The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Grey is probably one of Oscar Wilde’s many well known books; which is about a young man who makes a foolish wish to remain forever young and the reader gets to see exactly what happens to him when the wish is granted.

The book has a lot of hype, if you love classic novel’s and don’t mind reading about someone talking constantly for a few page’s, then this book should be fine for you.
My problem with the book is that it is rather dull, the action only really begins at about 70% of the way in and even then it pettered off again.

There is also a lot of unanswered questions for the reader, what did Dorian do to cause his close friend Harry to leave England is disgrace; and even better why did Harry return some years later and apparently had forgive Dorian of whatever it was he had done in the past? Also how the view points, if we can call them that, shifted, at first we saw Dorian and indeed meet Dorian through Harry, a friend of Basil’s – he later said that Basil was a genius at his art, but dull, not sure the kind of friend he is really – we saw how Harry began to open Dorian up to things that the younger man would never have known about had he never ventured into his life; which was also something that Basil feared would have happened, having tried to get Harry to leave in the first instance.

I had expected to enjoy this book, it had a plot that I know I would have enjoyed, but it just dragged on, we learned that Dorian became selfish and vain – hence the wish – and that Harry is a bad influence, although he does appear to know that, which leaves us with Basil who seems to be the only one with any real sense, but we are limited to the amount of time we have to get to know him.

Dorian at first comes across as a naive young man, who hasn’t seen the world properly yet, being sheltered by relatives since the death of his mother, and he is impressionable beyond belief as well. Later on, we find him a frightened and slightly unhinged man, yet he doesn’t care about people like he used to, he is detached from people and the gossip that follows him around is all negative, but he doesn’t care and doesn’t try to dissuade the gossip either.

Harry is just irritating as a character, because he never stops talking. He is meant to be a witty character, incredibly intelligent and yet he just doesn’t seem to be like that at all, he comes across as a man who would tear someone down rather than praise them for their hard-work, he looks more negatively on things and will ‘push’ other’s to do the same thing.

Basil is the one who could have come into his own a lot more had Wilde thought to do so. An artist who is doing rather well in his craft, he created the portrait that caused Dorian to make his fateful wish, yet he seemed more in touch with the world that the other two. He could of save Dorian right at the beginning, had Dorian had the guts to tell him what he thought was happening with the portrait; unlike Harry, Basil probably would have believed him after seeing the picture and helped him.

I can appreciate that dialogue helps move the story forward, but there were moments during the book when it felt like it wasn’t benefiting the novel at all, if anything it made it become rather sluggish and lackluster.

This could, of course, just be that as a classic novel it’s not the one for me.  Overall I would give this book a 2 out of 5 stars.


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