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Thread: Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

  1. #1
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    Ireland Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

    I was surprised to see there is no separate thread about this one yet. A classic that highly deserves it. I read it because Iím planning to alternate between contemporary and more classical literature for some time. The picture of Dorian Gray is an entertaining novel and surprisingly accessible. I was expecting a somewhat more difficult read, because it is almost 130 years old. A real treasure if you like beautiful and clever one-liners. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the inconsequent perspective of the narrator. Throughout the story he 'talks' in third person, but on two or three occasions he suddenly shifts to a first person perspective. Slightly confusing: is Wilde suddenly commenting himself or did the narrator just feel like giving his opinion rather than only narrating, or is it a technical mistake, or what?

    Interesting from a philosophical point of view as well. In his preface Oscar Wilde remarks that there are no moral or immoral books, only well written and badly written ones. Yet, Dorian Gray could be used by conservative moralists (ďSee how it ends!Ē) as well as by more liberalist or hedonist thinkers, because itís full of interesting quotes to support their views.

    All in all, highly recommended!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

    I read this memorable short novel as a teenager and I remember liking it a lot. I might reread it in English in the future.

    Unfortunately I never got around to reading anything else by Wilde.

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    Default Re: Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

    Hello Peter,

    As a Wilde scholar I know The Picture of Dorian Gray well, of course. But I confess I had not noticed the lapse in the narrator perspective. Strange, because it is something. immediately notice when critiquing creative writing. So I revisited the novel, and, after a brief review, I cannot find any passage where Wilde lapses from a third person narrative. Perhaps you could provide some examples?

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    Default Re: Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

    I am not entirely sure about this, as I don't have a copy of Wilde's novel at hand, but this could just be the typical Victorian/Edwardian style of narration, where an omniscient third-person narrator suddenly reveals himself (or, more rarely, herself) midway through the narrative. The question you need to be asking is why this is happening?

    Cf. Flaubert's opening to Madame Bovary, where you think the book is going to have a first-person narrator telling the story of the woman he knows; instead, he disappears and we get mostly omniscient third-person narration.

    For a briefer example, take a look at this ghost story by M. R. James: it begins in the third-person, with the narrator telling us exactly what the protagonist is doing; then we suddenly get a first-person intrusion (and we realize that the narrator is somebody who has pieced the narrative together from bits and pieces provided by the main players). It's common enough in many Victorian/Edwardian texts, so don't be surprised if you see it again in the future,

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Oscar Wilde: The picture of Dorian Gray

    Quote Originally Posted by spycoops View Post
    Hello Peter,

    As a Wilde scholar I know The Picture of Dorian Gray well, of course. But I confess I had not noticed the lapse in the narrator perspective. Strange, because it is something. immediately notice when critiquing creative writing. So I revisited the novel, and, after a brief review, I cannot find any passage where Wilde lapses from a third person narrative. Perhaps you could provide some examples?
    I had a quick look and I found one example a bit towards the end of chapter 9, where the narrator says: Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities. You can find the part in question on page 183 in this version. I think it happens a few times more, but I can't find it right away. Thanks for clarifying that this is not uncommon, Liam. Interesting stuff!

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