Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review : The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the most fascinating and well written books I have ever read. Philosophically it is thought provoking and often heretical. It is hard to put into words how I felt about it but I will attempt to.

I will include some spoilers in my review but will not give away the entire story. 
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young man (Dorian Gray) who is handsome... essentially beautiful with a youthful and pure look and character. When the reader is first acquainted with him, his pictures is being drawn by Basil Hallward, an artist who is somewhat infatuated with the beauty and innocent appearance of Dorian and how it is portrayed in his artwork of him. The last day of Dorian sitting for the picture is when the story begins. Basil tells his friend Lord Henry of the man he is drawing (Dorian) after Lord Henry expresses that it is the best picture he has drawn yet. Dorian himself arrives and as Basil finishes up the picture, Lord Henry converses with Dorian, introducing to him philosophical ideas that turned Dorian's naive mind and then finally stating the sentence that changes Dorian, "You have the most marvelous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having." After Basil finishes the picture, Dorian looks at it in mind of what Lord Henry had just told I'm and says, "How sad it is! I shall grow old and horrible and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that I would give everything! Yes there is nothing in the world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!" In that statement he essentially makes "a pact with the devil" and from that point on, he never grows old but the picture changes as his soul changes. Under the influence of the ideas of Sir Henry, Dorian goes down a path of sin. The sin lasts for eighteen years and while we are not clear on what all sin it was, we can pick up that it involved adultery, drug use, and possibly homosexuality. There is a quote that I saw from Oscar Wilde that reads;  "Each man sees his own sin in Dorian Gray. What Dorian Gray's sins are no one knows. He who find them has brought them." As Dorian's sin goes on his picture, which he has now hidden in his attic so no one can see it, continues to change, resulting in a hideously evil looking old man.
How the story concludes, I leave you to find out. The ending, in my opinion, was perfect though. I highly recommend the story as not only a cautionary tale but also a book with philosophical implications. The philosophy in it is not necessarily to be emulated though but should be pondered on. I don't recommend giving it to anyone younger than high school because of some of the mature themes that it centers on.
I would also encourage you to read this review of it by The Gospel Coalition.
Please leave a comment letting me know you think of this book as I would love to here other people's thoughts on it. :)

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  1. I stopped by this post because you mentioned it on your 2014 Year-End Survey. I don't usually share my own entries, but since you say at the bottom of this that you're interested in others' thoughts, I'll share my entry on this book.

    Feel free to delete this comment! I don't mean to advertise, just sharing. :) I'm not sure I stated very well what I meant in that post, or if I quite know what I mean at this point. I might need to reread to get a better idea. Anyway, no expectation for a comment -- just sharing. I love that quote you cite by Oscar Wilde about seeing one's own sins in Dorian Gray. I think that kind of gets to my point -- that in art, we see what we see, rather than what the author hopes we will see. Anyway, Merry Christmas!

  2. Hi Lois, I just reread this, knowing I would like it; it was even better the second time. Fascinating indeed. Excellent review. My thoughts :


I allow anyone to comment but be aware that I reserve the right to delete your comment if I find it inappropriate. Please do not make me have to exercise that right. :)

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