The Picture of Dorian Gray
Published in 1973 by penguin books
Basil paints a picture of the young Dorian. Lord Henry admires the picture and tells Dorian that beauty is the most important thing you can have in live. Dorian says he doesn’t want to lose his beauty and that he would give anything for staying young. He wishes that the picture would turn old instead of him. Without knowing it his wish comes true.
He falls in love with a young actress, Sybil Vane. He goes to her shows every night. When he takes his friends Basil and Henry to one of her plays, she doesn’t play good anymore. He is very disappointed and he says to her that he no longer loves her. The same night Sybil kills herself. In the morning Dorian regrets his words and writes her a letter to say he is sorry. When he has heard that she has killed herself and he looks at the picture he sees a cruel smile on it. He doesn’t believe that his wish has come true, but he puts the picture in a locked room in the attic. The following eighteen years Dorian gets more and more malicious. Everyone talks about him and the bad things he has done. Dorian stays beautiful, but the portrait is a mirror of his soul and shows his outside and inside depravation. Then he shows the picture to Basil. He is frightened by the ugliness of the picture. Dorian kills him and blackmails the young biologist Alan Campbell to make the body disappear. Alan commits suicide later because of his conscience. The brother of Sybil made a promise to his sister and mother, that he would kill Dorian if he would hurt Sybil. After an eighteen year search he finally finds Dorian and hunts at him. But he is killed by accident in a hunting party by one of Dorian’s friends. After this, Dorian can not find anymore rest. The painting is covered with blood and Dorian keeps thinking about it. He wants to clear his conscience and start all over again. He can’t live anymore with al the terrible things he has done. He decides to destroy the painting. He grabs the knife he stabbed Basil with and cuts it in the painting. After an intense scream the servants find him lying on the floor with a knife in his heart. He has become as ugly as the painting was and the painting as beautiful as it once was.
The title, ‘the Picture of Dorian Gray’, refers to the picture that Basil made of Dorian. The picture is the most important thing in the book because it rules Dorian’s life.
The theme of the book is Dorian’s moral corruption, when he sells his soul in order to keep his beauty.
It is difficult to say which genre the book is from. It has horror, psychology, humour and drama.
The story is told chronological. The story is told by an omniscient writer. He tells the story from different points of view, sometimes from Lord Henry’s point of view, but mostly from Dorian’s. There are also al lot of dialogs in the book, mostly between Dorian and Lord Henry.
The story takes place at the end of the 19th century in London, England. The story mostly takes place in Basil’s house, Dorian’s house, and the theatre and opera buildings.
The main character is Dorian Gray. In the beginning of the book he is approximately eighteen years old, at the end he is thirty-six years old. He doesn’t have a profession. He is an orphan, his parents died when he was young and he is easy to influence. He is first a very gentle, rich and beautiful young man. When he has wished that the painting would grow old instead of him he is starting to change, this is also Lord Henry fault because he has a lot of influence on him. He tells him that beauty is the only thing that matters and as a result Dorian makes his wish. Lord Henry also sent Dorian a book about a young man who ruthlessly seeks all the pleasures of human life. Dorian was so impressed by this book that he started to act like the man in the book. Later in the book he turns into a very cruel man, you can see this clearly on the painting because it gets a cruel laugh and later there is blood on it. In the eighteen years that pass in the book he collects al lot of beautiful things. He is almost obsessed with beauty and is very afraid to lose his own. At the end he starts feeling regret for all the horrible things he has done. He wants to clear his conscience by destroying the painting. He is really planning to better his life.
Two other important characters are Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton. Basil is young talented painter. He admires the beauty of Dorian and he uses him in his pictures. Because of Dorian and his beauty his paintings become marvellous. He can’t stop giving Dorian compliments about his beauty and gentle character. Dorian is first a friend of him but when he meets Lord Henry they don’t meet each other very often anymore. When Dorian finds out that his wish has come true he doesn’t want to be in Basils pictures anymore. Basil can’t make another great picture anymore because he lost Dorian as his model and source of inspiration. Dorian also blames Basil for his curse. If Basil wouldn’t have painted the picture he couldn’t have made his silly wish. This is one of the reasons why he kills Basil. Basil is a gentle man and Dorian and Henry find him boring. He is very concentrated on his work and isn’t a very social person. Basil sees that Dorian is getting more spoiled over the years. He tries to warn him and tries to make clear that everyone is talking about him and the horrible things he has done. His warnings are not appreciated and if Dorian sees that Basil is frightened by the picture of his soul he kills him.
Henry Wotton is a friend of Basil and he becomes friends with Dorian too. He is an older rich man. He is an aesthete and a hedonist and he considers life itself a work of art. He tells Dorian to enjoy his life while he is beautiful. He also sends him the book about the man in Paris. He has a enormous influence on Dorian and he seems to enjoy that very much. Basil told Dorian not to become friends with Henry because he always spoils the people he becomes friends with. Later in the book the same thing is said about Dorian. He is married, but sees his wife only by accident, because they have their own life and lovers.
I really liked the subject of the book. I like it when there happens something strange in a book. The construction of the book is very clear. The story is told chronological.
The linguistic usage is old because the book was written in 1890. I had to get used to that in the beginning but later I found it not very hard to read. Sometimes the word usage reminded me that the book is old, especially in the dialogs. They used other language than people in modern life. Sometimes the things they said sounded like it was said in a play instead of a book. This is not very strange because Oscar Wilde has written many plays and this was his first and only book. I didn’t really liked one of the characters. I found Dorian first too simple and influenceable. I don’t like influenceable people because they do what other people tell them and than they are no longer themselves. This happens to Dorian too. He listens to Henry and turns from a gentle young man in a cruel person. I didn’t like Lord Henry either because he took advantage of that and spoiled Dorian with his thoughts and books. I didn’t like Basil because he was only working on his art and not really interested in anything else.
I found it interesting to read about Dorian’s changes trough the book. I also liked to search for signs that would say that one of the men was gay because I read about the commotion it caused when the book was first made public. I liked the dialogs between Dorian and Henry because I find it interesting to read about other peoples thoughts about life. I didn’t liked it when lord Henry talked about women because he is very negative about them. He says: “I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated.”
In the book is a clear warning, and because of that it is still up to date. It warns you that beauty and (good) looks are not important. Someone can be really beautiful on the outside, but very mean and cruel on the inside, just like Dorian Gray.