There was one hell of a drama with choosing August’s book as the poll was tied between The Picture of Dorian Gray and Little Women with 91 votes each. So I had the final deciding vote, and I thought we’d go with the one that not many people have read before.
Here’s how the book club discussion went:
Q1: Did you enjoy the story? How long did it take you (if at all) to get into the book?
Most people agreed that it didn’t take them long to get into the book and as it is only short, most people were able to binge it in only a few sittings!
The general consensus was that people were pleasantly surprised with how much they ended up liking/enjoying this book. Some members had tried to read this book once before but found it easier to get into this time around.
Q2: Do you think Lord Henry impacted Dorian’s behaviour?
I think we all agreed that Lord Henry impacted Dorian’s behaviour at some point in the story. Members stated that Henry introduced the darker side of life to Dorian, especially with the yellow book that seemed to be a turning point for Dorian.
Dorian was young and vulnerable and he looked up to Henry, and a few members made the comparison of Basil (angel) and Henry (devil) with their impact on Dorian; however, a few of us did agree that although Henry introduced this way of life to him, it was Dorian’s decision to behave that way and therefore he MUST take responsibility for his downfall.
Q3: Do you think the picture really was changing? How did this impact Dorian’s behaviour?
It was interesting that nearly all the members didn’t even question if the picture wasn’t changing; they took it as fact. Yet when we considered it, it added another level to the story.
We agreed that the portrait allowed him to do what he wanted because he could just hide behind it. That perhaps Dorian wanted/imagined the picture changing so he felt less guilty about his actions.
Of course, he wasn’t alone in seeing the picture’s changes so we wondered whether his encounter with Basil was actually about his actions and the person he had become, and the painting was simply part of his psyche?
Q4: Do you consider Basil and Dorian’s relationship to be more than just friendship?
Our members were torn on this one. Most of us agreed that it was unquestionable that Basil was infatuated with Dorian but we were torn on the reasons why. Some believed that it was purely because of what Dorian offered Basil in terms of beauty/art, whereas some believed it was purely love.
I think one thing we all agreed on was how Basil’s love for Dorian was unrequited, as Dorian definitely didn’t feel the same way. However, it could be argued that Basil loves the Dorian that he paints and not the Dorian at the end of the novel.
As a whole, we thought that this Basil and Dorian’s relationship is down to the reader’s interpretation which was probably intentional by Wilde.
Q5: Let’s consider the female characters in the novel…why are they important?
Members definitely agreed that female characters were practically non-existent in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think we all agreed that they were used as plot devices and nothing more, which is a real shame.
Some members also argued that the women in the novel were referred to as the ‘weaker sex’, ‘decorative sex’ and as ‘playthings’ and possessions that can be manipulated and used. It’s obvious that they were used to highlight the actions of men.
Q6: Art is mentioned a lot during the novel, what do you think Wilde’s opinion towards art was?
I think we all agreed that Wilde was a Romanticist. Through The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde is playing with the idea that art is worshipped by society. That art can be beautiful and admired, but one must always read between the lines and look beyond the beauty on the surface.
This way of thinking is still kind of relevant in today’s society with social media; that people only post the happy stuff and we shouldn’t take everything we see in art as gospel truth.
Q7: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,” Why do you think Wilde said this? Do you agree?
Being a book club of passionate readers, there were some GREAT reactions to this question. Many agreed that books are entirely down to the reader’s interpretation.
Take The Picture of Dorian Gray, for instance, some members saw a romantic relationship between Basil and Dorian whereas others didn’t.
What some view as moral others will view as immoral and vice versa, but that is the beauty of literature, everyone’s interpretation is equally important regardless of moralities presented in the literature itself. We all agreed with one of the members who said that ‘books should be accessible to all and should go beyond moral boundaries so that a reader can explore their own views and test their limits.’
Q8: The Picture of Dorian Gray was used against Wilde during his court trial to prove he was having (illegal at the time) homosexual relations with a twenty-two-year-old poet named Lord Alfred Douglas. Can you understand why the book was used as evidence?
As a book club, we were again undecided on this question. We agreed that the book had homosexual undertones, but whether it was substantial enough to be used in court is a whole different level.
A few members stated that art/literature should be kept separate from the author/creator. Yet, there were a lot of similarities with the description of Dorian and the appearance of Lord Alfred Douglas, so it became easy for people to draw similarities between Wilde and Basil and even between Wilde and Henry, in the way Wilde corrupts young and naive men.
It’s Brontë month at the book club and we all voted to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. We will also be doing lots of charity events this month to help raise money for the Brontë Parsonage here in the UK after the news that due to COVID, it was struggling to remain open. If you wish to join in on all the fun, click here to join the Facebook Group.