Large Print Reviews
The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde
Reviewed by Laura Hortz Stanton - July 27, 2006
The quest for eternal youth is a theme that runs throughout literature. Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is a work that explores the consequences, physical and psychological, that occurs when the ideal of eternal beauty and youth is achieved.
The book, originally published in 1890, opens in the studio of Basil Hallward, a London artist. Basil is in the process of painting a portrait of a young, naïve, socialite Dorian Grey. Upon the completion of the painting, Dorian wishes aloud to Basil and another acquaintance Lord Henry Wotton, that he longs for the painting to grow old in his stead so that he may maintain his youth and beauty. As the novel progresses, the reader learns that Dorian's wish has indeed come true. However, as Dorian begins to lead a life of depravity and sin we learn also that the painting not only changes to show his true age but also transforms to show the changes in Dorian's soul as well.
The novel is written with the dry wit and sarcasm typical in other of Wilde's works. Wilde gives the reader a unique view of beauty, vanity, and desire and how they can uplift or destroy an individual. The characters are wonderfully developed and the reader feels as though he or she has been given a glimpse into the lifestyle of elite London at the end of the 19th century. Of particular interest is Dorian's friend and mentor Lord Henry Wotton, who helps, through his thoughts and opinions, lead Dorian down his path of destruction.
The Picture of Dorian Gray was criticized and deemed immoral by Victorian England because the homosexual undertones that are pervasive throughout the novel. In fact, the book played a large part in his trial when Wilde was accused, and ultimately convicted of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years hard labor for his "crime".
Although the writing style of the book can sometimes be dense, the reader that chooses to wade through will be rewarded with an intriguing story that gives insight into the human infatuation with youth and beauty.
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