Saturday, May 14, 2011
Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Author: Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Barnes and Noble (my edition)
Genre: Classic (Victorian)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Why I read it/how I found it: One of the books I've been meaning to read for a while now. I saw the play a few months ago and it pushed me to finally read it.
Description: Upon meeting Lord Henry Watton, young Dorian Gray adopts his views that the only thing of real value in life is to be young. When Dorian sees a portrait of himself that should always remain young while he grows old, he wishes the opposite were true--that he should stay young and the portrait grow old. Dorian is further exposed to Lord Henry's ideas of living to fulfill the sense and finds himself in a world of sin. His wish comes true and body stays young but his picture grows old and corrupt, exposing his true soul.
Review: This book is a classic for a reason. I had already been exposed to Wilde through The Importance of Being Earnest but this book has a much darker mood than his plays, and Wilde can carry it as well as he does his light, quip-filled writing. Yet the darker shades of this story does not take away from Wilde's wit. Usually, when I have to read a book with corrupt characters as protagonists (like Wuthering Heights) I grow frustrated with their cruelty to the point where I can only enjoy discussing the book and not actually reading it. But in Dorian the sin and corruption that two main characters indulge in do not make me angry, and why that is I have yet to know why myself. A fascinating look into morals, sin, and the results of a life made only of pleasure, this book is more than just a creepy story. It has many layers to discuss, and I just wish I were in a literature class right now to talk about it! This would have gotten a 5/5 if Wilde hadn't taken a rather long chapter to explain details of jewels and perfumes, which was beneficial to the story, but still far too long.
Should I buy it?: You can find classics so cheap now--go for it! (I only spent $2.50)
Other information: There is a 13-chapter version of this and a 20-chapter because during its Victorian publication, some things were thought of to be far too scandalous for the public. I read the 20-chapter version and I suggest the same, online a lot of people say the 13-chapter version is far too censored. There are also a lot of movie versions of this, the most recent starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth (this one is rated R). I haven't seen any of these, so unfortunately I can't say whether I can recommend them or not.