The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those classics that I always felt I should have read, but for some reason I hadn’t got round to it. It wasn’t until I started reading the book that I appreciated how much it has crept into our society – the pages were packed with quotes that I recognised.

Dorian Gray is a vain young man enjoying the pleasures of high society. One day an artist paints his portrait and Dorian realises that his good looks will not last forever. Desperate to retain his youth Dorian exchanges his soul for an assurance that the portrait will age rather than himself. Unfortunately other people get a bit suspicious when he doesn’t age and so Dorian starts to experience a few problems!

I never know what to expect from these classics, but I was impressed by how readable The Picture of Dorian Gray was. It had a light, almost humorous tone and I was quickly drawn into Dorian’s life.  I loved discovering all the quotes that I already knew and the countless bits of wisdom:

‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘that is one of the great secrets of life. Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.’

I lost interest slightly in the middle section, but the plot picked up again towards the end. I thought the ending, although predictable, was very good.

Recommended, if only so you can appreciate how many quotes from this book we use in everyday life.

I also watched the DVD as part of C.B. James’ Read The Book, See the Movie Challenge

Dorian Gray DVD

The DVD had a very different feel to the book. The film was dark and menacing, so the charm of the book was lost under this evil sense of foreboding. Most of the wonderful quotes were not included and so the majority of the things I enjoyed about the book were missing.

The film did benefit from some great Victorian costumes and sets, but spotting some tarmac road ruined the atmosphere a bit for me!

I can’t fault the acting, but some of the casting was a bit dubious. The actors didn’t match up to the pictures I’d built in my head when reading the book – especially Rachel Hurd-Wood. This wasn’t a major problem, overall the actors were probably the best thing about this film.

My main problem was with the ending – it was far too dramatic. Sometimes it is best to leave things to the imagination, but the film showed us everything. It was needless action for the sake of trying to attract a different audience to the film.

Overall I’d say that this is one of those films that just shouldn’t have been made. Some books just don’t work on the big screen.

Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray?

What did you think of the film?

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  1. I loved this book – the wit, the humor, the character development, and of course, the story!

    For some reason though, I’ve not read anything else by Oscar Wilde. I really should change that.

    Glad you enjoyed the book – it’s one of those classics which I think almost everyone likes.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I think this is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. I’ve never read a play before, but perhaps I should start with one of his – I do love his style :-)

  2. Verity says:

    I’ve only seen the film, not read the book – I thought it was so different to his plays which are so light and frothy and humorous.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, The film has very little in common with the book. You should try to read the book – I’m sure you’ll love it.

  3. Iris says:

    Dorian Gray is one of those books that I still need to read. I’ve tried to read it twice, but got distracted 30 pages in and didn’t continue after that. I have told myself for years that this is the one classic I need to read this year. I wonder if I’ll finally manage to do so this year?

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, It is quite short so I’m sure you can squeeze it in somewhere! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  4. Jessica says:

    I havent read the book but I agree completely about the film. I liked the guy who played Dorian and I thought Colin Firth was brilliant but other than that I thought it dragged on and on and I was glad when it finished.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, At first I thought the actor who played Dorian was the wrong choice, but I warmed to him over the length of the film. I thought they all acted well – it was everything else that was wrong!

  5. Dot says:

    I have had this on my book shelf for so long! Think I shall have to get round to reading it, heard many good things about it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dot, Most people seem to like it to some extent – time to get it off your shelf ;-)

  6. I don’t have any inclination to watch the film, even though Colin Firth is in it and I do love Colin Firth.

    I love Oscar Wilde’s style and have read some of his short stories and plays. Even though I was not a fan of The Children’s Book, I really enjoyed the Wilde cameo.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, It is a good film to play ‘watch for the inconsitencies’ with. Get a few friends round and have a good giggle about all the things it gets wrong!!

      I didn’t really know enough about Oscar Wilde to appreciate the cameo in The Children’s Book. I’ll hopefully get more out of those references in the future.

  7. JoAnn says:

    I really need to read Oscar Wilde soon! Will skip the movie though.

  8. mee says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages! I have it on my shelf. The new movie has been pushing me even more lately. (definitely will watch the movie only after reading the book) So, soon I hope. Great to hear that it’s readable and witty. I think I will like it.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I’m sure you’ll love it :-)

  9. vivienne says:

    I really didn’t enjoy the book at all. I found it annoying. I am pleased you enjoyed it though. Sorry to hear the film wasn’t as good.

    1. Jackie says:

      vivienne, oh no! Sorry to hear that it wasn’t for you :-(

  10. I’ve always wanted to read this book, but feel that watching the film last year may have ruined it for me! I thought the film was terrible (like you mentioned a bit, way too dramatic, with some dubious special effects!). So I might need to wait a while before getting back to the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, The good news is that the film doesn’t have much in common with the book. I’d say you could easily read it now without feeling as though the film had spoiled it. The plot is quite different and the writing quality takes it to a whole other level :-)

  11. I loved the book but I haven’t seen this new version. Despite your misgivings about the film I think I need to see it.

    There is an old film of Dorian Gray (with Angela Lansbury) where everything except for the portrait is in black and white. Although not entirely true to the novel, the film is worth a look.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thomas at My Porch, Thanks for letting me know about the old film – I’ll have to ensure I watch it at some point.

      I know what you mean about having to watch bad films anyway – sometimes I’m just curious about how bad they really are ;-) It is always interesting to see different people have interpreted the same book – enjoy!!

  12. Tricia says:

    I read this novel some time ago – I am interested to read it again to as you say, “see how many quotes forom the book we use in every day life”. I don’t think I picked up on that the first time.

    Do you think a Canadian reading (with looking for commonly used quotes in mind) would be very different form a UK one?

    1. Jackie says:

      Tricia, Fascinating question! I have no idea what the experience would be like for a Canadian reader. I would love you to read it and let me know how many of the quotes you were aware of.

  13. Jeane says:

    I didn’t know there was a film made of this book. It sounds like they kinda went over the top with it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, They tried to turn it into a scary action movie – just wrong :-(

  14. Frances says:

    This one is a favorite of mine, and I also enjoyed a great graphic novel version last year. Have yet to catch this movie but will now despite your warning, I think. Colin Firth thing maybe. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Frances, I can’t imagine a graphic novel version. If I see it in the libary I’ll have to pick it up. Hope Colin Firth is enough to distract you from the rest of the movie ;-)

  15. I have started and then stopped on this novel so many times, I’ve lost count. One of these days, I swear I’ll make it all the way through to the end.

    1. Jackie says:

      Michele, I’ll admit it required a bit of concentration in places. Good luck in your quest to read it!

  16. Jeanne says:

    I had no idea there was a film!

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m pleased I could teach you something you didn’t know – sorry the film isn’t very exciting though!

  17. Stujallen says:

    I love dorian gray ,it is so well written and a true classic ,I agree it seeps in to society so much with the people nowadays not wanting to age,like dorian ,you might want try will selfs dorian a modern retelling ,I didn’t see the film it look more style over story to me ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I haven’t read any Will Self yet, but I bought The Book of Dave last week. If I enjoy that then I’ll keep an eye out for his Dorian book :-)

  18. Sandy says:

    I hang my head in shame, because the only thing I know about Dorian Gray is that he wanted to be timeless. No book, no movie, no nothing. I’m a heathen.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Don’t worry – I didn’t know that much last month. Only one way to change that ;-)

  19. Andi says:

    Cool! This was the very first e-book I tried (2003ish) and the narrator’s lovely British accent put me right to sleep. I haven’t revisited it since, but I’m bound to one day!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I’m not sure I’d want to listen to this one. I hope you enjoy the paper copy more :-)

  20. Jenny says:

    You just can’t even imagine how happy compliments to Oscar Wilde make me. I’m so glad you liked this book – I thought the purpleness of the prose would aggravate you (it even does me a little). But the story’s excellent. When Oscar Wilde was suing his boyfriend’s father for calling him gay, the prosecutors brought up Dorian Gray and how it was full of objectionable content, and Oscar Wilde had a ball defending it (he did it very well too, it’s fun to read the trial transcripts).

    Also, here is the piece of Dorian Gray information that I think is so interesting I feel compelled to comment about it on every review of Dorian Gray that I see: Oscar Wilde said that Basil was what he thought he really was like, Dorian was what he wanted to be like (pre-corruption, one supposes?), and Lord Henry was what the world imagined him to be.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I can see why you’d think I might not like it, but I think the amount of wisdom in the text kept me going. It isn’t going to be one of my favourites, but I can see why it is a classic and enjoyed reading it.

      Thanks for all the extra Dorian facts – very interesting!

  21. I’m so pleased you enjoyed this. It’s one of my favourites. I know what you mean about the middle – I seem to remember some rambling about classical stuff. Also felt the same about the film. Visually nice, but not a patch on the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Novel Insights, At least the book was quite short so the rambling middle didn’t last very long! I’m pleased I enjoyed one of your favourites.

  22. Bellezza says:

    I loved this book, I love Wilde’s witticisms! He’s so very clever, and each page he wrote was a delight to read. It was wonderful how he turned vanity on its ear in this work.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, It must have been quite a groundbreaking idea at the time too. He was a very clever man :-)

  23. Jenners says:

    I never did read this but you are making me want to! I think I’ll skip the movie though.

    1. Jackie says:

      I hope that you enjoy it!

  24. stacybuckeye says:

    I listened to this one a few years ago and enjoyed it. I haven’t seen the movie but it doesn’t look like I’m missing anything.

    1. Jackie says:

      stacybuckeye, Apart from the fun of spotting modern things in a Victorian scene you aren’t missing anything!

  25. I saw the movie over 20 years ago as a teenager and I remembered really enjoying the darkness of it — I’d be interested to see how I feel about it now. Of course, it’s really not often that a movie lives up to the book, but I’d like to give it a whirl and read it. I’m a classics fan myself, so I’ll more than likely read it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Natalie, This movie was only released a year or two ago so you must have seen a different version.Thomas at My Porch mentioned in his comment above how good the old film was – I’ll have to see if I can watch it soon.

  26. Valerie says:

    I was on an Oscar Wilde reading spree several years ago, and “Dorian” was my favorite of the books I read (I have to double-check to see whether I’ve read them all). I love how smart Oscar Wilde was, both in his writings and during his lifetime.

    1. Jackie says:

      Valerie, I’ll have to ensure I read more of his work at some point in the future. I hope I enjoy his other work just as much as this one.

  27. Charlie says:

    I’m interested in watching the film, it was the first I heard of the story, and hearing that they made it a lot darker sounds like something worth watching for the comparison. I definitely want to read the book and watch the movie sometime in the not so distant future.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, I hope that you enjoy them both :-)

  28. Kathleen says:

    This is a classic that I haven’t had the pleasure to read as of yet. I’m certainly familiar with the story though. I read another review not that long ago on this one that was also favorable. I suppose I should move it up my list of classics that I need to read sooner rather than later.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I think most people enjoy this one, so it is a classic that I recommend prioritising. Enjoy :-)

  29. Thalia Rojas says:

    i read this book and then i really hate see my face in one mirror, the past of the years, it’s terrorific to be old.

    1. Jackie says:

      Thalia, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time :-)


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