Picture of Dorian Gray

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Viking, 2000.

Nancy Pearl included this in her chapter “Horror for Sissies” in More Book Lust. But, when I really think about it, it’s more horrible than any slasher film out there. Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man in Victorian England. His beauty and youth have taken him places and afforded him many luxuries. During a sitting with a painter he rashly wishes he could remain young and beautiful all his life. This wish is granted but subsequently his personality sours and his morality rots away. With each passing cruel remark and act, the portrait grows older and uglier while Dorian’s human exterior remains handsome and pure. Soon, Dorian cannot separate himself from the image that he sees on the canvas. The more hideous the portrait, the more violent his actions against humanity. It’s a downward spiral with tragic results.
Wilde has a lot to say about Victorian society norms, but his tongue-in-cheek humor and wit thread through the evil demise of Dorian Gray with delightful frequency.

Strung-together words I liked, “Music was not articulate” (p 30) and “Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity” (p 49). Funny! Here are two more lines I liked, “He was late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time” (p 60), and “There was an exquisite poison in the air” (p 63).

Reason read: Halloween. Duh. Also, Basil (the artist who paints Dorian) wants to include Dorian’s portrait in a show scheduled for October. By this time Dorian’s canvas image has begun to deteriorate so Dorian is loathe to show it to anyone.

Author fact: Oscar Wilde had such a tragic end to his story.

Book trivia: If you can, find The Whole Story version of The Picture of Dorian Gray because it is really unique. First of all, it’s the complete, unabridged text as it was originally published so you aren’t missing out on Wilde’s artistic endeavor but the annotated extras make the story really come alive.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Horror for Sissies” (p 119).

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