Book Reviews and Highlights

The Picture of Dorian Gray and Three Stories

Oscar Wilde

  • Classics
  • Fiction
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Victorian
  • THE studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink- flowering thorn.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 2
  • #first-sentence
  • You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 2
  • #lord-henry-quotes
  • But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 3
  • #lord-henry-quotes
  • I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 5
  • #basil-quotes
  • “Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one,” said the young lord, plucking another daisy.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 6
  • #lord-henry-quotes #friendship
  • I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 6
  • #lord-henry-quotes #friendship
  • In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.
  • CHAPTER 1 | Page: 8
  • #lord-henry-quotes #permanence #human-nature
  • To realize one’s nature perfectly— that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self.
  • CHAPTER 2 | Page: 11
  • #lord-henry-quotes #human-nature
  • And beauty is a form of genius— is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring- time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty.
  • CHAPTER 2 | Page: 14
  • #lord-henry-quotes #beauty #genius
  • But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!”
  • CHAPTER 2 | Page: 14
  • #lord-henry-quotes #youth
  • How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose. I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything.
  • CHAPTER 2 | Page: 17
  • #dorian-quotes
  • AT half- past twelve next day Lord Henry Wotton strolled from Curzon Street over to the Albany to call on his uncle, Lord Fermor, a genial if somewhat rough- mannered old bachelor, whom the outside world called selfish because it derived no particular benefit from him, but who was considered generous by Society as he fed the people who amused him.
  • CHAPTER 3 | Page: 21
  • #society #selfishness
  • Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
  • CHAPTER 4 | Page: 31
  • #lord-henry-quotes
  • Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”
  • CHAPTER 4 | Page: 31
  • #lord-henry-quotes #marriage
  • Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
  • CHAPTER 5 | Page: 43
  • #family #parents
  • FOR some reason or other, the house was crowded that night, and the fat Jew manager who met them at the door was beaming from ear to ear with an oily tremulous smile. He escorted them to their box with a sort of pompous humility, waving his fat jewelled hands and talking at the top of his voice.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 53
  • #anti-semitism
  • The heat was terribly oppressive, and the huge sunlight flamed like a monstrous dahlia with petals of yellow fire.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 53
  • #imagery #setting #simile
  • In the dim arrested light that struggled through the cream- coloured silk blinds, the face appeared to him to be a little changed. The expression looked different. One would have said that there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth. It was certainly strange.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 58
  • He had uttered a mad wish that he himself might remain young, and the portrait grow old; that his own beauty might be untarnished, and that the face on the canvas bear the burden of his passions and his sins; that the painted image might be seared with the lines of suffering and thought, and that he might keep all the delicate bloom and loveliness of his then just conscious boyhood.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 59
  • #youth #beauty
  • Besides, women were better suited to bear sorrow than men. They lived on their emotions. They only thought of their emotions. When they took lovers, it was merely to have some one with whom they could have scenes.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 59
  • #women #sexism
  • For every sin that he committed, a stain would fleck and wreck its fairness. But he would not sin. The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience.
  • CHAPTER 7 | Page: 59
  • #beauty #sin
  • But here was a visible symbol of the degradation of sin. Here was an ever- present sign of the ruin men brought upon their souls.
  • CHAPTER 8 | Page: 61
  • #sin
  • There is a luxury in self- reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.
  • CHAPTER 8 | Page: 61
  • #human-nature #confession
  • One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
  • CHAPTER 8 | Page: 64
  • #lord-henry-quotes #human-nature
  • That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals!
  • CHAPTER 8 | Page: 65
  • #women #sexism #memory
  • Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and power, by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. I worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.
  • CHAPTER 9 | Page: 73
  • #art #beauty #basil-quotes
  • You had leaned over the still pool of some Greek woodland and seen in the water’s silent silver the marvel of your own face. And it had all been what art should be— unconscious, ideal, and remote.
  • CHAPTER 9 | Page: 73
  • #art #beauty #basil-quotes
  • It often seems to me that art conceals the artist far more completely than it ever reveals him.
  • CHAPTER 9 | Page: 73
  • #art #beauty #basil-quotes
  • The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences, the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and creeping shadows.
  • CHAPTER 10 | Page: 80
  • The very sharpness of the contrast used to quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 82
  • #beauty #corruption #sin
  • Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 84
  • #hedonism
  • Outside, there is the stirring of birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the sleepers and yet must needs call forth sleep from her purple cave.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 84
  • #literary
  • He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 85
  • #literary
  • The bezoar, that was found in the heart of the Arabian deer, was a charm that could cure the plague.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 87
  • #bezoar
  • The state bed of Sobieski, King of Poland, was made of Smyrna gold brocade embroidered in turquoises with verses from the Koran.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 88
  • #smyrna
  • Upon the walls of the lonely locked room where he had spent so much of his boyhood, he had hung with his own hands the terrible portrait whose changing features showed him the real degradation of his life, and in front of it had draped the purple- and- gold pall as a curtain.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 89
  • #sin #corruption #art #portrait
  • It was rumoured that he had been seen brawling with foreign sailors in a low den in the distant parts of Whitechapel, and that he consorted with thieves and coiners and knew the mysteries of their trade.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 90
  • #corruption
  • It was remarked, however, that some of those who had been most intimate with him appeared, after a time, to shun him.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 90
  • #corruption
  • His great wealth was a certain element of security. Society— civilized society, at least— is never very ready to believe anything to the detriment of those who are both rich and fascinating.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 90
  • #wealth #society
  • It feels instinctively that manners are of more importance than morals, and, in its opinion, the highest respectability is of much less value than the possession of a good chef.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 90
  • #society #morals #human-nature
  • He felt that he had known them all, those strange terrible figures that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so marvellous and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had been his own.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 91
  • #society #corruption
  • Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.
  • CHAPTER 11 | Page: 92
  • #corruption
  • Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.
  • CHAPTER 12 | Page: 95
  • #human-nature
  • If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even.
  • CHAPTER 12 | Page: 95
  • #human-nature #corruption
  • One has a right to judge of a man by the effect he has over his friends. Yours seem to lose all sense of honour, of goodness, of purity. You have filled them with a madness for pleasure. They have gone down into the depths. You led them there.
  • CHAPTER 12 | Page: 96
  • #corruption
  • He felt a terrible joy at the thought that some one else was to share his secret, and that the man who had painted the portrait that was the origin of all his shame was to be burdened for the rest of his life with the hideous memory of what he had done.
  • CHAPTER 12 | Page: 96
  • #painter
  • “I shall show you my soul. You shall see the thing that you fancy only God can see.”
  • CHAPTER 12 | Page: 97
  • #soul
  • The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase. A rising wind made some of the windows rattle.
  • CHAPTER 13 | Page: 98
  • #literary
  • Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray’s own face that he was looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely spoiled that marvellous beauty.
  • CHAPTER 13 | Page: 98
  • #spoiler #corruption #horror #sin
  • It was from within, apparently, that the foulness and horror had come. Through some strange quickening of inner life the leprosies of sin were slowly eating the thing away. The rotting of a corpse in a watery grave was not so fearful.
  • CHAPTER 13 | Page: 99
  • #horror #sin
  • There were sins whose fascination was more in the memory than in the doing of them, strange triumphs that gratified the pride more than the passions, and gave to the intellect a quickened sense of joy, greater than any joy they brought, or could ever bring, to the senses.
  • CHAPTER 14 | Page: 102
  • #sin
  • Time seemed to him to be crawling with feet of lead, while he by monstrous winds was being swept towards the jagged edge of some black cleft of precipice.
  • CHAPTER 14 | Page: 105
  • #literary
  • The brain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination, made grotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain, danced like some foul puppet on a stand and grinned through moving masks.
  • CHAPTER 14 | Page: 105
  • #literary #brain
  • On the contrary, you would probably feel that you were benefiting the human race, or increasing the sum of knowledge in the world, or gratifying intellectual curiosity, or something of that kind.
  • CHAPTER 14 | Page: 107
  • #human-race
  • He himself could not help wondering at the calm of his demeanour, and for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life.
  • CHAPTER 15 | Page: 111
  • #double-life
  • One’s days were too brief to take the burden of another’s errors on one’s shoulders. Each man lived his own life and paid his own price for living it. The only pity was one had to pay so often for a single fault. One had to pay over and over again, indeed. In her dealings with man, destiny never closed her accounts.
  • CHAPTER 16 | Page: 120
  • #human-nature #destiny
  • Actual life was chaos, but there was something terribly logical in the imagination. It was the imagination that set remorse to dog the feet of sin. It was the imagination that made each crime beat its misshapen brood.
  • CHAPTER 18 | Page: 128
  • #life
  • In the common world of fact the wicked were not punished, nor the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak. That was all.
  • CHAPTER 18 | Page: 128
  • #success
  • “The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.
  • CHAPTER 18 | Page: 130
  • #sin #ennui
  • Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate.”
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 134
  • #civilization
  • I suppose in about a fortnight we shall be told that he has been seen in San Francisco. It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 135
  • #san-francisco
  • The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect.
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 137
  • #soul
  • To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 138
  • #youth
  • Life is not governed by will or intention. Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built- up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams.
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 138
  • #life
  • But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play— I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 138
  • #art
  • I am so glad that you have never done anything, never carved a statue, or painted a picture, or produced anything outside of yourself! Life has been your art. You have set yourself to music. Your days are your sonnets.”
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 138
  • #art
  • Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
  • CHAPTER 19 | Page: 139
  • #art
  • He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence on others, and had experienced a terrible joy in being so; and that of the lives that had crossed his own, it had been the fairest and the most full of promise that he had brought to shame.
  • CHAPTER 20 | Page: 140
  • #corruption
  • His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him.
  • CHAPTER 20 | Page: 140
  • #beauty #youth
  • It was the living death of his own soul that troubled him.
  • CHAPTER 20 | Page: 141
  • #death #soul
  • As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It would kill this monstrous soul- life, and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace.
  • CHAPTER 20 | Page: 142
  • #art #death #spoiler
  • It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.
  • CHAPTER 20 | Page: 142
  • #last-sentence #spoiler
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray explores the place of art, the value of art, both in society and for the individual, and elaborates that inquiry by focusing on two specific art forms, painting and the theater.
  • Afterword | Page: 143
  • #art #society
  • “Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.”
  • Afterword | Page: 143
  • #literature-analysis