REVIEW: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Horror

Rating: ★★★

The Picture of Dorain Gray ‘s goodreads page here

Publisher: Wordsworth Classics

Get your own copy from Book Depository, Kobo or Amazon


SYNOPSIS: Wilde’s only novel, first published in 1890, is a brilliantly designed puzzle, intended to tease conventional minds with its exploration of the myriad interrelationships between art, life and consequence. From its provocative Preface, challenging the reader to belief in ‘art for art’s sake’, to its sensational conclusion, the story self-consciously experiments with the notion of sin as an element of design. Yet Wilde himself underestimated the consequences of his experiment, and its capacity to outrage the Victorian establishment. Its words returned to haunt him in his court appearances in 1895, and he later recalled the ‘note of doom’ which runs like ‘a purple thread’ through its carefully crafted prose.

I read this novel as a part of my English course, as I had to analyse a written piece with a butt load of literary techniques and themes. I chose this particular novel because I watched the 2009 movie adaptation Dorian Gray early last month and really enjoyed it. As the saying goes ‘the books better than the movie’, so I thought I’d test this theory. Safe to say, it’s not wrong!

The main plot point revolves around Dorian fighting his inner demons, trying to avoid his self-corruption. This all starts when he first moves to London and befriends Basil Hallward (my favourite character out of the bunch) whom is an extremely talented artists and insists he sits for his own portrait. After quite a few sessions and weeks the quite pivotal character Henry Wotton is introduced and is blown away by Dorian’s youth and beauty. The men continuously compliment Dorian until he realises he needs to take advantage of his beauty and wishes for his lifelike picture to gain the burden of time and sin, while his own body will remain beautiful. As you may guess, by some miracle his wish is granted and the portrait slowly changes whenever Dorian makes a sinful choice, a slight grimace that represents his cruelty or a drawn and pale face to represent his addictions. As his face isn’t a true depiction of his soul, Dorian lives a life of lie and pleasure taking many different hobbies and obsessions over the years. He also influenced many of his friends to follow his path into self-corruption and pleasure, with many losing their credible image and will to live. This very dark period in his life lasts for upwards of 15 years and is pulled out when he makes a very questionable choice resulting in the death of a close friend, and is then scared for his own safety when people from the past come back to haunt him.

All three of the main characters in this novel are so interesting and represent different sides on the good vs. evil influence. Dorian is a young when he first arrives and is easily persuadable and impressionable by his fellow friends Basil and Henry. Basil is a rather respectable young fellow who always has Dorian’s best interest in mind, and tries to help him in any way possible by telling him to avoid and not to listen to Henry. As you may guess, Henry is a bit of an asshat and pushes his own fantasies and pleasure onto Dorian, persuading him to live his ’best life’. The two men always have apposing ideas and values about a specific thing and are constantly trying to win Dorian over. It was extremely interesting to have the two friends somewhat represent the angel and devil sitting on Dorian’s shoulder, persuading him to listen and constantly arguing over what was right. This aspect didn’t last long as Henry’s way of life intrigued Dorian most, as he found Basil to be a bore, which was the turning point in his wicked life.

Dorian’s portrait became a symbol of his corruption, which was currently altering the worse he became. At the beginning it was just a slight change in expression, however once his way of life became worse and acted more ruthless it was a huge change. The portrait is referred to as a character and it was extremely interesting how Dorian’s interactions and thoughts rapidly changed. When it first changed he was delighted by the fact he will never age, although once he re-evaluated is life he loathed the image. He became bored with his life and wished that he never struck the deal. This is extremely important as it shows how his attitudes are constantly evolving, which is why he is such a well-loved character.

I would give this novel 5 stars just for the characters and plot alone, however there was a few chapters that were far too slow and boring. The beginning of the book was perfect at setting the scene and introducing the characters gradually, and the end was so intense and filled with action that you could not stop, however the middle was lacking. I understand that it needed to build up to the final events and that its unrealistic to be gripping the whole way through, but the few middle chapters were so slow I almost put the novel down and started a new one. My biggest advice is to just push through the pain as it will all be worth it in the end! Don’t let those boring chapters push you away (I’m talking to you Chapter 11!), because the intensity picks right back up again!


All in all, I could talk about this novel for hours as it has such an in-depth plot with so many layers, complex characters and the most gorgeous writing style I have encountered. You could flip to any page and find a quote that resonates with you deeply, and it’s fair to say I have a long list that I love! I recommend this novel to everyone that loves a well written fiction novel with hints of horror, or if you are wishing to dive into the world of Classic fiction and are very overwhelmed, this is the perfect start!


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