Book Review: The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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Thursday 19 November 2009

I recently read Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. This book has now entered my highly recommended reading list for several reasons.

Firstly the story is wonderful – Dorian Gray, a young hedonistic society man gets a portrait done, but unknown to both the sitter and the painter, the picture supernaturally captures Dorian’s soul. While Dorian goes on to live the high life and suffer no external consequences, his portrait bears the marks and stains of such living. It is a simple coming of age/maturity story with a twist at the end.

Secondly, the writing is superb. There are several scenes that stand out for the beauty in prose, particularly when Dorian discovers the supernaturality (is that a word) of his picture, and another towards the end when Dorian looks on in horror at what his picture has become.

Thirdly, and perhaps my favourite reason is the wonderfully witty one liners peppered throughout the book. Here are my favourites:

  • “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”
  • “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul”
  • “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
  • “I adore simply pleasures: they are the last refuge of the complex”
  • “Dorian is far too wise not to do foolish things now and then, my dear Basil”
  • “The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”
  • “We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities”

It is quite remarkable that this last quote is still so perfectly relevant to twenty-first century living (except blogging of course, which is totally necessary).


Lindi said...

It has been a long time since I read Dorian Gray. It is so Oscar Wilde, isn't it? I love that his wit still comes across so clearly and enjoyably today.

KIM said...

hi andrew!

thanks for posting on my blog -- and what good taste in books you have :)

kim (kirribilli :) )

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