Who wrote this book and when?
This is Oscar Wilde’s only novel, published in June 1890.
Has there been a film version?
Several film versions, several uses of Dorian Gray in other television shows and movies. The best is rumored to be the 1945 version which won an academy award.
Who are the important characters?
Dorian Gray – a stunningly good looking young man, easily impressionable
Lord Henry Wotton – a hedonist nobleman who is at first interested in Dorian’s good looks, and then interested in exposing him to every sensation in the world
Basil Hallward – a painter, the painter who paints the picture of Dorian Gray
Sybil Vane – a beautiful young actress whom Dorian falls in love with
James Vane – Sybil’s younger brother, a sailor
What’s it about?
Dorian Gray is a fantastically good looking youth who has been discovered by the painter Basil Hallward. Basil was a mediocre painter until he met Dorian, now when he uses Dorian as a model – his paintings are fantastic. Basil worships Dorian and Dorian is young and naive, so he loves to be worshipped. And everything seems fine until two things happen. Basil decides to paint Dorian as he naturally looks (instead of as a gladiator or a general) and Lord Henry Wotton is introduced to Dorian.
Lord Henry introduces Dorian to the world of Hedonism (the constant indulgence of the senses in search of beauty and pleasure) and Dorian is dismayed to realize that one day he will lose his good looks. When they see the finished painting of Dorian, he fervently declares out loud that he would trade his soul if the painting would age instead of him. Unfortunately, his wish is granted with more consequences than he could ever expect.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
This is one of the best examples out there of classic gothic horror. And being by Oscar Wilde, it’s poetry, philosophy, intrigue, and twisted storytelling at its best.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes – I highly highly recommend it.
Why did this book make your list?
It’s a classic, I enjoy gothic horror, and listed by BBC as one of the top 200 best novels ever written.
Has it won any awards?
It predates the modern literature award era.
“It is rather fashionable to marry Americans just now, Uncle George.” – p 45
“Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realise his conception of the beautiful.” – p 163
Be careful not to base your opinion on who Dorian Gray is simply by looking at the modern pop culture references to him. He’s different than you would imagine.
My only experience with Dorian Gray’s story is by watching the Sean Connery version of “LXG.” And I was pretty sure that wasn’t the best way to learn about this classic piece of literature. So imagine my excitement when I found a beat up old copy in the local library. I love reading old books. And an old gothic horror book – oh goody! 🙂 The story itself seemed to take a while to get going. But as it progressed, I realized the story wasn’t so much about the picture but the downfall of Dorian. His corruption begins before the picture actually begins to age. And contrary to popular conception, Dorian doesn’t live to be hundreds of years old. The philosophy of this novel isn’t something I really agree with, but I found myself actually enjoying every bit of it Wilde crammed in there. The prose was so much like poetry (and not the tiresome mouthful of frivolity poetry) that even if it was pure evil going on in the plot – I still wanted to keep reading. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the homosexuality in this book. I knew it was there, but I thought it was just me falling back on my old Tennant standbys (the garden of Eden, rape, homosexuality and feminism). But I guess I should have expected it with Wilde’s sexuality.