book as the Victorians thought that literature should have an educational purpose. Wilde then extensively revised his novel and added an epigrammatic preface to counter those critics. Yet, the novel was used as evidence against Wilde during his trials and the playwright was eventually convicted of what the Victorians called an ‘act of gross indecency’, indirectly sending Wilde to his doom for being queer.
‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ opens with a Bacchanalian feast for the senses in Basil Hallward’s garden and studio where the painter finishes a masterpiece as he is talking with the cynical and witty dandy Lord Henry Wotton, who is ‘a very bad influence on all his friends’, except for Basil, who is captivated by Dorian’s beauty. But whether the nature of painter’s devotion to the ‘young Adonis’ is of artistic idolatry, romantic feelings or both remains vague because of the times in which it was published.
When Dorian goes to have his portrait painted by Basil, Lord Henry seduces Dorian into the worship of youthful beauty with an intoxicating speech that leads the handsome, naïve Dorian to make a life-altering wish: that the picture would bear the marks of age while he keeps his ‘rose-white boyhood’. This Faustian wish, accompanied by Lord Henry’s ‘poisonous’ influence, leads Dorian onto a path of moral deterioration, debauchery and the discovery that the portrait also bears the burden of Dorian’s sins – a ticket to escaping capture, drawing Dorian into a double life.
'Summer followed summer, and the yellow jonquils bloomed and died many times, and nights of horror repeated the story of their shame, but he was unchanged.'
The rich, flowery yet readable language imbued with sophisticated wit is one of the many things that makes this novel a classic and one of our favourites. We have yet to encounter a literary piece besides perhaps Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ with more quotable quotes than Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Every word Wilde writes is gold and there is at least one thing worth highlighting on every page.
Wilde explores themes such as influence, beauty, public vs private selves, sin, art and its role in society and more, using the supernatural as a vehicle to highlight the hypocrisy of Victorian society and enable Dorian to lead a double life. We all love a good read, and Wilde’s ability to captivate his reader with his dazzling writing style and to make people think is why ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ will always be a favourite of ours.
Okay, so where do I get my copy?
For bookworms who love drool-worthy front covers, we would recommend either Barnes and Noble’s leatherbound edition or the Penguin’s clothbound version.
For audiobook lovers, you can find unabridged versions on Audible and start your free 30-day trial today!