Dorian is a good-natured young man until he discovers the power of his own exceptional beauty. As he gradually sinks deep into a frivolous, glamorous world of selfish luxury, he apparently remains physically unchanged by the stresses of his corrupt lifestyle and untouched by age. But up in his attic, hidden behind a curtain, his portrait tells a different story.
First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature. An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate) and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld. The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time. Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided). Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater. Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankel s inferences. A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting.
An Accessible Gothic Classic
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a gothic novel centred around the titular character and his descent into hedonism.
The novel rarely shows Dorian’s increasingly unethical acts, but what is shown is riveting, and what isn’t shown adds to the question of how much Dorian has actually done.
The novel is excellently crafted (bar chapter eleven), but is very accessible to a modern audience. The language and references are much less of a hurdle than with other classics.
- Joshua Swart