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Booked for the Day

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

On Monday, May 5th, the Booked for the Day Book Group met to discuss the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Here are a few things we discussed during the meeting:

  • We started the discussion talking about Oscar Wilde and the story of his life which helped us understand Wilde’s thinking while writing this book. Wilde felt that the purpose of art was to demonstrate beauty while most Victorian art was used for social education and moral enlightenment. We also talked about how Wilde felt that an affection between an older man and a younger man places one in the tradition of Plato, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare and that it was a sign of refined culture. One of our members heard that even though homosexuality was illegal, Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency may have been fueled by his involvement with a member of the royal family.
  • We then discussed whether blame can be placed on a book for ones destruction and how much blame should be placed on the reader. Dorian bases his life on the “yellow book” and the story shows the profound and damaging influence that art can have over an individual. Even though Wilde claims in the preface that “art had no effect, other than aesthetic, on individuals or society” we see through Dorian that it does.
  • We talked about Lord Henry’s impact on Dorian and if he was responsible for Dorian’s downfall. Many of us thought that Lord Henry seemed like a free spirit, a thinker and not a doer and did not place blame on him. Others thought that he was a villain in the sense that he was unwilling to see the effects that his philosophy had on Dorian even after he had seen how Dorian's life was being ruined.
  • We talked about Alan Campbell and even though the book did not mention homosexuality, it seemed to be strongly suggested in the relationship between Alan and Dorian and most of us thought that was the reason he helped Dorian cover up the killing of Basil,  eventually leading to his suicide.
  • Basil affection for Dorian seemed to be obsessive and the portrait showed how much Basil adored Dorian. We did not think Basil was a positive influence on Dorian and his idolatry eventually leads to his murder.
  • One member thought that maybe the changes that took place in Dorian’s picture was only in his mind. Another member thought that Oscar Wilde was represented in all three main character, Lord Henry for his wit and charm, Basil for his artistic abilities, and Dorian for his uncoventional morality.
  • We compared the superficial nature of London’s society to today’s society. It did not seem to matter that society questioned Dorian’s scandalous behavior, he was still accepted because of his beauty and wealth, much like the celebrities of today.
  • Ultimately we felt that Dorian was the cause of his own downfall. We sympathized with him on the way he grew up without a mother or father and a grandfather who treated him poorly. But his desire to reform himself after the death of James Vane never seemed sincere. We did not see any redemption for Dorian.
  • Everyone enjoyed the book and would recommend it. There were parts in the novel that seemed to go on and on but we all thought it was very readable.  These are just a few things mentioned during the discussion. Please feel free to add any of your thoughts in the comment section.

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