Item description for The Picture of Dorian Gray (Classic Fiction) by Oscar Wilde & Michael Sheen...
Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons, trials that resulted in his imprisonment. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps."
Outline 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."
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Picture of Dorian Gray (Classic Fiction)?
Faustian Bargain Jul 5, 2008
Oscar Wilde's classic gothic tale of a man who is granted his wish to remain forever young is still a fine and compelling read. Dorian Gray is captured at the height of his physical charms in a painting and soon discovers that the corruption of his body and soul is reflected in the painting while he retains his youthful attractiveness. His life becomes one of increasing debauchery and narcissism. The most quotable of authors, Wilde uses a friend of the young man to deliver an endless collection of axioms and witty observations that add another dimension to the plot. As Gray becomes more convinced of his invincibility he grows more callous toward others and his actions become less human and more monstrous as the story progresses.
A list of some of the amazing epigrams from this book Jun 27, 2008
Other reviewers have already covered the plot of Dorian Gray as well as the numerous reasons why you should read the book. I've contented myself with providing you a list of epigrams contained in the book I found especially wisdom-filled or humorous:
"The moments were lost in vulgar details. It was with a renewed feeling of disappointment that she waved the tattered lace handkerchief from the window, as her son drove away."
"...to be highly organised is, I should fancy, the object of man's existence."
"'To be good is to be in harmony with one's self. Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others.'"
"'There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating -- people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.'"
"There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love."
"'...there is a fatality about good resolutions -- that they are always made too late.'"
"Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives."
"But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail."
"When a woman marries again it is because she detested her first husband. When a man marries again, it is because he adored his first wife. Women try their luck; men risk theirs."
"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."
"She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness."
"It is said passion makes one think in a circle."
"'All ways end at the same point, my dear Gladys.' 'What is that?' 'Disillusion.'"
"An exquisite poison in the air" Jun 18, 2008
Is your soul a good bargaining chip for perpetual youth and beauty? Young Dorian Gray was led to believe so and impulsively struck that bargain. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is the story of his decline into depravity following that ill-advised trade-off. The story is well-known in popular culture. An artist becomes obsessed with his young model's attractiveness. He and his jaded friend compete for influence over the young man. The friend corrupts young Dorian, encourages him to embrace a life of sensual pleasure and to prize his own beauty. Dorian exclaims that he resents the portrait because IT will keep the freshness of youth -- then the fateful words, that he would give his soul if the picture could decay instead of his own face and body.
Be careful what you wish for! Over the next twenty years Dorian sinks into the depths of moral slime and watches the hidden portrait show all the signs of that immorality, while his own face and figure keep the blush of youth.
Along with the adulation of youth and beauty, Oscar Wilde delves into the theme of art as morally neutral, a principle of the aesthetic school of thought. Can art be moral or immoral? Should it teach us, improve us? That was the common 19th century view but the school of aestheticism believed that the arts had no role in moral enlightenment. The preface of the book lays out this theme in a series of proclamations.
The entire book, like all of Wilde's work, is packed with "sound bites." The corrupting friend, Lord Henry Wotton, is particularly prone to Polonius-like declamations, and Dorian tells him, "You cut life to pieces with your epigrams!" In fact Wilde does that, ripping into polite society and the opium dens of London alike.
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" is Oscar Wilde's only published novel. It first appeared in a magazine in 1890 as a shorter work, and was later expanded and edited to remove some of the more blatant homosexual references. His writing is exquisite, his themes repugnant but (dare I say it?) edifying. "What does it profit a man ..."
Highly recommended as a true classic of modern literature. I read this book when I was young and thought I understood it. Now that I'm not so young, I'm sure that I don't.
NOTE: I listened to this book on CD, not tape, but I chose this product link because it's the same production. The Brilliance Audio Library Edition, read by Michael Page, was incomparably presented and added a great deal to my enjoyment of this absorbing book.
Linda Bulger, 2008
Great Gothic Horror, but not for everybody. May 28, 2008
While this is Oscar Wilde's only foray into novel-writing, I must say it is justifiably called a classic. The use of descriptive language and mood is exquisite.
The only downsides that I can mention would be how slowly it moves in some spots. Once in a while, the story takes sort of a vacation, and you are given a lot of details that don't really apply to the overall plot. Some of the things that are discussed are good at shedding light on some of the things that Mr. Gray was doing throughout the years that this book took place, but they can get a little boring. Truth be told, I skipped most of one chapter because it went on, and on, and on about the things that piqued Dorian Gray's interest. It doesn't stop there, but it explains why it did, what he did about it, and some other people that he associated with while he was pursuing a certain subject, like gemology. In this edition, many of the names that are given through these pages are given an endnote in the back, but to the average person these don't hold much interest. Even to some hardcore fans of classic literature and Gothic Horror could find certain chapters (one at least) very tedious.
That being said, there is certainly more good in this book than needed to balance out the less interesting parts. In the beginning, we get to see where the corruption of young Mr. Gray comes from. As the book progresses, you can see the corruption finally consume him, culminating in a surprising finale. I read at work, and my jaw dropped more than once, which I only realized after a co-worker brought attention to it. Even though most people have heard of the themes in the book, this is a fine example of taking an existing theme, and making it into a brilliant new idea.
The ideas contained in this book can be a little disturbing to some with a weak stomach. Some of the language can be a little stiff and hard to read, but remember it was written in the 1890's.
This book is highly recommended for anybody who has an interest in the Classics or Gothic Horror. Not for the faint of heart, but if it's ever crossed your mind to read The Picture of Dorian Gray, pick this book up! If you want to start reading Gothic Horror, I would suggest something a little lighter to start with -- Edgar Allan Poe, The Phantom of the Opera, or something like that. Those are a little easier, and give you a good idea of what the genre is all about.
A Marvelous Useless Corruption Apr 28, 2008
Am I no less agreeable? I remain in good humor and fine favor. Yet I am changed. My approbation of this miracle is boundless. This work intoxicates and leaves one wanting more. In my esteem nothing is more beautiful or useless than this masterpiece