A review by thejustinwestra
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

dark emotional reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I don’t read many classics (I’m working on reading more), but The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde piqued my interest. This philosophical, gothic novel follows a handsome young man, Dorian, who is enamored with his on youth and beauty. Dorian sells his soul to preserve his youth while a recently-painted portrait of him ages and records his sins.

This novel was more complicated than I thought it would be. Given the premise and the length of this book, I assumed it would be a pretty straightforward cautionary tale about youth and vanity. While these are major themes, this book also dives into the dangers of being influenced by others. Wilde was clearly trying to teach a lesson, but he did so using an interesting plot and flawed characters. I wouldn’t say I particularly liked any character, but Basil was the most interesting to me. Lord Henry seemed to have purposefully corrupted Dorian, whereas Basil inadvertently corrupted Dorian with too much praise.

There was a specific chapter, Chapter 11, that made me like this book less. This chapter covers Dorian’s descent over several years as he becomes obsessed  with art, jewelry, outfits, and other status symbols. I know this chapter is important for Dorian’s corruption but it was long and repetitive. I think this could have been handled in a much more interesting way, it was brutal to get through.

Towards the end of the book, I knew the story could only end a certain way. I didn’t know exactly how Wilde would get there, but I knew where it was headed. I wouldn’t describe the ending as satisfying, but necessary.

Overall, I loved how Wilde explored the themes of this book in such a dark way. I would give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.