The Picture of Dorian GrayBook - 2004
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."
From the critics
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"Oh, brothers! I don't care for brothers. My elder brother won't die, and my younger bothers seem to do nothing else."
"When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was."
"When I like someone immensely I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it."
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Written and set in 19th century England, this gothic psychological thriller is a classic horror story, refreshingly free of the graphic blood and gore that seems to be the standard horror theme these days.
The story begins with Dorian Gray, a young man of extraordinary good looks, having his portrait painted by his friend Basil Hallward. In the midst of posing for the portrait enters Lord Henry, a pompous and self-important character that convinces an innocent Dorian that his looks are his most important characteristic and that he will have tremendous power over people because of them. He tells Dorian that he should enjoy them while they last as like everything else they will fade with time and so will the power that comes with them.
Taking his words seriously, a naïve and melancholy Dorian wishes that his looks would last forever and instead of time ravaging his face and body, his portrait would age instead, leaving him forever young. As the story moves along and to Dorian’s increasing dismay, he starts noticing that his wish has been granted… with a twist. The portrait is noticeably growing more hideous as Dorian’s behaviour becomes progressively more callous and contemptible.
Though dated, the story is fast-paced, well written and an easy read. Its lighter side pokes fun at the aristocracy and their total uselessness while its darker side reveals the level of shallowness and depravity of human nature.
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