I just finished Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray! And while I wasn’t expecting the Mona Lisa I was shocked by the pure detail Wilde put into this novel. The entire story itself can be summed up in a few sentences but Wilde artfully takes this somewhat simple story line to the next level. My copy is filled with highlighted one liners. My top ten favorite lines include:
“To test reality we must see it on the tight-rope. When the verities become acrobats we can judge them” -43
“humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the worlds original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, History would have been different”-44
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” -50
“experience was of no ethical value. It was merely the name men gave to their mistakes” -62
“Pleasure is Natures test, her sign of approval. When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy” – 82
“we are overcharged for everything nowadays .. the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich” – 83
“we live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities”- 97
“he was trying to gather up the scarlet threads of life, and to weave them into a pattern; to find his way through the sanguine labyrinth of passion through which he was wandering” – 100
“they get up early because they have so much to do, and go to bed early because they have so little to think about” – 180
“actual life was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the imagination. It was imagination that set remorse to dog the feet of sin”- 205
Spoiler Alert ! Spoiler Alert!
If you didn’t already know that The Picture of Dorian Gray was about a man named Dorian Gray and his portrait then you are in for a shock because that is exactly what this story is about!
Essentially, a dapper looking bachelor has his portrait done by his friend Basil Hallward, a somewhat struggling artist with mediocre talent, who succeeds in drawing Dorian.
Another important character who is quite to blame for blowing up Dorian’s ego is Harry. Dorian sold his soul for eternal youth and his soul is now enclosed in his portrait.
A whole bunch of other interesting plot stuff happens, he falls in love, spends a lot of money, has a few affairs, and does some drugs. Kind of like your average Hollywood blockbuster, set in another country.
This is one of those books that everyone has to know the story to, but is not necessarily the easiest story to read. If you are used to the nature of classic novels then by all means proceed, however, if you are not equipped to handle dry humor with numerous historical references I would suggest looking for something a bit less satire.