Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review of a Classic: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This book blew me away. Though I usually dislike classics, or at least tolerate them, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and I had a full on love affair. I was hooked from the very beginning, and once I started reading it was near impossible to stop. I watched the first season of the TV show, 'Penny Dreadful' during this summer, and that's when I first grew interested in Dorian's character. I'll admit it was his...lack of morals (and the portrait!)...that drew my intrigue, but after reading this book, it goes so much further.

Dorian Gray starts out as a wonderful character, but even then I was just waiting for him to turn to the "dark side," so to speak. Even so, watching Dorian's slow transformation, from beginning to end, is riveting. When we first meet Dorian, he is handsome and young, yes, but he is the kind of person who helps the poor, and charms everybody. After he meets Lord Henry though, he questions himself; he grows curious about his desires, and he grows vain and becomes obsessed with beauty. It's honestly a scary thing to see.

What I found most interesting, however, is that as I was reading through Dorian's story, I started to analyze myself and imagined that I had my own soul in a portrait. Well, my imagination wasn't very nice to me, and my portrait showed my sins as well, and I'll say this, I'm not the nicest person in the world. The fact that the novel got me thinking about my own life and the changes I should start making in my own personality, well, that's the mark of a good book. I'm also really glad that the blemishes on our soul aren't visible to us; that would be a nightmare. I used to say that Jane Austen was the only classical author whose stories I enjoyed reading, but I've obviously been lying. Seriously, this book was so good that I'm trying to figure out if I like it more than 'Persuasion' (which is my favorite novel EVER!).

By the second half of the book, I grew to dislike Dorian (though really I should have all-out hated him) while at the same time completely invested in him. He broke hearts, blackmailed friends, and even murdered, but I just had to see where it was all going to end up. I was crying for justice about three-quarters through the story! And even though I figured out the ending about a page before it happened, and even though the ending was exciting, suspenseful, and perfect in so many ways, every time I think about it I still have an urge to cry. I'm still not completely sure why - or if this is just another of my quirks - but the ending is heartbreaking, particularly because how different it would have been if only Dorian had never been introduced to Lord Henry. Truthfully, it's him I hate most in the book.

I kind of want to say that 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' is the best classic ever written, as it's definitely not your average coming-of-age novel (for one because Dorian never really aged). I completely understand why it was written during the Realism period, though at the same time it's anything but realistic. I'd recommend the novel to fans of YA and fantasy, and anyone who has to choose a classic to read for school. No matter who you are, this is one book you won't want to miss out on.

Book Synopsis: 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.”

Source: Borrowed the paperback from the public library.

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Publication Date: June 1, 1998
Publisher: Random House: Modern Library
Genre: British Literature, Classic, Horror
Pages: 254 pages