The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
Reviewed by Portia
The Picture of Dorian Gray opens with the titular character meeting with an artist named Basil Hallward in London. Basil is captivated by Dorian and his incredible beauty as he sits for many portraits. Basil admits to his good friend Lord Henry Wotton that he is embarrassed by the portrait as he believes he has put too much of himself into the painting, hinting of his feelings towards Dorian. As Dorian arrives at the studio once more, Basil fears the meeting of Lord Henry and Dorian, thinking Lord Henry will corrupt him. Lord Henry and Dorian have a conversation about how fleeting youth and beauty is, and Dorian curses at the portrait because the painting will always have what Dorian will inevitably lose. He then declares he would give up his soul if it meant remaining youthful and beautiful forever. As the book progresses, Lord Henry introduced Dorian to a life only lived to experience pleasure. Dorian visits the theater and falls in love with actress Sibyl Vane. Sibyl then professes she can no longer act in love anymore because now she knows what the true thing is. Dorian breaks up with her because she lost the only thing he was interested in: her acting ability. Upon returning home, he notices the portrait of himself is slightly altered – there is now a hint of cruelty in his face. The next day, Lord Henry reveals that Sibyl has killed herself. Dorian resolves to hide his portrait so no one else can witness his sins. Dorian’s reputation sinks further and further as he lives his life solely contingent upon new experiences pertaining to immorality. The portrait is growing more disturbing as Dorian remains youthful and handsome. One night, Basil visits Dorian out of concern and Dorian lets him look at the portrait, horrifying Basil. Dorian says it’s too late and kills Basil out of anger. Dorian blackmails a chemist to help him dispose of the body. He encounters James Vane, Sybil’s brother, at an opium den and flees. James Vane is then accidentally killed, and this causes Dorian to resolve to fix his life and become better. He is unable to confess his crimes, however, and in a fit of rage he stabs the portrait. His servants find him on the floor: old, ugly, and hideous, with a knife in his heart – and the portrait of himself unharmed and beautiful.
The downfall of Dorian Gray starts with his friendship with Lord Henry, as predicted by Basil. In the beginning, Dorian battles with his own guilt and values and the newfound conventions gifted to him by Lord Henry. This is evidenced when he is racked with guilt over Sibyl’s suicide, but then ultimately resolves her suicide to be a form of artistry, as she was an actress that worked in tragedies. His ultimate disregard for her suicide, and thus his abolition of all guilt, is what starts his demise. He becomes increasingly corrupted through his pleasure seeking lifestyle, and even though this leads to his damaged reputation – the people of London are still fine with him because he is so beautiful and young. His ego is to blame for his disregard of consequence, as is his eternal youth and beauty.
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve loved Oscar Wilde and his books for a very long time, and The Picture of Dorian Gray is no exception. It is so well-written and I love the symbolism and the themes within the plot. There is no way I can give it anything under a 10/10. This has been a favorite book of mine for years and will remain so for a very long time.