The picture of Dorian Gray is a novel written by Oscar Wilde and initially published in Lippincott’s magazine in July 1890. In 1891 was republished a revised end extended version of the book in which the writer eliminated some controversial fragments and added 7 chapters and an aphoristic preface. The book is the only finished novel of Oscar Wilde and today is one of the most well-known opera of his.
At the time of appearance (1890), “The picture of Dorian Gray” was a success accompanied by a huge scandal. The purpose of the novel, a brilliant puzzle, was to overwhelm conventional minds by exploring the infinite relationships between life and art. Subtle analysis of the late Victorian society, coupled with an affirmation of the principles of aesthetics and the theory of beauty as an absolute value, combining the Gothic elements with those of the decadent French prose, The Portrait of Dorian Gray is one of the great novels of the world, turning into the history of literature. As a fiction novel, “The picture of Dorian Gray” is an oxymoron of the world in which the writer lives. It emphasizes that morality, sincerity, truth are, in the end, everything that matters to a man. Though an adept of ideas about the wonder of exterior beauty, Wilde comes to emphasize the idea of the importance and place of morality.
The book tells the story of a young innocent lad called Dorian Gray, a young man with an exquisite beauty and whith sort of a mysterious charm which intrigues everybody. At a party, he meets Basil Hallward, a painter who was charmed by the presence of Dorian the first moment he saw him. He asked his permission to paint him, and Dorian accepted. During a visit at the painter’s house, he meets Lord Henry, which soon becomes his friend. But this friendship transforms itself into a very bad influence for Dorian. At some point, while in Hallward’s house, he expresses his desire that the painting should reflect all the effects of the passing time so he would stay forever young. After the picture is finished, he takes it to his house, and, surprisingly, he finds that his wish came through. All of his actions were reflected in the picture. From this point, the soul of Dorian degrades day by day until he becomes a monster and commit the most atrocious acts. Will he realize the monster he turned into? Will he repent all the dreadful acts he committed? Will he be able to free himself from the thing that he considered a blessing at first and which transformed itself into a curse?
I read the book late in my time of youth, at 27, and I realized that I have lost something extraordinary. The book is written in the specific style of the 1890’s, with and elegance and style which honestly I have found in few books. I read many books, but I have never found the same writing class I have found in “The picture of Dorian Gray”. Probably also because I am fascinated about the Victorian era.
About the critics towards this book, some say that it is, in some ways, an autobiographical one, because it gives us a picture of the author’s life, which is more or less as impressive as that of the protagonist of the novel.
Oscar Wilde creates in this book a world where evil does not know time and space, but it is inevitably punished, for there is always a price to pay when it comes to unfair and criminal behavior. He interweaved in the epic thread of the story some ideas about morality and the importance of general human values, such as faith in God, the art of being good and right in relationships with others.
The book was screened in 2009, and in 2010 was chosen to represent Dublin at “One City, One Book” festival.
For those who have read or are about to read “The picture of Dorian Gray”, in it is mentioned a yellow book, a kind of hedonistic Bible, very valuable to Dorian, and decisive in his choice of sinking into fornication. Well, this book exists and is called “Against the Grain”, written by Huysmans
“My novel is poisonous if you want, but you cannot deny it is perfect, and perfection is what we, artists, are looking for.” (Oscar Wilde)
Oscar Wilde – “The picture of Dorian Gray” quotes
- “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
- “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
- “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
- “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
- “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
- “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
- “I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.”
- “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
- “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
- “Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”
- “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
- “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
- “Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.”
- “Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.”
- “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
- “I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.”
- “The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”