The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

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YA Book Review

Reader reviewed by Sahar Jarad

1.  Intended Audience:



  • Middle and High School students.  The novel is an easy-read and although it contains dense concepts, such as homosexuality and the aestheticism movement, its audience is intended for secondary and pre-secondary students.


2.  Summary:



  • The novel revolves around the egocentric, young, and beautiful man named Dorian Gray.  He crosses trails with the painter, Basil Hallward who becomes completely awestruck by Dorians physical attractiveness, and begins to paint Dorians portrait and labeling it as a new form of art.  Dorian meets Basils wise friend, Lord Henry Wotton, and they begin discussing youth and beauty and its temporary course in nature.  Dorian becomes completely distressed at the thought of aging and decaying, so he sells his soul to maintain his physical beauty forever, while his portrait will endure natures course.  However, things start to decline for Dorian as he falls into a series of wicked and immoral acts.  Essentially, these acts are kept in secrecy; however, they are dreadfully portrayed on his portrait for all to see.


3.  Teachability:



  • I may teach this novel using the various lenses: homoerotic, aesthetic and realistic.  Because of the time and place this novel was published, the subject of homosexuality was never directly discussed, so this novel subliminally discusses homoerotic issues.  This would be a great opportunity to discuss sexuality by raising the following guiding questions:


    1. Compare and contrast the male characters relationships with each other.  Basil and Dorian?  Dorian and Lord Henry? Lord Henry and Basil?

    2. How does Wilde express the homosexual tension that seems to take place between the male characters?  Why does Wilde never address this issue directly in the novel?

    3. How has homosexual issues impacted literature from Wildes time period to more recent periods?

  • These questions will raise awareness about homosexuality and its impact over the history of literature.  Students will be able to recognize homosexual references in texts and connect such references to the novels plot.

  • Wilde compares books to art and says that books do not speak to morality; yet, the novel insinuates that art expresses not only beauty but morality as well.  Every time Dorian committed a sin, his portrait showed it as it morphed into a vile reflection of his inner-self.  Some guiding questions that will address this idea of artistic expression is:


    1. What is the point of books?  What are their purposes?

    2. It seems that all books have a main goal.  Is there such a thing as a book existing without some sort of moral address or instructional purpose?


4.  Relationship to the Curriculum:



  • This text fits into the traditional curriculum because it speaks to the Victorian time Period in which the concept of sensibility and sympathy toward the protagonist is highly regarded.  Victorians, such as Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, and George Elliot, believed that art was a way of expressing morality and social education.

  • The aestheticism movement aimed to break free from the Victorian conception of art and morality.  This movement was held by the belief that art has no other purpose than to just exist for its mere charm and beauty.

  • This novel is considered a gothic novel.  This genre may be used to connect to the curriculum.  As a teacher, I would recommend other texts that speak to this gothic genre such as the texts by Edgar Allen Poe.  This exposure to genre will help students see a very different kind of writing.  Gothic texts often require the readers to read with kindred art meaning that readers must engage with the texts in order to actually understand it the way the author intended.  For example, Wildes homoerotic references were subliminally suggested in the text and it was essentially up to the readers to catch this.


5.  Controversy:



  • This text may be controversial because of the reference to homosexuality.  I do not see anything wrong with addressing homosexuality in a classroom.  It is a topic that is too often ignored.  Teachers must be aware that there own students may either be a homosexual or oppose it completely.  So teachers must address this issue in a thoughtful, unprejudiced, and neutral manner.  Some ways are as basic as assigning a novel that speaks to homosexuality.


6.  Review:



  • When Basil, an exquisite artist, paints a portrait of the stunningly attractive and young Dorian Gray, Dorian becomes even more obsessed with his beauty and youth.  Selling his soul and innocence, Dorian becomes a victim of his own crimes when he leads a life full of crime, murder, and sins.  The Picture of Dorian Gray speaks to the importance of morals.  It portrays the superficial nature of how society prioritizes beauty, and readers are able to look at Dorian and question the distinction between ethics and physical beauty.  The novel speaks to the pressures of influence and of its negative consequences.  Dorian is influenced by the desire to be beautiful no matter what the cost.  This emphasis on individualism leads into a self-sacrifice into Dorians own destruction.

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Everlasting Dorian, everlasting book

Reader reviewed by Veronika

I read it first at school (we had to pick a book to sum up it) and I adored it !
It's a classic, and very easy to read. I like Wilde's style. You're taken to this period, with ladies, dandies...

The "magical" side pleased me, too.

PS: I read this book after watching "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". The Dorian in the movie doesn't correspond at all with the one of the book !

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