Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Publisher: Penguin Classics
"Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons, trials that resulted in his imprisonment. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, 'Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps."'
I now understand why this book was considered the catalyst for Oscar Wilde's decline in popularity.
The premise is intriguing, interesting, and unique. However, the delivery of the story was too muddled and full of dialogue, I got too exhausted just reading a single chapter. I did finish the book though, but it was not a superbly enjoyable experience. There was a lot of commentary going on, and I had to skip through whole paragraphs just so I could get on with the story. Mr. Wilde may be a master aesthete, but this novel was just too crowded with his epigrams and ideas, and they were not even subtly inserted, they were blatantly slapped onto the pages that I sometimes wonder if I was just reading an extended essay on hedonism and aesthetics.
As for the story itself, it started off strong, but finished poorly. Dorian Gray's character was not very strong, and he was more often than not overpowered by other characters like Lord Henry or Basil Hallward. And his personality was too effeminate, his relationship with Basil and Henry a little bit too familiar that it was misleading at times. Which was probably the reason that people from Mr. Wilde's time thought that this book was a corrupting influence in the society.
If anything, this book taught us the dangers of vanity and selfishness. I just wished that it also gave us a good story to accompany that lesson.