Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it ﬁrst appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting inﬂuence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”
The Picture of Dorian Gray is said to be Oscar Wilde’s most famous book and rightly so. It is still widely read and for me, it was one of the best classics I ever picked up. People refer to it as a Gothic horror tale where a man sells his soul for eternal youth. It is also associated with the Decadent movement or the Aesthetic movement. If you go through the preface of the book, which is a pretty important part of the book as it is the soul of the book, you will understand Wilde’s point better.
We cannot talk about this book without talking about Wilde’s life. He says: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” The character of Dorian Gray is based on a real person, John Gray, who was part of Wilde’s literary homosexual circle. He was a man of extraordinary beauty.
The book was banned for sexual undertones and Wilde had to go through a couple of years of imprisonment.
What is this book about?
Dorian is a young man of extraordinary beauty but is pretty impressionable because of his age. Painter Basil Hallward falls in love with Dorian and often makes portraits with Dorian as the model. Unlike Basil, Lord Henry is a witty talker. As soon as he meets Dorian, he makes an impression on him. He often talks about the importance of beauty and that loss of his beauty will lead to the loss of every joy in life.
The fact that his painting won’t age, even when he drowns in wrinkles bothers Dorian and he expresses his wish that let the painting stand the test of time. His wish is granted. The painting takes up not only his age but also all the bad feelings like hypocrisy that Dorian hides. The painting causes him a lot of trauma. As a result, they both end up the same way, destroyed.
Why I love the book?
This book has been on my TBR for the longest time and now that I finally read it, I am pretty happy with myself. The sentences are crafted beautifully. I marked several of them for rereading. The dialogues are extremely thought-provoking, especially in the case of Lord Henry. I loved his character and the way he makes his impression on Dorian time and again. I really would have loved to read about his reaction to the final events in Dorian’s life.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is definitely worth reading and if you haven’t already, go for it!