Dorian Gray is absurdly good-looking. Utterly infatuated, Basil Hallward captures Dorian’s youthful beauty in a portrait.
While posing for this portrait, Dorian meets Basil’s friend, Lord Henry Wotton, who charmingly preaches hedonism. Lord Henry’s efforts to corrupt Dorian work quickly. Convinced that youth and beauty are the only things worth having in life, Dorian looks upon his finished portrait with cruel jealousy. His image will never grow old, but he will.
One wish sends the plot of the novel into action: Dorian wishes the portrait would age, while he stays youthful.
Enter a lover whose heart Dorian breaks. Her despair coerces her to suicide. With her death on his conscience, he notices an evil glint in the eye of his portrait. Over the years, Basil’s painting begins to age. Dorian sabotages reputations and even commits murder, all the while looking as young and beautiful as he did on the day his portrait was painted. However, the portrait–a grotesque reminder of his double life–documents every immoral act.
Focusing on duplicity and aestheticism, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a captivating and cinematic tale. Oscar Wilde’s knack for dialogue is what made him a famous playwright and parts of Dorian Gray are rich with clever play-like exchanges.
Lord Henry’s wit is exceptionally tantalizing. But he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, whereas Dorian adopts everything Lord Henry preaches with the conviction of a Southern Baptist. He’s basically just a dumb pretty person that everyone coddles despite the fact that he’s a terrible human being. You want to be all “Hey, Dorian, you have effed up now. Maybe you should stop breaking hearts and murdering people,” but you know it won’t work.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. The book was scandalous when it was released in 1891 because of clear homoerotic undertones. Dorian’s lovers are both men and women. Though not overtly sexual, Basil’s infatuation with Dorian is questionable. Wilde himself had an affair with Robert Ross. Victorians were no Greeks!