(Read 7th September – 17th September 2015)
This book revolves a portrait painted by Basil Hallward of his beautiful and youthful friend Dorian Gray. Then through Basil Dorian meets Lord Henry who convinces Dorian that beauty and satisfying the senses are two of life’s greatest pursuits. Dorian becomes consumed with the fear that his natural beauty will fade and he will become old and ugly whilst the portrait will be ever present to remind him of what he once possessed. Through this fear, Gray decides to sell his soul so that he remains ever young and the portrait ages and grows ugly with every sin he commits.
What follows is a series of events that display how Dorian Gray pursues the life that Lord Henry suggested. Every time he acts through sin and with each passing year the portrait becomes more and more disgusting and aged.
One of the novel’s main themes is living a double life. The book reminds the reader that most of what we see of people can be a grand illusion and that no one truly knows what happens in the comfort of another person’s home or private life. In fact in the beginning of the novel, Dorian Gray is largely a respected member of the aristocracy, who is frequently invited to private and social gatherings.
The novel is a difficult read, largely due to the fact that Oscar Wilde had an amazing style of writing, whereby every sentence is filled with some form of wit, sarcasm or social commentary. If you try to read it quickly, you will more than likely miss clever sentences or witty remarks. However this style can become quite cumbersome, whereby whole chapters can be filled with dialogues that serve to confuse and bore the reader. On top of this, the plot is rather predictable and can be guessed rather early on.
Therefore I would be slower to recommend this book compared to some of the other ones on the blog. However I would suggest that it is a book that doesn’t have to be read all at once. It could be dipped in and out of to revel in Wilde’s masterful use of language and to gain inspiration for what one can do with wordplay and satire.