The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is arguably the most often quoted author. Today I realized why. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray and found marking almost every line of the book as a good quotation.

This was my first Wilde book and I loved every word it. The book was so engaging, I finished it little more than a day. That’s a record of sorts, because I am not a fast reader.

The plot is very interesting. It is about, as the title says, the picture of Dorian Gray. There are very only two main characters (three, if you consider the painter) and the story is fast paced and has quite a few twists. The book is so small, you wish it could go on for some more time.

The language is the first thing that gets you. The long, flowery sentences, words that are rarely used in today’s books, the poetic lines, the rare comparisons - reading this book is liking sailing in a lake on a moonlit night.

Wilde understands human psychology in and out. The whole book is about human mind, its actions and influences. Lord Henry’s words and thoughts are if he is dissecting a human mind. His opinions, some of which I disagree with, make you close the book for a while and think about them. The book is peppered with the author’s commentary on human nature and it reminded me of Maugham.

The book has a strong subtext. The interpretation can be varied, but one will understand that it’s not just a fairy tale that is told and forgotten. The book will remain with the readers long after reading it. I strongly recommend this to everyone.

Some quotes from the book which I liked:

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil. Conscience is the trade-name of the firm. That is all.

People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.

As for omens, there is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that. can survive everything nowadays except death.

Spoilers follow: Please do not read the next paragraph if you haven’t read or intend to read the book.

The transformation of Dorian Gray from an adorable lad to a loathsome devil is so well achieved. Never does the reader ‘feel’ that it is sudden or unexpected. His obsession with youth and his actions resulting out of that seem justified. Lord Henry’s character is a mystery to me. He influences Gray in a negative way and he knows it. His motive is not clear to me. I attribute his actions to his jealousy of Gray’s youth and beauty. All my sympathies go to the painter - he pays a price for something that is not his fault.