Friday, November 30, 2012

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" {by Oscar Wilde} Book Review

Delicious Reads
TITLE OF THE BOOK: The Picture of Dorian Gray
AUTHOR: Oscar Wilde
YEAR PUBLISHED: Febuary of 1890
PUBLISHER: Random House / Penguin Classics
READING LEVEL: According to this book is a 9th grade
reading level and appropriate for young adults and older.
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction


SUMMARY:   The picture of Dorian Gray is the story of one beautiful innocent young man’s seduction, moral corruption, and eventual downfall.  He is convinced that beauty is all he has to offer the world so he trades morality and happiness to maintain his youth and splendor.  He soon realizes that all of his darkest secrets appear as decay on a portrait of him at the height of his beauty.  In the end he finds that beauty alone is never enough.

Our Star Rating: 3.5 stars

OUR GROUP REVIEW: This was a book with a moral to the story.  Immediately we all realized that there was wisdom in what Wilde was writing.  The characters all seemed very familiar to us; these were characters right out of our own lives and all too often we are the dimwitted Dorian’s of this world.  Most readers in our book club were struck by the blatant homosexual undertones of the book and many wondered if that was a “picture” into the author’s life.  Thanks to our fabulous moderator Kelly we quickly found that in fact he was attracted to men in his lifetime and was scorned considerably because of that.  Most frustrating to our book club about this book was entire chapters that seemed disconnected, unimportant, and honestly, boring.   Again our moderator clarified this for us; research shows that this portion of the story was to illustrate the mindlessness of Dorian’s days, he had no purpose in life other than finding beauty and as quickly as he found a subject to obsess over he had moved on because it was no longer of value to him. For 18 years, capriciousness was a way of life for Dorian "certainly, to him, Life itself was the first, the greatest, of the arts." No matter how intensely Dorian embraces a subject, "no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance compared with life itself. He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment."  Like Lork Henry, he considers pleasure and aesthetic value more important than anything else.  Wilde engrains this image of Dorian over and over again but that passage that makes it most clear is
“Yes: there was to be . . . a new Hedonism that was to re-create life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely puritanism. . . .”

If Lord Henry was the little Devil on Dorian’s shoulder then Basil was the Angel on the other shoulder. As a group we recognized his sadness at watching his friend spiral into darkness and evil and we related to these feelings as we have all lost a friend or loved one to one bad choice or another.  But what was even more apparent was that Lord Henry was a coward.  He did not have the courage to experiment with the evil he preached therefore he lived vicariously through Dorian and pushed his evil on him repeatedly just to watch as the consequences unfolded before him.  He was a narcissistic, secretly immoral, coward.  Finally, Dorian is faced with the true extent of his evil when he murders Basil.  However, rather than take responsibility he casts it onto the portrait and in a moment of rage stabs the portrait and only then does he realize the connection between he and the portrait is greater than he had ever known.  As expected Dorian is the cause of his own demise.  There are valuable lessons and reminders in The Picture of Dorian Gray.  These are not new principles but true no matter the generation of the reader.  The world is full of evil and if we are not careful we too can be convinced by the Lord Henry’s in our lives to place a higher value on unimportant things and that can eventually lead to our downfall. 
Our overall rating was a bit lower than expected because of the disconnected and uneventful middle chapters, however, for the most part we enjoyed the story.  This was a super fun book club read, especially at Halloween!!  The decorations were fantastic, the food was delicious, and the company was incomparable!  It was a night to remember!    

CONTENT RATING:                                     
Language/Profanity:  There are a few mild swear words throughout the book.  Nothing more than the average 5th grader has been exposed to.
Sexuality: This book is heavy on homosexual innuendoes and references.
Violence:  There are two murders/suicides in the book and the mention of other violence throughout the book though they are written in such a way that it is not terribly gory or intense.
Drug/Alcohol Use:  The main character frequents Opium Den’s and all of the characters drink throughout the book.  Again the focus of the book is how bad his life is so the rating remains mild.
Intense/scary scenes:  As mentioned above there is murder but again the writing style makes it less intense therefore the rating remains mild. 

See our full picture recap HERE!

1 comment :

Ghadeer said...

I really want to read this! I think I'll make it our book club's next read ;)