The Picture of Dorian Gray Book Summary

by Oscar Wilde32

TL;DR

A young man named Dorian Gray remains eternally youthful while his portrait ages, reflecting the corruption of his soul.

What is The Picture of Dorian Gray about

The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde, is a gothic novel that explores themes of aestheticism, moral corruption, and the duality of human nature. The story revolves around Dorian Gray, a young man whose portrait ages and bears the consequences of his actions while he remains youthful. Wilde uses the characters of Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton to reflect different aspects of society and morality. The novel was controversial upon its release in 1890 for its perceived promotion of vice and immorality, leading to its censorship and banning in various contexts.

The Picture of Dorian Gray 6 Key Takeaways

Introduction of Dorian Gray

The story begins in the art studio of Basil Hallward, who is painting a portrait of the beautiful and innocent Dorian Gray. Lord Henry Wotton, Basil's witty and cynical friend, meets Dorian and begins to influence him with his hedonistic worldview.

The wish for eternal youth

Dorian becomes enamored with the idea of preserving his youth and beauty forever. He makes a wish that he could remain young while the portrait ages instead. This wish is mysteriously granted.

Moral decline

As Dorian indulges in a life of excess and vice, his physical appearance remains unchanged, but his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, reflecting the corruption of his soul. He becomes estranged from friends and causes tragedy, such as the suicide of actress Sybil Vane.

Confrontation with the portrait

Years pass, and Dorian's reputation becomes tainted by rumors of his debauchery. Basil confronts Dorian about these rumors, and Dorian shows him the now-hideous portrait. In a fit of rage, Dorian murders Basil.

Attempt at redemption

Dorian begins to feel remorse and decides to change his ways. However, he finds that he cannot escape his past actions or the portrait's hold on him.

Dorian's demise

In an attempt to destroy the portrait and thus free himself from its curse, Dorian stabs it. This act reverses the spell, and Dorian is found dead and aged, with the portrait restored to its original, youthful appearance.

The Picture of Dorian Gray Best Reviews

  • The New York Times described Wilde's novel as 'an arresting story, one that suggests a deep moral underlying the beautiful surface.'
  • Arthur Conan Doyle praised the book as 'a wonderfully fascinating tale, with a powerful moral.'
  • Virginia Woolf noted that 'The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel that explores the deepest recesses of the human soul.'

Top The Picture of Dorian Gray Quotes

  • 'The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.'
  • 'Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.'
  • 'The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.'

Who should read The Picture of Dorian Gray?

This book is ideal for readers interested in gothic literature, moral philosophy, and the complexities of human nature. It offers a thought-provoking exploration of beauty, vice, and the consequences of living a hedonistic lifestyle.

About the Author

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and critic, known for his sharp wit and flamboyant style. He gained fame for his plays such as 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and his only novel, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray.' Wilde was a leading figure in the aesthetic movement, which advocated for 'art for art's sake.' His career was cut short by a scandal and subsequent imprisonment for 'gross indecency' due to his homosexual relationships. Wilde's works remain influential, celebrated for their clever dialogue, social critique, and exploration of complex human themes.

The Picture of Dorian Gray FAQs

What is The Picture of Dorian Gray book about?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a young man who remains eternally youthful while his portrait ages, reflecting the corruption of his soul. The story explores themes of aestheticism, moral corruption, and the duality of human nature.

Why is The Picture of Dorian Gray a banned book?

The novel has faced numerous challenges since its publication in 1890 due to its 'indecent content.' It was denounced for promoting immorality and vice, but over time it has earned its place in the literary canon.

Is The Picture of Dorian Gray hard to read?

Some readers find the novel challenging due to its dense and elaborate dialogue. However, it remains a rewarding read for those interested in gothic literature and complex moral themes.