When I first heard of this novel, I was intrigued about the nature of its size. Most classics of its era are big bulky books, which is what I was expecting when I ordered this online. I was not ready for a 150 page text that is supposedly Oscar Wilde’s best work of all time. In retrospect, it is the shorter novels that have the most impact since they provide the gist in the least amount of time. Needless to say, I completed the book within 2 days and have been buzzing ever since – The Picture of Dorian Gray is by far the most fascinating and unrealistically realistic books I have read.
The book tells the story of Dorian, a young man who possess a unique beauty that is unparalleled by anyone else. His picture is painted by an artist, Basil Hallward who is impressed and in awe of Dorian’s beauty. Dorian is introduced to Lord Henry through Basil, and so he falls completely under the spell of Lord Henry – believing his philosophy on life and youth. In a moment of weakness, Dorian declares that he would sell his soul in a bid to remain young and beautiful – a wish that is granted. As the rest of the story unfolds, Dorian stays youthful and his portrait gradually experiences ageing, taking on an ugly turn as Dorian’s ill nature and evil side emerges.
Aestheticism and youth are two of the main themes in the book, each playing an important role in Dorian’s life. Wilde displays his exceptional authorship and advanced ideology through this text, showcasing a number of issues that individuals face, including the desire to stay young and beautiful.
The novel is really short and is packed with insightful quotes on aestheticism, youth and time. Here are some of the one’s I found really good:
- “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
- “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
- “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
- “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
- “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
- “When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”
- “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
- “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”
- “Its a beautiful woman’s fate to be the subject of conversation where ever she goes.”
- “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. Youth! There is nothing like it. It’s absurd to talk of the ignorance of youth. The only people to whose opinions I listen now with any respect are people much younger than myself. They seem in front of me. Life has revealed to them her latest wonder.”
It was incredibly difficult to pick these quotes from this book as it is so engaging and relatable. The novel goes from youth and beauty to love and murder – all whilst recording Dorian’s actions on his picture. It is a unique yet timeless concept, one which cannot be replicated by any author of any era – this is the primary reason that The Picture of Dorian Gray will always remain in my top books to reread. And reread again.
Are there any books that you find re-readable? Do you think today’s writers will ever reach the wisdom and talent of authors such as Oscar Wilde?