Book Review : The Picture of Dorian Gray

First of all, the picture above is of Ben Barnes, the lead actor in the film “Dorian Gray”; I thought this would be more appealing than the photo of the book.

As we all know, this book is a modern interpretation and version of the legend of Faust, a scholar who made a pact with the Devil, trading his soul in change of knowledge and pleasure. The temptation, in Dorian’s case, is timeless and ageless beauty. His portrait is painted by Basil Hallward, a man who some think was infatuated with the protagonist himself, and Dorian, influenced by a new acquaintance, Lord Henry Wotton, an aristocrat who enjoys having philosophical debates, unfortunately says that he would do anything for the picture to age instead of him. Unknowingly, in that instant, he makes a pact with the Devil. Therefore, for every year that passes, the portrait ages and for every crime he makes or sin he sins, the portrait becomes more and more horrendous. There are indeed a couple sub-plots, but the most important one is Dorian’s journey, which culminates in him thinking that the only way out of all that he has done was a full confession and I think we all know how that ends. If not, then it is time you read this book.

This was the most difficult and intricate book I have ever read, in all honesty. It was long and there were many philosophical dialogues, which voiced Oscar Wilde’s opinions. Every action and every word has a meaning. The main themes in this novel are Beauty and Pleasure, the only thing worth having and feeling. I can understand why some critics of that century disliked the book, saying that it was too hedonistic and unclean and that Wilde did not portray English moralism as it really was. But as a 21st century reader, I do think that I can agree with Lord Henry on many aspects; of course not on those that are misogynistic.

Have I liked this book? Yes, especially towards the end, since it becomes filled with action. I would give it a 7,5/10. I read it mostly because it is considered a classic of 19th century literature and because I really wanted to see what Mr. Wilde was all about.

I will leave you to some quotes and passages which I particularly enjoyed.

“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.”


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