The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890, and in true Wilde fashion, it provides a critical (and often stinging) portrait of British society at the turn of the century. Because I am not very familiar with British politics and pop culture from the late 1800’s, many of the references are lost on me. However, I feel like many of Wilde’s critical remarks could be made today. His characters are vain, petty, immoral, and silly. They elevate things of little importance and ridicule that which is of most importance. They are obsessed with beauty and art and themselves. One only has to browse social media for a few minutes to realize that we are much the same today. Just like the characters Wilde has created, we are trying to stop the hands of time to remain forever young and beautiful. Our pop culture icons seem more important than the ugly tragedies taking place throughout the world. And the lives of our pop culture icons (often truly tragic) are seen as a form of entertainment. Wilde’s satirical society has, unfortunately, become reality. Although I prefer Wilde as a playwright, his novel is one that could easily be adapted to today’s time and not much would be lost.
The first half of this book is a bit tedious, as it is mostly social commentary with references that I didn’t always understand. The story that we are most familiar with (the aging of Gray’s portrait) really picks up in the last half of the book.
Violence: Very, very mild
You might also like: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman; The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende; Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky