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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

December 11, 2012

Dorian GrayFor a “back to school” theme, my book club decided to choose a book that we might or should have read in school. After some debate, we came up with The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Set around 1890, Wilde’s only novel focuses on Dorian Gray, an apparently incredibly beautiful man, who is a member of the upper class of London. Basil Hallward, an artist who meets Dorian at a party and then paints his portrait, is infatuated with him. Basil’s friend Lord Henry Wotton also takes an interest in Dorian and tells him his thoughts on beauty, life and happiness, which Dorian takes to heart. Dorian realizes that he’ll never be as young or as beautiful as he was in his portrait, and he wishes that he could remain young and lovely while the picture would age and become old.

After falling in love very quickly, and then selfishly hurting the woman he loves, he notices that his wish has indeed come true and the portrait is showing signs of his sins and age, while he remains beautiful. The story fast forwards and Dorian is now an older man, although you’d never know it by looking at him. The portrait is now hidden away where he secretly checks in on it every so often, noticing signs of aging and the remnants of the sins he’s committed.

Apparently there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the publication of this book and Wilde edited it quite heavily to alter the “homoerotic references” and clarify the moral of the work. Knowing that the book was shocking to society when it was published made reading it a little bit more interesting to me. I didn’t love The Picture of Dorian Gray, but I did like it, I’m glad I read it, and I can’t wait to hear what my fellow book club members thought of it.

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