Number of Pages: 254
Publisher: Random House: Modern Library
Release Date: 1890
“The tale of a youth whose features, year after year, retain the same appearance of innocent beauty while the shame of his abhorrent vices becomes mirrored on the features of his portrait.”
While reading this classic story, I was thoroughly surprised by the almost supernatural undertones it contained. Most of the classics I have read have been very realistic or at least possible given the time period and setting. However, The Picture of Dorian Gray is unique because it is not set in a futuristic or fantastical place, and yet the main idea behind the story is not humanly possible. The concept of a painted portrait changing to display the wrongdoings or sins of a man (as the book refers to them) is extremely intriguing, and because the reasons of why it happens are not analyzed in great detail the story leans more towards the fantasy genre than towards science fiction. It was refreshing to read something so creative and impossible, especially in the form of an older novel.
I thought that the story itself was excellent, specifically the surprisingly large number of twists and turns the plot took. In the beginning, I was very confident that I could correctly predict how the story would end. But boy, was I wrong! Time after time again I watched my foolish predictions crumble as they were smashed by the masterful words of Mr. Wilde. Furthermore, the ending is clever and makes sense when considering the rest of the story. The dialogue between characters was witty and for the most part believable, even though they would often go off on tangents and impromptu speeches concerning any and all subjects. But this actually suited some of the characters, such as the boisterous Lord Henry, who possessed an infinite number of opinions and were not afraid to broadcast them in the slightest.
The one weakness of this novel was the writing. I’m not saying that Oscar Wilde is not a talented writer, because that is far from the truth. His writing was quite beautiful in many parts, and the florid language he uses is often times simply stunning. But there were several sections of the story that were quite dull and that seemed to drag on for an eternity. Specifically, I had this problem with the eleventh chapter, which was twenty pages of rambling about the different obsessions Dorian Gray had as the years passed by. I literally had to force myself to read that particular chapter. Looking back, I also believe that I actually skipped a few pages simply because it had little to no impact on the rest of the story whatsoever.
Overall, I did enjoy reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. My favorite part was realizing that the story was less about the portrait and more about Dorian Gray himself. Sure, the portrait was certainly an important component, but the main focus of the story was really Dorian Gray’s inner struggle to live a morally sound life. Despite the dull writing in some parts, it was otherwise thoroughly interesting and thought-provoking. This was the first book by Oscar Wilde I have read, and I will definitely be reading more of his work in the future.
MY RATING: 4 out of 5 smileys.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO A FRIEND?: Yes.