HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Collector’s Library, republished in 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1904633150 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1904633153 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1403739087 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1403739080 (Paperback)
Language level: 3 (occasional profanity and cursing)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Older teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray (originally published in 1891; republished in 2007 by Dalmatian Press, a trademark of Dalmatian Publishing Group LLC, Atlanta, GA 30329). As the book opens, Dorian Gray is a very handsome, wealthy, twenty-year-old young man who is sitting for a portrait by artist Basil Hallward, who introduces Dorian to another friend, Lord Henry (Harry) Wotton. After hearing Lord Henry’s hedonistic world view, Dorian begins to think that beauty and the fulfilment of the senses are the only worthwhile aspects of life. In a Faustian-type scene, he wishes that the portrait Basil painted would grow old in his place. Under the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian decides to lead a hedonistic life and begins to explore his senses. He discovers an amazing actress, Sibyl Vane, and soon proposes marriage, but then rejects her, and she commits suicide. When Dorian returns home, he notices that his portrait has changed and realizes that his wish has come true. The portrait now bears a subtle sneer and will age with each sin he commits, while his own appearance remains unchanged.
Over the next eighteen years, Dorian experiments with every vice imaginable, mostly under the influence of a “poisonous” French decadence novel, a present from Lord Henry. One night, before he leaves for Paris, Basil Hallward arrives to question Dorian about rumors of his indulgences and to plead with him to change his ways. Dorian blames Basil for his problems. What will Dorian do about the painting? What will he do about the artist? And what will happen to Dorian himself? The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by well-known writer and wit Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, first appearing as the lead story in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine on June 20, 1890. The magazine’s editors feared that the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without Wilde’s knowledge, before publication. Wilde later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters, and including a new Preface which has since become famous in its own right. The amended version was published by Ward, Lock and Company in April, 1891.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered a work of classic Gothic fiction. While Wilde himself certainly did not always live according to a Biblical world view, the prevailing Victorian morality of his culture surely influenced his writing. Basil calls on Dorian to repent citing various passages of Scripture. The book has the benefits of showing the effects of sin in a person’s life and demonstrating how easily one can be led into a life of debauchery without a firm ethical foundation. There are occasional cursing and profanity, along with a few references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and even using opium. Lovers, orgies, and harlots are all briefly mentioned, but no lurid detailed descriptions are found. However, one source gives the Age Range as 12 and up. Uh, no. I would not recommend it for ages 12 to 16. I might recommend it for a very mature, well-grounded 16 year old, but otherwise only for ages 18 and up. My first inclination was to give it a 3-star rating (fair), but on second thought I decided to give it a 4-star rating (good) because, without being graphic, it does illustrate well the horrible effects of a sinful lifestyle.