History: the only published novel written by Oscar Wilde, first appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890. The amended version was published by in April 1891. The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered one of the last works of classic gothic horror fiction. It deals with the artistic movement of the decadents, and homosexuality, both of which caused some controversy when the book was first published. However, in recent times, the book has been regarded as one of the modern classics of Western literature
Plot: The novel begins with Lord Henry Wotton, observing the artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of a very handsome young man named Dorian Gray. Dorian arrives later, meeting Wotton. After hearing Lord Henry's world view, Dorian begins to think that beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life, and the only thing left to pursue. He wishes that the portrait of himself, which Basil is painting, would grow old in his place. Under the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian begins an exploration of his senses. He discovers an actress, Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare in a dingy theatre. Dorian approaches her, and soon proposes marriage. Sibyl, who refers to him as "Prince Charming," rushes home to tell her skeptical mother and brother. Her protective brother, James, tells her that if "Prince Charming" ever harms her, he will kill him.
Dorian then invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, suddenly loses her acting abilities through the experience of true love with Dorian, and performs very badly. Dorian rejects her, saying that her beauty was in her art, and if she could no longer act, he was no longer interested in her. When he returns home, Dorian notices that Basil's portrait of him has changed. After examining the painting, Dorian realizes that his wish has come true - the portrait's expression now bears a subtle sneer, and will age with each sin he commits, while his own outward appearance remains unchanged. He decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but Lord Henry arrives in the morning to say that Sibyl has killed herself by swallowing prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide). Over the next eighteen years, Dorian experiments with every vice, mostly under the influence of a "poisonous" French novel, a present from Lord Henry. One night, before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives to question Dorian about the rumours of his indulgences. Dorian does not deny his debauchery. He takes Basil to the portrait, which is revealed to have become as hideous as Dorian's sins. In a fit of anger, Dorian blames the artist for his fate, and stabs Basil to death. He then blackmails an old friend named Alan Campbell, who is a chemist, into destroying Basil's body. Wishing to escape his crime, Dorian travels to an opium den. James Vane is nearby, and hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming." He follows Dorian outside and attempts to shoot him, but he is deceived when Dorian asks James to look at him in the light, saying that he is too young to have been involved with Sibyl eighteen years ago. James releases Dorian, but is approached by a woman from the opium den, who chastises him for not killing Dorian and tells him that Dorian has not aged for the past eighteen years.
While at dinner one night, Dorian sees Sibyl Vane's brother stalking the grounds and fears for his life. However, during a game-shooting party a few days later, a lurking James is accidentally shot and killed by one of the hunters. At his apartment, Dorian wonders if the portrait has begun to change back, losing its senile, sinful appearance, now that he has changed his immoral ways. He unveils the portrait to find that it has become worse. Seeing this, he begins to question the motives behind his act of "mercy," whether it was merely vanity, curiosity, or the quest for new emotional excess. Deciding that only a full confession would truly absolve him, but lacking any feelings of guilt and fearing the consequences, he decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience. In a fit of rage, he picks up the knife that killed Basil Hallward, and plunges it into the painting. His servants hear a cry from inside the locked room and send for the police. They find Dorian's body, stabbed in the heart and suddenly aged, withered and horrible, beside the portrait, which has reverted to its original form; it is only through the rings on his hand that the corpse can be identified.
Review: I listened to this book. It is a thought-provoking novel that vacillates between ambling, seemingly directionless conversation and a riveting narrative thread that eventually bubbles up to the surface with the intensity of a volcanic eruption.
Opening Line: “The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amongst the trees of the garden, there came through the door the heavy scent of the lilac, or more the delicate perfume of the pink flowering thorn.”
Closing Line: “It was not till they examined the rings that they recognized who it was.”
Quotes: " . . . there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
"Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot . . . "