Author: Oscar Wilde
Publication Date: 1891
Review Score: 4/10
Dorian Gray is a young, handsome man enjoying the fruits of the rich English life he has been borne into. Many people take a shine to Dorian but no more so than Basil Hallward, a painter who sees the young man as his new muse.
After Basil Hallward paints a portrait of young man, Dorian wishes that he could be preserved as the good looking man he is and the picture grow old instead. Well this vain and frivolous wish comes true and Dorian is able to stay as handsome as ever as his portrait takes on all of the burdens of life.
Dorian then begins to grow into a callous, selfish shell of his former self, culminating in his ability to kill a young girl without feeling any remorse or any impact upon his life. As he proclaims “The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden.”
What this book is, is an excellent portrayal of how vain and selfish people can be, which is just as relevant today as it was when it was written over 120 years ago. However, although I can appreciate this element of the novel it is not to say I like it, in fact I distinctly dislike it for 2 main reasons:
1 – Although the idea is that the reader grows to despise Dorian and hope that he gets his ‘just desserts’, I found that I hated the character right from the get go, and not for the reasons I was supposed to, but rather just because I felt there was not a single element, either as hero or anti-hero, that I could side with him on.
He has not a shred of depth or character in my mind and for me even an anti-hero should have some draw on the reader. What’s more, even when we reach the final climax, when really he should have a new outlook on life or at least a hint of remorse, he is still completely oblivious and selfish making the whole journey through the book rather pointless.
2 – I know a lot of people will disagree with my point above, as many people love The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I believe I can shed some more light on it with this second point; which is I am a huge fan of literature that looks at the hardship of the lower classes, such as Dostoevsky and George Orwell, and so to read about some rich, whiny kid who has no cares in the world but acts as if he is some sort of martyr does my head in!
I tried to leave my bias out of it but I am a book lover and can’t help put compare books in my mind when I am reading them. The Picture of Dorian Gray is just not my cup of tea but if you like it good for you!