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.”
Do you ever read a book that stays with you? You know what I mean; Every once in a while you’ll catch yourself thinking about it out of the blue. Or something infinitesimal will remind of it for no real reason. This is one of those books.
I love this book. Everything about it. The writing is so eloquently perfect. I don’t know how Wilde wrote so beautifully but I’m so glad he did. Sadly, this is the only book I’ve read by him but I’ll have to rectify that soon. His style is hauntingly lovely.
For some reason this book is often listed as classic horror. While I don’t agree with that classification at all, I will say that it was a lot like a dark Jane Austen novel. Or maybe Edgar Allan Poe meets Jane Austen but not as scary as Poe. Then maybe not Poe at all… It was creepy and dark but not like reading horror. At least not modern horror. Maybe it’s classified that way because it gets in your head and freaks you out a bit. But there’s no violence or gore or anything like that. Well, maybe a tiny, itty bitty bit. But not enough to be horror.
So, Dorian. His character progression is fascinating! To go from a young, impressionable, wide-eyed kid to the sadistically evil villain he becomes was just… I mean… How did Wilde do that?!? Dorian embodied selfishness and cruelty. He became the worst sort of human being I have ever had cause to learn about. And I still wanted to read about him. I wanted to know everything! I wanted to hear his cynical opinions and ridiculously harsh judgements. Admittedly, I like dark story lines, but Wilde’s writing was so engaging and pretty. So, so lovely.
Wilde writes like a tiger lounging by a river; It’s majestic, gorgeous and inviting from far away. The tiger is calm, the water inviting and you want to bask in the beauty. As you get closer it’s lovelier, still. Once you arrive at the tiger’s side, it bares its fangs and you realize that you will never leave this place alive.
That’s what this is. Wilde lures you in with his beautiful writing and fascinating premise, then goes for the jugular with this study in human faults and weaknesses.
My only complaint is that sometimes I had to read a section a few times in order to understand it. While lovely, the wording and prose is quite outdated and I usually read modern YA fiction. That said, it is so worth it! Read it. It’s amazingly dark and brooding and beautiful.
Sexual Content: Mild (there are allusions and innuendo but nothing graphic)