- Paperback: 140 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 23, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1515190994
- ISBN-13: 978-1515190998
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,616 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Picture of Dorian Gray Paperback – July 23, 2015
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A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man's portrait, his subject's frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray's picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, "as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife," Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. "The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden."
As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful "When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy." But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel's drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde's supposed aims, not least "no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style." Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: "All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself—exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate)—and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time. Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided). Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater. Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankelÿs inferences. A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting. (Mar.) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
I absolutely despise Dorian Gray, but I am sure that was Wilde’s intention. How could you like a man that is so selfish, narcissistic, and obsessed with his own youth and beauty at the cost of all others around him? Dorian truly represents the ugliest that humanity has to offer, and I am happy that he pays for his sins in a fairly poetic nature.
To lighten the serious tones of this book is Lord Henry, easily my favorite character. Nearly every line he speaks is a life-quote and his character gives insight to Wilde’s own thoughts regarding the world and the people in the world. A few of my favorites:
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it & your soul grows sick with longing for things it has forbidden itself.”
“Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.”
I liked this book so much that I want to re-read it immediately :).
Wow... if that isn't a powerful statement!
I will say this review contains spoilers, but most people know the story of Dorian Gray even if they haven't read it, so I'll leave it up to you on whether you want to continue onward.
I haven't read such a classic tale since high school, and I must admit, I have a much better appreciation for them as an adult. It is no wonder that Oscar Wilde received such criticism for this novel; so much being taboo for it's time. The accusations of homoerotic themes, well, is it any wonder? It was only a few short years later that Oscar Wilde was arrested for sodomy and homosexuality. It's said that the character of Dorian Gray can often be found in that of Oscar Wilde in their hedonistic ways. Which was probably what Oscar Wilde was most criticized for.
This is a very philosophical novel and although most of it is lost in today's time, I can imagine what an impact that must of had during that time and how controversial this novel really was. Let's consider the fact that the first time this was ever published nearly 500 words had been deleted. It was feared that The Picture of Dorian Gray would violate public morality.
So what's it all about for those of you who don't know? It's a beautiful summer day and Lord Henry Wotton, a philosophical, self-indulgent aristocrat is visiting his friend, Basil Hallward, a sensitive, almost feminine painter. Lord Henry Wotton is observing his friend Basil while he paints a portrait of the young Dorian Gray. Dorian is Basil's ultimate muse, even expressing "He is all my art to me now... As long as I live the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me." Basil is concerned about the influence that Lord Henry will have on Dorian Gray and fears that he could take away the one person who gives his art whatever charm it possesses. While sitting for the painting Dorian listens to Lord Henry and his philosophies and his hedonistic ways... he exclaims Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!" The portrait is finished and once revealed Dorian is beside himself, after listening to Lord Henry's views on youth Dorian questions his own. "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June... if it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-- for that--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!"
Dorian soon meets a young actress by the name of Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare in a dingy theatre. Dorian becomes enamored by this young actress and soon asks for her hand in marriage. The young Sibyl refers to Dorian has her "Prince Charming" and is overcome with happiness and love. Sibyl's brother, James Vane, is not as happy to hear about Sibyl's new "Prince Charming". James is a sailor about to leave for Australia, but before he does, he vows that "if this man wrongs my sister, I will find out who he is, track him down, and kill him like a dog, I swear it." Dorian invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Dorian tells Basil and Lord Henry that Sibyl is a born artist. Dorian exclaims "When you see Sibyl Vane, you will feel that the man who could wrong her would be a beast, a beast without a heart. I cannot understand how any one can wish to shame the thing he loves."
Sibyl is too enamored by Dorian and performs poorly. Lord Henry tells Dorian she is quite beautiful, but she can't act. Dorian is overcome with embarrassment and confronts Sibyl after the play. He rejects Sibyl and tells her that she has killed his love. He tells her "Without your art, you art nothing." Dorian leaves Sibyl destroyed.
Upon returning home Dorian discovers that his wish for eternal youth has come true. Upon examining the painting Dorian can see a touch of cruelty in the mouth. He begins to question, had he really been cruel? He continues to place the blame on Sibyl, but an overwhelming sense of regret comes over Dorian and he decides that he will reconcile with Sibyl. The next day, Dorian receives word from Lord Henry that Sibyl has committed suicide by swallowing prussic acid.
Dorian decides to lock away the portrait from any prying eyes. He can't risk anyone knowing his secret. He accepted his fate, if the picture was to alter, it was to alter. "This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul." Dorian spends the next eighteen years studying perfumes, music, jewels, and embroideries and tapestries. Everything he collected was a means to escape.
One night before leaving for Paris, Basil decides to pay Dorian a visit to confront him about all the rumors he has been hearing about him. Dorian does not deny the rumors of debauchery. Basil states, "I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I should have to see your soul." Dorian replies "You shall see it yourself, to-night! Come: it is your own handiwork." Dorian takes Basil to see the portrait. The portrait has become so hideous that Basil is only able to recognize it by his vermillion signature in the left-hand corner. There was something in its expression that filled him with disgust and loathing. Basil pleads for Dorian to pray, to pray for repentance. Dorian becomes overwhelmed with hatred for Basil and stabs him to death. Dorian calls upon an old friend and scientist, Alan Campbell, to help him dispose of the body. Alan refuses to help Dorian, which leaves Dorian no choice but to blackmail Alan.
Overwhelmed by guilt, Dorian recalls what Lord Henry had once said to him, "To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul!" He decides to go to an opium den. Upon leaving he has an encounter with a woman who refers to Dorian as "Prince Charming". James in unknowingly present and overhears this, he rushes after Dorian. James is holding a gun to Dorian's head, prepared to shoot him, he explains "You wrecked the life of Sibyl Vane". Dorian denies having ever known Sibyl and convinces James that he's far too young to have known this woman. James is apologetic, but Dorian leaves him with a warning "Let this be a warning to you not to take vengeance into your own hands." Dorian storms off into the night. The women from the opium den questions James for having let him go. James explains that he is not the man he is looking for, that he is little more than a boy. The woman explains that it was eighteen years ago when she had met Dorian and that he hasn't changed much since. She states "They say he has sold himself to the devil for a pretty face." James begins to stalk Dorian causing him to fear for his life. However, during a shooting party a hunter accidentally shoots James Vane who was lurking in the thicket. Dorian is relieved!
Following this chance accident Dorian decides that he wants to be good. He thinks that maybe by doing good that he can undo all the wrong that he's done. He starts by not breaking the heart of his newest love interest Hetty Merton. He wonders if he new good deed had changed the appearance of his portrait. Upon inspection he discovers that there was no change, that it was still loathsome, more loathsome, if possible than before. Dorian decides that only full confession will absolve him of his wrongdoings. But with no evidence left of his crimes other than his portrait, he decides to destroy it. He grabs the knife, the same knife he used to kill Basil Hallward, and stabbed the picture with it. It had killed the painter, and now it would kill the painter's work. A loud cry is heard by the servants and passersby. Upon entering the locked room the servants find hanging on the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him in all the wonder of his youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome. It wasn't until after further examination and discovering the rings on the body that they recognized the man as their master, Dorian Gray.
As a sometimes literary snob, this book has been on my radar for quite a while, but I just never got around to reading it until now. And I really wish that I'd read it sooner. While it has the somewhat boring societal grace details that one expects to find in a book about nobility at the end of the nineteenth century, it also has a very intriguing paranormal aspect to it through the portrait.
The story provided a lot of room for speculation. I found myself wondering how different Dorian Gray's life would have been if certain aspects of the story had gone differently. I imagine he would have led a much more virtuous life if only Sybil Vain had not killed herself before he got the chance to make amends for instance, which would have been a very different book (and far less interesting honestly.) But that wasn't the only area that led to speculation (I just won't discuss the others because that would be too many spoilers, even for a book that's been out for over a century.)
I found myself more drawn into the story than I thought I would be, and somehow I was even surprised by the ending, I probably shouldn't have been, but I was.
Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it to fans of Edgar Allen Poe's writing for sure, and of course other literary snobs that have yet to tackle it.