BOOK REVIEW: THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE
Published in 1891, The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s version of Faust. It’s simultaneously a critique on English society during the 19th century, and critique and analysis of human greed. It takes a close look at excess and extreme lifestyle, by removing the social restrictions. The painting allows Wilde to explore these themes to their limits, or lack there of.
Dorian is rich, handsome, he’s a complete gentleman. So when he meets Lord Henry, and afterwards when he learns of the supernatural nature of the painting, a whole new world of ideas, pleasures, and possibilities opens up to him. As Tennyson famously wrote, “I will drink life to the lees.” And yet he matures in this way, but with a huge toll that he doesn’t feel on him until is too late. Experience is only pleasure to him, and only pain to the painting.
In the theme of Faust, Dorian Gray’s story presents the reader with a question, or an insight, into their own life. By presenting the extreme scenario, Wilde exposes our weakness to desire. With no repercussions, how many of us wouldn’t succumb to greed; knowing age and beauty is not an issue, that all doors in society are open?
Ultimately, it’s an expositionist philosophical work, where Wilde, by giving answers, in three different forms through Basil, Henry, and Dorian, raises questions that everyone has to answer for themselves. It is a true insight into a secret place of human condition.
Here are all the memorable quotes from the book, and the ones that are truly important in understanding Dorian Gray.