Like most people, I knew the story of Dorian Gray mostly from hear-say. I had a general idea of the concept and the story--but beyond that: nothing. So being able to read this story on assignment was a nice change of pace from what I'm usually asked to read, since I've always been intrigued by the concept of somebody being granted eternal youth while the effects of their lives are displayed in a portrait of them. Everything about the idea has the mark of brilliant ingenuity that is characteristic of the book's author--Oscar Wilde.
I've got to say as well, that this is my first book read by Oscar Wilde. I've read countless short stories here and there scattered throughout school life, but this is the first actual book of his to ever cross my path. And like the rest of his work--it did not disappoint. Funny enough, I think that his short stories are a little more crisply done--they pack more of a punch for their length, and that is where I feel his true mastery still lays. Nonetheless, that doesn't degrade his book in the least. My only complaint about the writing would have to be when--about halfway through the book--there were pages upon pages of lists of things that our main character went into. As hobbies. Mere hobbies. But they were dull, trifling, and drove me to restlessness. After a few pages I was begging for us to get back to the main storyline. Once we did, however, it all cleared up and flowed right along smoothly again. So I'm thankful for that.
Author's Writing Style gets a 4 out of 5 rating for me.
Now moving on to the actual story itself. It was goooood. Seriously. I didn't realize just how interesting everything would become when the book started off--not with Dorian as one would expect--but with his best friend, Basil who is the painter that made his infamous portrait. At the beginning of the book, the point of view dances about a bit, from Basil first, then to Henry--our typical distant but super-bad influence on Dorian--until at last it settles on the namesake himself. It's a shame really, because if we had followed Basil's story, it would have ended up a tragedy. If we followed Henry's, you'd want to kill yourself for how boring and utterly senseless all of his existence is. But following Dorian in this very unique love triangle (because it totally is; just read it and you'll see it; if not: FOOTNOTES!) has led to a tale not of tragedy... but more of disgust and hatred for me.
When I first picked up this book, I did not expect it to turn out the way that it did. It immediately started off unlike how I thought it would. Dorian wasn't even our lead guy then! But what was most startling was seeing two things: 1) how innocent Dorian was at the beginning, how like a little kid; and 2) how quickly you could see him being tainted. It took the span of pages, mere pages, to grip your heart and to force you to keep on watching as what was a foolish, ignorant boy, was dipped into red paint--all the white slowly being marred and tainted--and twisted. Twisted until you felt like you wanted to cry out for him to stop! Because you were seeing torture in those pages. ACTUAL... TORTURE. He was being poisoned right before your eyes.
Call me old fashioned, but it's a frightening thing to see someone destroyed like that; influenced to go down another path than was right there at their feet. And all this time you're sitting there with Basil perhaps (I knew at least that I was) and beseeching Dorian, begging him: What happened to you? You're not the same as you were before.
And that's what makes this great. You truly, deeply see all the filth, the degradation, the monster that Dorian becomes. It SHOWS it to you. ...and that takes a strength that even the best of writers need to choose to wield with such purpose.
Story Execution gets a 5 out of 5 rating for me. It was too good almost.
And the characters. Ah. The characters... I spoke a bit of them already, and I think I want to just say one thing here more. Because I think these things are best understood--especially in this book's case--when you experience it as opposed to hear it from someone else.
I want to talk about Dorian, although it seems unusual, I want to say this: at one point, about halfway through the book, I had to put the book down. I wrote a status update for it I'm sure--one filled with loathing and silent disgust--but I literally had to close the book and look away. All I'll say is this: Sibyl Vane. Those who read, will understand what I mean then.
...it's hard, in any case--movie, book, graphic novel, news, etc.--to find a good example to fit the word "Evil". It's not so much a thing you can describe. In fact, I believe it's almost impossible to. It's a gut feeling, something that revolts in you with such force, goes so completely against your own nature, that you just... know it when you see it.
To me, Evil does not fit into the realm of stupidity. It's not that. Nor is it aggression, or inane desire, or mindless and dumb intentions. It's not the cruelty of the stupid, or the brutality of the keen. It's not animosity, or hatred. It's not in fear, and it's not in rage. ...it's beyond descriptive terms, or curse words--I can't even describe it.
...but I've only ever experienced that sensation of Evil once before.
Reading that part, with Sibyl Vane... I felt it. It was there. It was in all of what Dorian said, what he did, what he believed.
...and it drove me into a silence that only a couple of things in this world or out of it could force upon me. ...it did that. And for that... I have to acknowledge the power of this book. ...not many can capture it. Dorian Gray did.
He became it.
Characters for this book get a rating of 5 out of 5 for me.
To sum things up, overall, this book was a kind of long trip, but it was a deep one. It tore into the roots of many things, and it got you really to think. Oscar Wilde is incredible for that, and it doesn't change depending on the format here.
So if you've never ever picked up the actual book behind the story of Dorian Gray, I suggest you get yourself this. Heck, I'd even say, "Don't bother with the library." Just buy it. I can't see you loving it, because there's just so much that's horrible in it. But you're going to respect it and want to own it. I just know it. Trust me on this. You must read this book. It's incredible.