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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray

You may recall that I am doing a Victorian Reading Challenge in 2011.  I have finally finished my first book of the challenge (after a little detour into a different book).  Sadly, it took me about 8 weeks to finish The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It wasn't that I wasn't interested (quite the opposite), but more that I have book ADD.  I cannot remember a time when I wasn't in the middle of 2 or 3 books at once.

As for my thoughts on poor, sad Dorian... (yes, there will be spoilers)

I love this picture.  I am planning to watch this movie
version later this week.  I can't wait.

Well, I suppose that's it.  He's poor and sad.  I am of the school of thought that no matter what he (me?) may try, his (my?) sins always catch up with him (and me!).  I  thought it was interesting how Dorian hid away the ugly picture of himself, and even covered it.  But every now and again, he liked to pull down the fabric and take a look.  I guess he liked what he was doing--the power that he had over others.  It got me there something I like about doing the wrong thing?  I keep on doing wrong.  I wonder.

As for the character I most identified with, I would have to say Lord Henry.  When I started reading this book, my first thought about Henry was, "This is what I would be like without Jesus."  Which might give you a little more insight than I might like into my thoughts.  I am ashamed to admit that I "get" Henry's fascination with pushing buttons and creating his own amusement.  An argument could be made that Henry is the real villain of this story, who preys on young, naive Dorian.  That may be true at first, but Dorian has plenty of time to learn to think for himself.  He just chooses not to.

I know some people don't like Oscar Wilde, for a number of reasons.  I have always found him amusing.  I actually want to read An Ideal Husband this year if I can.  I've seen The Importance of Being Earnest, so I'm going to skip reading it for now.

I have all kinds of thoughts about this book, some of which I am still mulling over.  For those of you that have read it, what did you think?

You can read here about what others are reading for the Victorian Reading Challenge.


  1. I didn't like the book, but I do like your thoughts on it.

  2. I'm torn on the story. Wilde is a great writer and was very popular. To me Wilde doesn't believe the philosophy he lived. If any character is most like Oscar Wilde it was Dorian who ends up miserably & causing misery OR Henry who in the end says it was all words & a joke. The Aesthete movement was all show and no substance.

    So as a satirical story against shallow adorations - I found the book amusing. (Hey look a Charlie Sheen news story). Also amusing as pointing to the end of the philosophies if they are actually believed.

    The story material leaves me wanting to take a shower.

  3. Dan, I totally agree. I was trying to figure out which character Wilde would say he was most like, and I decided Henry. I suppose it goes with the movement of the time that it (art, his book) was really a big joke, as Henry says. I think the idea that one can create art without leaving a piece of the artist behind is foolishness. It certainly doesn't seem to have worked for Wilde, as here we are, seeing him in his work.

    In the end, I think this is a really great book, probably one of my favorite classics I've ever read. I think it has a lot to say about living a life without a moral compass.

  4. I thought it was about creating morality without God. Wilde took many opportunities to shoot down and mock religion so that we could see that it wasn't a motivation to do anything "right" or "wrong". Still, Dorian's hedonistic lifestyle didn't work out so well for him, even though no person (or God) was there to check his horrible behavior.
    Lord Henry was more or less just a catalyst for the story. He said whatever would cause a reaction whether or not he believed it. He wasn't really an interesting character to me.

    I didn't love the story. The writing was not compelling for me. (Why was Dorian's soul transferred to the painting? Nothing in the writing made be believe that "magic" would work. Maybe that's an issue I have with the time period, though.
    I also thought Wilde spent way too much of the story telling me what to think about what was happening instead of letting the story tell itself.
    This one isn't going on my list of favorites.

  5. Thank you. You gave me a great idea! I just uploaded An Ideal Husband to my Nook.

  6. As a follow-up, Hub and I watched Dorian Gray last night (the 2009 version with Colin Firth as Lord Henry). Skip it, my friends. I would say it is, at most, inspired by the novel. It strays so far that when Hub asked, "what's going to happen?" (which I wouldn't answer if I did know...just wait for the end) that my response became, "your guess is as good as mine. It's almost like the writer of the movie didn't really read the book." I am talking made-up characters, timing off, etc. Not your normal ruining of a book by making it into a movie. Now we're going to have to watch the classic version.


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