Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

Other authorsIngrid Rein (Translator), Ulrich Horstmann (Afterword)
Paperback, 1996



Call number

HL 4864 B595



Stuttgart: Reclam, 1996


A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Eat_Read_Knit
Are you sitting comfortably? Got a cup of tea? Not going to need to let the cat out any time soon? Then we'll begin.

Dorian Gray mourns that he will lose his youth while his portrait remains unchanged and wishes for the portrait to age instead of him, little suspecting that his wish will come true
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and that the portrait will display the ravages of his depravity and hedonism.

This is a story of horrible people doing horrible things and becoming even more horrible. By rights, that ought to make it a horrible story. It isn't. It's magnificent.

Normally, I have to sympathise with at least some of the characters to feel that I have got something out of a book - but the characters on parade here were universally irritating or loathsome. I'm not particularly keen on Oscar Wilde's writings generally. I don't like the self-conscious witticisms that are trying to be aphoristic but merely sound pretentious. I didn’t have much patience for the comments on art and I don't much admire Wilde's style. And yet, other than a couple of places where I faltered, I found the book compelling. The way in which the book commented on wrongdoing, hedonism and conscience - and the way in which it prompted me to think about those things - was mind-blowing.

Wilde doesn't describe the details of Dorian Gray's lifestyle. He alludes to it - we see hints of relationships ended badly and abuse of opiates - but we never see details. And I think this makes it more powerful. The actual acts don’t matter so much as the fact that they stem from selfishness, and the damage they do the person who commits them. The reader can never feel superior for not having lived as Dorian lived, or argue over whether a particular action or choice is actually wrong at all, but instead is provoked into considering the root causes of Dorian Gray's situation and asking, 'am I - how am I - trying to hide the damage I am doing to my own soul by my own bad choices?'

The picture itself is a fascinating plot device. It strikes me as being as much a metaphor for conscience as for sin. The things which Dorian Gray does affect the picture in the same way they affect his soul. He becomes twisted and callous, and the portrait shows that. To begin with, he isn’t indifferent to the effect of his behaviour on others. Not at first. He feels some guilt over Sibyl Vane, although later his concerns over what he does to Basil are entirely selfish. He becomes gradually more and more calloused - less and less attuned to the feelings of others, less and less able to feel the damage he is doing.

He understands that the picture represents his soul, his state of sin, and he knows that each selfish action will cause more damage. In that way, the picture is a kind of external conscience, telling him incontrovertibly that he has done wrong. And yet despite that, he does not change. He hides the picture away and refuses to allow the world to see what his soul is like, and broods over it until the obsession leads him to the final act of self-destruction.

Our consciences can never be physically seen, by us or by anyone else. Yet we still hide away things that we have done which we know or believe to be wrong. For most of us they are little things, but they are things we don’t want others to know about. Human beings have an astonishing capacity to disregard the damage they are doing to themselves and others - physically, emotionally, spiritually - and instead to seek short-term pleasure. Dorian Gray's hedonism and refusal to consider the consequences of what he does is an extreme example - people generally have the capacity for great love and kindness and well as acts of selfishness - but it seems to me that it's designed to be (and ought to be) a prompt for the reader to consider what a picture reflecting their own soul would look like.

Exactly how we as readers unpack this is going to depend to some extent on our worldview: whether we believe people are fundamentally good, evil or good-but-flawed, and the extent to which we believe we make our own destiny or are affected by outside influences. For me, it was impacted very strongly by the Bible verse, 'If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.' (1 John 1:8). None of us is perfect, all of us do things wrong from time to time. Dorian Gray refused to face his own flaws, hiding the evidence of them away. He refused to face the consequences of his actions, or to use those experiences and their consequences to become a better person. He brooded on the picture and the state of his own soul, and was concerned only with them and not with the people he had hurt. He looked at the visible manifestation of his own conscience and refused to accept or act on what it was showing him. When we're faced with the consequences of our own misjudgements, selfish actions, poor lifestyle choices - sins - we can ignore the evidence and mire ourselves deeper as Dorian Gray does, or choose to act on the warning and turn things around.
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LibraryThing member copyedit52
Not just about aging, which I assumed, based upon popular culture, but moral degeneration too; or rather, about moral degeneration and aging, in that order.

As a reader, looking to enjoy himself (I give up on a lot of books if the writing itself doesn't appeal to me), the prose at first was
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annoying--too flowery for me--but I got used to it, and at the same time more appreciative of what the author was accomplishing. In my rating, it loses a star because of a long and eventually tedious recitation of meretricious objects collected by the protagonist, in the interests of Art.
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LibraryThing member veilofisis
The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the most elegant novels in the Gothic canon; that it is also one of the most sinister is hardly surprising given Oscar Wilde’s curious aptitude for tempering the macabre with the sensuous and the frivolous with the fatalistic.

A considerable scandal upon its
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publication in the early 1890s, the novel still reads as slightly homoerotic, even if only in the most clandestine and aphotic of ways. Woven through its themes of beauty, decadence, age, and the nature of art is a thread of shimmering doom that becomes more poignant the longer one spends with Dorian Gray and the more one considers its relationship with its author.

It is a peacock’s fan of luminous wit and glimmering color, dripping with venom and smelling of strange perfumes. We are all familiar with the general flavor of things: an innocent and exceptionally beautiful youth has his portrait painted one fateful afternoon; upon viewing the piece, he is paralyzed by the sudden revelation that one day he will be old and hideous while the painting will retain its beauty and life. In a devil’s bargain, he wishes that it would be the other way around. And then, under the influence of a particularly deleterious gentleman, Dorian Gray begins to change: his innocence gives way to corruption and his beauty seems apt to languish under the spell of opium, cruelty, and languor. One day Dorian notices that the painting has begun to transform, while he himself retains all the beauty of an innocent despite the ever-swelling ocean of his sins…

Few works of literature are as effervescent as Dorian Gray and just as few are as utterly pessimistic; that it is capable of fusing remarkably disparate parts into a whole that is absolutely cohesive is a superior example of its author’s gifts. Like Wilde’s Salome, Dorian Gray is as colorful as it is bleak, and even its weaknesses, in context, seem like strengths.

Seldom is an artist’s most famous work also his most erudite and brilliant: this is one of those works. I have approached it perhaps six or seven times in the last five years, and each reading has left me more enraptured than the last—which is high praise for a novel that relies a great deal on suspense and aesthetic splendour. I consider it one of the finest things I have ever read—daring, sultry, venomous, eloquent, and radiant in its own decay.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
The classic beginning line to a creepy tale is "It was a dark and stormy night." With reference to this book, truly, one can say it is the ghastly tale of a dark and stormy life.

When young, handsomely beautiful Dorian Gray is painted by the highly talented artist Basil Hallward, he does not realize
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the price for an exquisite portrait of dashing youth.

Rich, hedonistic Lord Henry reminds Dorian that canvas freezes the moment, but in reality youth is fleeting.

Oscar Wilde's poetic writing paints an incredible picture of degeneration and the duality of human nature.

Setting these three characters in motion is like a chemical experiment, analogous to Marie Currie extolling the wonderment of radium, while failing to understand the repercussions.

At first a dashing, moral young man, when encouraged by rich and nihilistic Lord Henry, Dorian embraces the dark and seedy underbelly of human nature and society.

Free to use society as his playground, the portrait of Dorian ages while he remains young. We watch in horror as Dorian spins out of control with no moral or ethical boundaries.

This is Oscar Wilde at his best. This is a wonderful piece of work focusing a harsh, bright light on the hypocrisy of the Guilded Age wherein the parlors, the clothes and all outward signs of trappings are respectable, but inside the soul is greed, avariciousness, seediness and corruption.
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LibraryThing member ChocolateMuse
I find myself a bit baffled by this book, mainly because I can't work out the discrepancy between my understanding of the author and the outcomes of the book. Am I right in thinking that Wilde was a High Art subscriber to the idea of Art For Art's Sake (caps necessary)? If so, why did he write a
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book almost entirely about the danger and corruption that art and intellect can bring to a person?

Almost everything in this book points out the hollowness of art in itself, and how that taking it too seriously can do serious damage to a person's life and character. There is the painting of Dorian itself, that opens Dorian's eyes to beauty and sets him on the path of corruption. There's Sybil Vane, who Dorian falls in love with solely as the characters she acts as in Shakespeare's plays - he doesn't love Sybil herself at all, only her art. When she forsakes her art, this leads to Dorian's further cruelty, corruption and death. There's the 'poisonous' book that Lord Henry lends to Dorian, which seals his fate in evil and corruption. And that inevitable ending where by trying to destroy the painting, Dorian destroys himself (sorry about that spoiler, but I absolutely must put it in!) underlines that message yet again.

It just seems to not add up to me - clearly I'm missing something that is probably blindingly obvious.

Otherwise, my impression of the book is that Oscar Wilde thought he was enormously clever, and decided to write a book that illustrates that fact. He was clever, and the book is very clever, but it's awfully self-conscious. I've never read a book so full of epigrams.

I feel as if this review is rather pretentious, which makes sense, as I think the book itself is equally so (in fact a lot more so). The book is quite powerful, and has some gorgeous language. And the bit where the murdered man is left in the room and is still in the same place the next morning, slumped over the table unchanged after the night, is an awesome specimen of gothic horror.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
A friend of mine was shocked, shocked that I'd never read Oscar Wilde, a great favorite of hers. She virtually twisted me arm to read this novel NOW. Since I do trust her literary tastes, after duly resisting I gave this a try. My first reaction was that the style was gorgeous and sensuous without
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ever falling into purple. Not baroque, but something simply beautiful to read, like a fine sculpture, something definitely man-made and skillfully put together. My second reaction was an itch akin to irritation, because something in its world view rubbed me raw. Ordinarily I'd separate quite readily views of the author from that of the characters, but I suspect part of that was the frame of mind I was put in by the Preface, added to the novel after uproar over the "immorality" of the original novella:

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming... There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well-written, or badly written. That is all.

Together with the whole character of Lord Henry and his "New Hedonism" that just made the book even more creepy somehow. As if beauty and youth is an excuse for anything. (There is also a Jewish character that fit anti-Semitic stereotypes far too well for my liking. A minor character however.) On the other hand, the prose isn't just beautiful, but the dialogue sparkling and witty with many quotable lines. In terms of the strength of the writing, ideas, philosophic and psychological depth this classic work of horror makes, for instance, Stevenson's Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde seem cheesy and shallow. About the only passages I thought ever passed into excess or tedium was in the long listing of Dorian's indulgences in such things as jewels and embroidery in Chapter Eleven. For beautiful prose mixed with chilling horror, this is your book. And however much Oscar Wilde might deny it--a very moral book in every sense of the word. A novel about conscience and sin and the secrets we hide behind screens.
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LibraryThing member readafew
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a well known classic and many people have some idea about the story line, a magic picture ages and bears the marks while Dorian himself doesn't change. While that is an important part, there is a lot more to the story. I felt it was well worth the time to read this
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I am willing to admit ignorance in the subject but the first section of the book felt very much like a chaste homosexual romance, which considering the time it was written, I can only imagine many did consider it lurid, as several of the reviews of the time showed (5-6 contemporary reviews of the work were available in the appendixes).

There were 3 main characters Dorian, his artist friend Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotten. Basil and Henry gravitate around Dorian and appear to be like the little angel and the little devil that sit on each shoulder. Basil an artist in love of beauty and purity. Lord Henry, a cynic and enjoys putting down everything others hold in high regard. Since this is a moral tale, Dorian slowly listens to his little devil more and more, and as he suffers no serious repercussions for his forays into sin, his experiments become darker and more elaborate. His portrait painted by Basil, is a road map and mirror to Dorian's depravity which starts to eat away at Dorian's sanity.

Overall a fairly good tale, a little flowery like much of the Victorian lit but not nearly to the extent of Dracula.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Wilde’s Faustian tale of a young man who expresses the desire to sell his soul in order to stop aging and to live a hedonistic life, where the effect of aging as well as his debauchery take place on his portrait, instead of him. It’s an interesting concept for a story and on top of that Wilde
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is of course an incredibly sharp wit, so Dorian is enjoyable.

On the mind-body connection:
“That is one of the great secrets of life – to cure the soul by means of the senses, and the sense by means of the soul.”

On experience:
“As it was, we always misunderstood ourselves, and rarely understood others. Experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

On joy in small things:
“…a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play – I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.”

On old age:
“We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were much too afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to…”

“The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect are people much younger than myself. They seem in front of me. Life has revealed to them her latest wonder. As for the aged, I always contradict the aged. I do it on principle. If you ask them their opinion on something that happened yesterday, they solemnly give you the opinions current in 1820, when people wore high stocks, believed in everything, and knew absolutely nothing.”

On parenthood:
“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

On youth:
“What was youth at best? A green, and unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts.”
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LibraryThing member Muscogulus
I’m glad I finally read this famous book. It’s easy to see both why Victorian pundits despised it and why Oscar Wilde claimed to be baffled that anyone would find it “immoral.” Maybe he was being disingenuous; after all, the most enjoyable parts of the book are Lord Henry Wotton’s
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devilish and highly quotable maxims. (Isn’t it strange? He talks just like Oscar Wilde.)

Rather than meditate on the famous fable-like plot, I'll offer up some nearly random impressions:

Most Wildean sentence: In the grass, white daisies were tremulous. I’d say white and tremulous are Wilde’s two favorite adjectives, and flowers are among his favorite props.

Regarding the flowers, two examples:

1. As Lord Henry preaches his gospel of hedonism to Dorian at their first meeting, notice how the bees plunge lustily into the flowers as if to prove that Henry’s doctrine really is a “law of nature.”

2. In the climactic Chapter 13, Dorian’s treatment of the flower in his coat demonstrates how cool and detached he is, in contrast to his doomed guest.

Then there are what I'll call the Edward Said elements, rife with capital-O Orientalism:

Turn to almost any page and you’ll find some sign of the plunder accruing to the elite of the British Empire. Where would our London gentlemen be without their Astrakhan coats, Turkish rugs, Moorish lamps, Chinese boxes, African ivory, ebony, tea, tropical flowers, Florentine furniture, or South American silver?

There are a number of “oriental” touches to Isaacs, the Jewish manager of a theatre frequented by “tawdry” East Enders. Our gentleman protagonists find it hard to believe that the two-legged creatures in the audience, although English, are really of “the same flesh and blood” as themselves. The Jew, of course, is assumed not to be, although he gets credit for being willing to bankrupt himself for the sake of Shakespeare. (Wonder how often he staged The Merchant of Venice?)

Ch. 16: The opium dens of London are peopled by Malays, “half-castes” and other “grotesque” beings from the fringes of the Empire, human objects with hideous, crooked grins and “lustreless eyes” that can flash red sparks.

The cover of my 1986 edition was no less monstrous, and not in a good way, so I'm glad Penguin changed it. Given the hundreds of editions of this book, which never goes out of print, it's unlikely that you will ever see this particular cover, so it's not worth belaboring how its every detail clashes with the narrative. I only mention it because it's frustrating to see a major publisher be so obtuse. If you happen to acquire a copy that pictures someone holding a candle up to a gaudily framed portrait of a red-nosed man, just ignore it. Tear it off and throw it away.

Notes: The endnotes in this Penguin edition are as good as the cover is bad. But do you really need to refer to them? You do. This is why: Dorian Gray moves in a world of 1890s fashion and fads, and terms such as “a Patti night” were bound to fade fairly quickly. And if you already knew a “Blue-book” from a “Blue Book,” you’re way ahead of me. Wilde also assumes that his reader knows which London neighborhoods are wealthy and fashionable, and which aren’t, but these facts have changed more than slightly since 1891.

So the notes are good; brief and helpful. Only one runs longer than a few lines, and that’s because Wilde insisted on including several stanzas of French verse in the novel. The note translates them for you.

P.S. I read this book in 2003, the year that Dorian Gray reappeared as a character in one of the American empire's fantasies, viz., The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's a comic-book epic, transferred to film, in which we re-imagine the turn of the 20th century rather than face the consequences of our own actions at the turn of the 21st. Instead of a tragic hero, Dorian Gray becomes a sort of cross between Beau Brummel and the Terminator. The movie is ridiculous for countless reasons, but may be worth your time anyway. It's an artifact of, I don't know, something.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
An essay by little Richie D.
WHAT A HOOT!! This book puts the "blown" in "overblown!" It's deliciously, delightfully over every top it can find (frankly, I think the only top in the whole book is Lord Henry, and just MAYbe the Duchess of Monmouth) and
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it's got some of the world's great put-downs in it. The whole "Perhaps, after all, America has never been discovered...I myself would say it has merely been detected" that our own Divine Miss M. adores is one of the best (p64 in the Penguin Classics edition; midway through chapter 3, at any rate). But consider the gorgeousness of Wilde's sensory world: his description of violets as bringing back the memories of failed love affairs (citation eludes me) or the passage in chapter 11 (pp162-3 in Penguin Classics) as follows:
"Veil after veeil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its anttique pattern. The wan mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and besides them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter that we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often." Beautiful layering of sense images with emotional responses that enhance and inform each other. Not unusual in this book, I must say! There are so many examples that I can cite, that choosing only one or two is very difficult.
Among the many things that this book left me with after reading it in 1973, this impression is not one; I was reading it with a sense of hurry and rush because there was going to be a TV movie of the book and I wanted (callow youth that I was) to know what the hell they were talking about! (The actor who played Dorian was nothin' special...or not to my lusty teenaged eyes anyway.) Then the local movie station played the 1945 theatrical film, and THAT was more like it! Donna Reed was in it, and so was Peter Lawford, so there was much more eye candy. Also, the thing was in black-and-white, while the portrait was the only thing seen in color. WOW! The book seemed to me more alive after that film. This wonderful piece of writing isn't a great novel, though. It's been through the mills. It was a magazine novella, and it got Victorianized by ye olde Oscar before it came out in book form. It was a scathing attack on British society, and so they had to find a reason to hate it...apparently the magazine text has much more homo content (for its day) than the book version does. It was attacked as glorifiying vice, so Wilde wrote chapters 3, 5, 15,16,17 and 18 to answer the charges. Seems a shame that there has never been a kind of side-by-side or comparative critical edition done, or at least none that a cursory search reveals. I'd enjoy knowing how much he pulled in his horns. Partly because of this, I think there are structural issues with the story-telling like characters vanishing for extended periods of time (eg, Basil Hallward, whose sanctimonious queeenship gets what he deserves rather too late IMHO, or Lady Wotton whose knowingness about Lord Henry leads me to wonder why she ultimately ran away with some unknown stranger at the end of the book, among others). I think the book's infamy is an artifact of its time and its enduring fame a commentary on our times, since we've changed so much and still so little in the interim. The scandal of Dorian's queerness is relatively dated, his explorations of the drug culture risible to a modern audience, and yet his leading of the youth of his time astray resonates down the years in the uniform hostility it engenders among the parents in the piece. On the whole, a very pleasurable read and one I'm glad to have revisited. Thank you, Divine Miss, for reminding me of it.
Respectfully tendered (no one would expect ME to say "submitted," would they?), RMD
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LibraryThing member theokester
I knew relatively little going into this book...and what little I did know was from less than 100% accurate retellings such as in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or references from cheesy shows or horror flicks (I think perhaps there was a reference in Scooby Doo somewhere?). I had the basic
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gist...there's a guy, Dorian Gray, who has some magical painting that ages while he stays young and wonderful forever. Not much to go on, but I was still excited to read it. I was pleasantly surprised that the book had much more depth to it.

The plot is intriguing and has been used in other stories, though I think this one has more depth than I've seen before. Essentially, Dorian makes a wish that he will be forever as pristine as the painting made of him and that instead the painting will take on it the toils of his life. Whatever supernatural forces allow this to happen are irrelevant...the wish is granted.

It's more than a simple "young forever" contract. Although age plays into the plot in a couple of places, the primary things that distorts the picture are the vices that Dorian engages in. The first transformation of the painting happens after an intense argument with the first woman he loved. It was interesting to me how quickly Dorian recognized the cause of the change for what it was, but had he belabored the motive for too long, the pacing of the book would have stalled and become unacceptable.

Dorian uses his "power" to be ruthlessly reckless in his living. Dorian Gray becomes entirely uninhibited, taking everything to its limit, seeking absolute pleasure. He even sneaks out at night (so as not to tarnish his pristine reputation) to the "bad side of town" and lives a sort of double life in opium dens with gangs and prostitutes.

In many ways (perhaps because I so recently read it), I felt many similarities to the morale commentary presented in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I felt that Wilde did a better job of delving into the psyche of the hypocritical character, largely because we were able to get into Dorian's head and think and feel with him, while in Jekyll/Hyde, we were kept at a distance by a third person narrative.

There are three pivotal characters in this book.
The first, obviously, is Dorian himself. For the first many chapters (perhaps nearly the first half of the book in fact), I wasn't terribly pleased with Dorian as a character...he felt very flat to me. He was basically a mirror to one of the other primary characters (Harry) and didn't ever show his own opinion. He was hailed as pure and beautiful. Perhaps it's all the art references in the book, but I often felt as if Dorian existed more as a classical statue than as a living, breathing character. As his interaction with the 'picture' progresses and once he takes some rather unexpected steps, he became a deeper character and a lot of fun to be with.
The second primary character is Lord Harry (or was it Henry...blast those Brits for swapping those names interchangeably so often *grin*). Harry exists as the provocative, cynical, always-with-a-comment-about-anything mentor to Dorian. Harry is absolutely encouragable and a lot of fun to listen to. His speeches often have to do with the pursuit of pleasure at any and all costs and the hazard of a virtuous and peaceful life. His influence over Dorian is profound. As I mentioned above, it often felt as if Dorian existed merely as a mirror for Harry's advice. Harry didn't seem to follow all of his own advice, but Dorian took it readily to heart and strove to live a 'come-what-may' existence. Harry had some of the funniest and most profound comments of the entire narrative. He's a fabulous character.
The third character I want to point out actually existed as more of a background character, but I feel the need to call him out merely because of his pivotal involvement in the plot. I actually can't even remember his name now...but it will suffice to call him, "the artist." He's the one who paints Dorian's picture. He's the one who introduces Dorian to Harry. He's the one who tries to give Dorian good advice to counter all the reckless advice that Harry poisons him with. The artist was kind of like Dorian's "Jiminey Cricket"...his conscious that was often (always?) ignored until it was far too late. He showed up in surprisingly few scenes considering the huge importance he had to the plot.

Style, Pacing, etc
The language used in this book was truly beautiful. Wilde wrote flowing, vivid descriptions of characters, places and actions. At times it was very poetic. It may be a bit too flowery for readers who don't enjoy that sort of description...it came very close to being 'over the top' to me in a few places. Still, I generally enjoyed the formality of it and the life it gave to the text. The first dozen or two pages were tedious to me...whether because of the language or just the style and thematic pacing, I'm not sure.

The pacing was a bit slower than I would have liked. The main difficulty I saw was that Wilde was trying to present so many themes that he often had to result to lengthy passages praising or condemning one thing or another. There were often very long monologues by one of the three primary characters mentioned above. Harry's were generally offset by bits that made me laugh by their extremity while speeches from Dorian and the artist sometimes made me want to slap them and tell them to shut up.

I was a little torn on my overall feeling for the book. It took me a while to get into it and there were long passages that were drudgerous to push through. However, from a high level, this is one of the better books I've read this year...or even for numerous years. It had a plenitude of intriguing themes that left me thinking in between readings. It had a lot of humorous quips and paradigms as presented by Harry that I laughed out loud at. It had surprising twists and tension that left me curious as to the true outcome (as opposed to that from rip-off stories). There are a couple of spots that could be considered "climax"...the confrontation with the artist is the main turning point in the book. Personally, I would have rather seen more pages after that turning point than before it. I think the last 1/3 of the book was far more engaging. At the same time, the buildup was necessary to promote the intended mood.

Overall, this is a book I definitely recommend, with the caveat that you should be aware that it does slow down at points. Just push through those. The overall work is worthy of a couple of slow zones. In fact, perhaps those slow zones serve the purpose of allowing more pondering.

4.5 stars
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LibraryThing member lcrouch
A fascinating study of beauty gone evil.
LibraryThing member ctpress
“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”

Not the best advice in the world to a young innocent man.

The premise of Oscar Wilde's only novel is well-known. Dorian Grays friend Basil Hallward paints
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his picture - and Gray thinks it's a shame he will grow older, but the picture will stay the same. He declares that he would sell his soul if the reverse was true. Well, be careful what you wish for……

This was a reread - and it's remarkable that I remember so many things from this story - having read it back in the 80's. Down to certain quotes I remember pasting into a scrapbook I once had - the power of stories. I was very fascinated by it back then - I wasn't gripped so much by it this time.

The reckless libertine, Lord Henry Wotton admires the young Adonis - and he deliver's much of the wit in the story with his amoral life wisdom spoken out so elegantly.

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.”

Things like that.The second part of the story is not so well crafted I think, but it is slowly building up to the "grand finale" - the novel reminded me of Stevenson's [Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde] although that is a more of a gothic horror story than [Dorian Gray]. But I mostly enjoy it for the conversations in the beginning between, Basil, Lord Henry and Dorian Gray. That's sublime.
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LibraryThing member Davidgnp
I knew the central theme of this book so well that I had almost persuaded myself I had read it, but I am glad to have convinced myself otherwise as I would have missed out on a pearl. It works on several levels: first as a superior horror story, with Dorian Gray effectively selling his soul for
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eternal youth, with all the marks not only age but of debauchery, sin and eventually murder appearing on the portrait which he has locked away in his attic; secondly a morality tale of vice, remorse and retribution; thirdly as a philosophical discourse on hedonism and its consequencs as practised by a section of the upper classes in late Victorian society; finally as a comment on contemporary attitudes to homosexuality, still illegal at this time and for the best part of a century afterwards (the author Oscar Wilde was of course notoriously imprisoned for transgression).

The language is deliberately mannered and at times almost overblown, teeming with typical Wildean epigrams and paradoxes which are usually articulated by Gray's mentor, the cynical Lord Henry Wotton, who leads Gray into self-destructive pleasure-seeking. In the background of the narrative nature imagery abounds, setting into relief the stiflingly artificial lives and discourses of high society.

The novel might best be described as a blend of gripping story and moral essay or discussion involving the active participants (like Plato's'Republic'). It is the story, however, and the final image of bloody atonement, that remains longest in the memory and for which the book is justly famous.
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LibraryThing member BenDV
Though I somewhat enjoyed this novel, it did not live up to my expectations. The basic plot of Dorian Gray sounds like it will almost definitely lead to a classic novel; a young man yearns to have eternal youth and have a portrait of himself age instead, and his wish comes true, leading him to a
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life of hedonistic excess. It sounds absorbing, ominous and generally awesome. Sadly, I don't really think Wilde manages to execute it as well as he could have. Not because he doesn't manage to write a good Gothic novel, but because he tries to write something more than a standard Gothic novel, and doesn't quite manage it. More on that later.

I felt that it showed that this was the first (and only) novel Wilde wrote; his capacity as an essayist seems to be shown in the many extended discussions between the characters, and of course there are some brilliant one-liners, but the story itself isn't dealt with well. It has a beginning that's takes more than half the book to happen, a middle that gets almost entirely skipped, and then an ending that never feels as dramatic as it should do. The only part in which the novel feels like it fulfills its potential is the murder scene, which is built up to brilliantly and then executed in a truly chilling way. Everything else is rather enjoyable and interesting, but I was left at the end feeling confused and underwhelmed.

One thing that didn't help was that I didn't realise the novel's preface was written as a response to its critics, and has nothing much to do with the story; the whole thing of art for arts sake kind of distracted me. I also sometimes got confused in the long discussions, and was never taken in by Lord Henry Wotton and his ideas (are we supposed to agree with him in some way? I was never quite sure how to react to him, aforementioned confusion probably didn't help), which instantly seemed pretty dumb to me- though that could be simply because I am not physically attractive and therefore got annoyed at Henry's claims that life without physical beauty basically sucks (although as the novel goes obviously Wilde shows the flaws in this belief and the hypocrisy of Wotton).

And that's another area where Dorian Gray doesn't quite work; the characters. I was never quite sure how I was supposed to react to them. Am I supposed to like Basil Hallward or think he's just a bland conformist? Am I supposed to think Henry Wotton is a genius, a devil, an idiot, or a hypocrite? Am I supposed to think Dorian Gray is a misguided innocent, or a diabolical, awful human being? He's not convincing as either really- too bland to be evil, too crazy to be innocent. Maybe that's what Wilde was going for; supposedly he put elements of himself into each of the characters. The character of Dorian Gray is effective during that murder scene because he makes you question whether he is really a freak, or whether this is what anyone could be capable of if put in his position- rather like the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, only better because Dorian Gray initially seems normal and likable.

This problem I had with the characters is the problem I had with Dorian Gray generally; on one level it feels like it's just supposed to be an average 19th century Gothic novel like Frankenstein; highly moralistic, intended to have a thrilling, intense story with characters that are easy to pigeon-hole. If it had just been like that, I have no doubt it would've been a great read, and I guess when I read that it was a Gothic novel, that's pretty much what I was expecting from what I knew of Gothic novels. But at the same time, Wilde has clearly tried to write a book that is something more, where the morality isn't quite as black and white, where the characters are more complex and, perhaps, more real. But he hasn't quite managed it; it's still ultimately a Gothic novel, it's just had the intensity taken out of most of it. Instead it's slow, wordy and anti-climactic. It's still good, but it didn't quite work for me. Maybe I just didn't get Dorian Gray; maybe I was putting my expectations (which were high) on to it too much. But it did kind of disappoint me, though it was still a pretty good read. It's a novel that seems like it might be worth a second read sometime.
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LibraryThing member figre
Read this book.

Do not go in with your negative preconceived notions about 19th century writing (“Yuck. One of those stodgy, pretentious tomes that hurt to read); do not go in thinking you already know the plot (even though the premise is well known – the picture gets old; Dorian doesn’t) and,
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like me, fully assuming that the truth would be hidden from all until that final twist (think M. Night Shyamalan on South Park saying “It’s a twist!”) much like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (which, come to think of it, I have not read either, and I may be wrong on that one, too); and don’t go in thinking this is a horror story (unlike a Stephen King monster jump – this is a horror story of the soul). Instead, go in expecting a well-told story and, if you have any positive preconceptions of Oscar Wilde, take those along with you, also.

I think the most surprising thing to me (after the surprise that I truly enjoyed this book) was how much the first part reflected Oscar Wilde’s wit. It is not appropriate through the entire story, and he doesn’t use it, but it does continue to pop up as extra value to an already well-crafted novel. Just two quick examples (from the same page): “’Why can’t these American women stay in their own country? They are always telling us that it is the paradise for women.’ ‘It is; that is the reason why, like Eve, they are so excessively anxious to get out of it.’” And “Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.”

But, at its heart, this is still a story of the evil nature that can exist in people. The end is not a surprise (we’ve heard the story, we’ve seen the movie, we’ve read the comic book), but the voyage is a good one.
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LibraryThing member SmithSJ01
Very challenging to begin with, although I can’t explain whether this was primarily due to Oscar Wilde’s writing style or getting to grip with the gentry from Victorian times. The novel seems to span a period of about 20 years although there were some serious jumps in time as nothing seemed to
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take that long. It wasn’t until Dorian met a character later in the novel and mentioned an incident from 18 years earlier that I realised the time frame.

A clever novel whereby we need to think about what we wish for as the grass is not always greener on the other side and we never think about the consequences of our desires. Dorian in facts dreams of what most people wish for – to remain young. He offers his soul to a beautiful portrait of himself in return for perpetual youth. This is fine to begin with and whilst his beauty does remain, the portrait takes on the images of wildness and slow dilapidation of his soul. He is involved in crime and death in pursuit of his passion, resulting in his eventual surrender.

A clever novel focusing on every narcissistic thoughts of the human race have. A good reflection on the ‘dandy’ of the Victorian era and a lovely portrayal in general of life in London at this time. The blurb states that this novel caused outrage when first published, which I was aware of and can understand why. However, it also states that this novel marked the onset of his own fatal reputation (as a homosexual I would presume) and his eventual downfall – which I don’t understand why. From a difficult beginning this book had me hooked from a quarter of the way in. I look forward to seeing this interpreted on stage when I see it in September.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Sometimes you decide that you should make up for having never read any works of Oscar Wilde and learn that this book is far weirder than you ever imagined. The Picture of Dorian Gray is highly melodramatic and is tuned to Victorian era sensibilities of morality. This portrait in this book famously
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ages while it's subject remains young and beautiful, but the story is not about aging but the representation of Dorian Gray's evil acts in the visage of his picture. I was also surprised about how frank this book is about homosexuality for the time. At any rate, it's a nice surprise to finally read a book you think you know what it's about, only to find yourself very surprised.
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LibraryThing member mks27
Truthfully, The Picture of Dorian Gray is not an enjoyable book to read, mainly due to the corrupt nature of the main character which represents the darker side of humanity. At the same time, the story is compelling and the writing is extraordinary. The novel itself is what Wilde illustrates
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through the story, that of living a double life.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a sad story of an innocent young man who sells his soul to retain his physical beauty. Although, my preference is to read novels that illustrate the goodness of humanity, I believe this cautionary tale is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1890. Clearly, Oscar Wilde wrote of a society and of attitudes which he was intimately familiar and, although modern society has progressed, corruption is still present and experienced daily.

Wilde builds a social commentary on the Gilded Age in which he lived, where gentlemen and ladies of the upper class and, society itself, lived double lives of outward respectability and inward corruption. The author cleverly uses the story of Dorian Gray to comment on this double life, the meaning of beauty, the role of pleasure in life, the attitudes of the so-called respectable in society, and the effects of these attitudes and behaviors on the individual, their innocent victims, and society as a whole.

The writing is brilliant, extremely detailed, highly intelligent, and thought provoking. Wilde uses the character of Lord Henry to communicate the most outrageous and offensive thoughts associated with the leisure class of the time and excels at constructing dialogue and communicating satire. This is not a casual read or a novel to take to the beach, but one to be savored by taking in small doses as a way to avoid being consumed by its darkness. I recommend reading this novel to experience the writing of Oscar Wilde, his crafty use of dialogue and characters to tell his tale, and to just be in the moment with a great mind’s words and thoughts. Rating: 4 stars
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LibraryThing member pmtracy
This novel is about both a literal portrait of Gray and the figurative painting of his character to be one of self-indulgence and Victorian decadence and excess.

Gray is described to be of exceptionally striking physical appearance. At the start of the novel, he is somewhat modest and unaware of his
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effect on others. After the creation of his portrait by the artist Basil Hallward, he sees himself as others do and he declares that the portrait should bear the burdens of his “passions and sin” rather than suffering them himself. He gets his wish.

As he grows older in a chronological sense, Gray begins to take advantage of his looks and develops a narcissistic personality. His life of wealth and privilege leads to a sense of entitlement and self-righteousness that Gray uses to justify even the most despicable acts.

Gray wiles away his time by over-indulging his senses. Wilde meticulously describes Gray’s intense interest in the art of perfumery, art, and music; a product of Wilde’s involvement in the Aesthetic Movement. After indulgences, Gray deadens his senses through the use of opium. Because he feels no direct connection to life lacking the threat of death, Gray has no real purpose. While he is a deplorable character, you feel for his sense of displacement and longing.

Oscar Wilde’s works are highly quotable. Dorian Gray has a few impudent characters that epitomize Victorian attitudes towards women. Sayings like “The only way a woman can ever reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life.” don’t go over well today but must have been incredibly funny in their time.
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LibraryThing member joe_chip
i thoroughly enjoyed this and it totally met my expectations, even though it wasn’t exactly what i expected….

dorian gray is a beautiful, blonde-haired and rosy-cheeked and above all innocent, young man and is the subject of what looks to be the best portrait that basil hallward has done to
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date. as the portrait nears its completion basil receives a visit from lord henry wotton who is instantaniously fascinated with basil’s beautiful young sitter - not least of all because dorian is utterly naive to his own beauty.

henry cannot resist the temptation to reveal to dorian just how beautiful he is and embarks on a long speech in which he seduces dorian with his hedonist idealogy which proclaims beauty to be above all else. dorian is fascinated by henry’s words, but they don’t fully hit home until basil finishes the portrait of dorian gray. when dorian sees his image he fully reaslises just how beautiful he is and henry’s perversion of dorian’s values is complete.

dorian’s wonder and joy at his image are short-lived, however, because upon discovering the value of beauty he immediately realises that while his portrait will remain immaculate and forever beautiful, he will grow old and decay. he is filled with an immense hatred and a very real envy for the painting and in a moment of desperation utters a fervent wish that he could remain eternally youthful and that the painting would age in his place…

old oscar certainly knows how to tell a story and i must say this is one of the most perfectly paced novels i’ve read. his pacing is particularly impressive considering that its a novella - as we all know, novellas tend to be either too short (should’ve been a novel!) or too long (should’ve stayed a short story!). as you roll into the last chapter you can feel that its the last chapter, and when the conclusion comes it just feels right. this takes more than just pacing, it takes that rare ability of being able to set a story up and follow it through and give the reader a conclusion that is satisfactory and right, even if they don’t necessarily see it coming. i love that in a book and a film, and it is something that i really appreciate (and expect).

the book didn’t start perfectly, mind. uncle oscar goes just a bit too far with all his paradoxes and platitudes. i like them as much as the next person and they invariably hold a truth, but temperance, my friend, temperance…

aside from that it was really cool. dorian’s transformation into the horrid creature he becomes (at least on the inside) is both subtle and thoroughly believable. i particularly enjoyed how slow his degeneration was. i also liked the way that the painting degenerated, which was totally different from how i thought it would change. my impression was that the painting itself, the fabric, aged and decayed - but it is actually the image of dorian that changes. and how. just thinking of it now gave me a chill! aside from the dorian in the painting aging and gaining wrinkles, it also slowly becomes evil, starting with just a slight sneer that creeps into the lips and the eyes.

wilde’s characters are well crafted and interesting. dorian, in particular, is very well written - so much so that the novel bears rereading just for him. he is incredibly complex and has many shades to his personality. the dialogue (once the paradoxes subside) is sublime and the best i’ve read all year. the characters responded to each other and i truly believed what they were saying - which, of course, made the gothic moments all the more exciting!

i’d certainly recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy gothic literature, although i must add that i don’t think that its meant to be really scary - i think its more of a psychological examination. it particularly reminded me of the tone of “dr. jeckyl and mr. hyde” and for the way in which it explores the darker side of morality.
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LibraryThing member siri51
All very gothic.
LibraryThing member Bookmarque
It’s amazing the difference between what shocked then and what shocks now. It goes into very little detail of how Dorian ruins his life. There is a brief scene in an opium den but that is all we are told. There are people who refuse to be in the same room with him and there is of course that
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doctor who Dorian blackmails into disposing of the painter’s body after he kills the painter. What he did to that doctor is unknown but it must have been something really awful.

I especially liked the other friend Lord Henry something or other who initially plants the seeds of vanity in Dorian’s head. He convinces him that his beauty can redeem any wrongdoing he does. He convinces him that youth is the only thing worth having.

Over a period of 20 years, Dorian deteriorates until eventually he cannot stand himself. He finds out that even what he considers to be altruistic deeds are motivated by selfishness. In the end he stabs the horrid portrait with its bloody hands and twisted lips. His servants find him dead on the floor, the knife planted in his own chest and the portrait exactly as it had been the day it was painted.
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LibraryThing member Carl_Alves
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic story that after reading it, it is more of a good idea rather than a good book. Dorian Gray is the ultimate narcissist, so much so that he makes a Faustian pact for him to be young and beautiful forever after he receives a portrait from his artist friend
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Basil Hallward. While his looks remain unchanged, the portrait becomes old and corrupted as he does terrible things in his life, starting with driving his fiancée to commit suicide after breaking up with her because of a poor performance on stage.

As I mentioned, it’s a cool idea but not a particularly good book. For one thing, there isn’t a single likeable character in the whole book. Dorian is agonizingly weak and shallow. Basil is soft and wishy-washy. His friend, Henry, is utterly amoral. When a peasant character dies, he’s not concerned about the man’s life but only that the man who killed him in a hunting accident will be considered a bad shot. The characters are thoroughly misogynistic and prejudiced. The novel is filled with long, painful conversations that seem to go nowhere and get old real quick. By the time I got to the end of the novel, I was glad that it was done.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street
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LibraryThing member isse77
One of my all time favorites. Makes you think.
Story of Dorian Gray a perfectly beautiful boy then man who's beauty remains intact but a portrait of him retains his evil deads.


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3150050081 / 9783150050088
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