Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Painter Who Was Obsessed To The Model: Dorian Gray Chapter 1

(p. 7-21)

After finishing chapter I of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I realized that I have gained much more from the first 14 pages than I have done from any other book's first chapter. There are a lot of things l'd like to take note, that finally I decided to write a post for each or every few chapters of Dorian Gray—it would be more than ten posts, and I hope you won't get bored to read the titles over and over again J. This time I won't just read and flip through pages, but I want to savour every sentence and to digest every thought I meet with. Dorian Gray really deserves it, especially because it is a bildungsroman. These posts will also be the place I can keep my favourite quotes.

So, here is my post for the first chapter.

What I like...

Oscar Wilde opened the first chapter in a beautiful way, he combined two senses to describe the atmosphere at Basil Hallward's studio.

"Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window (...) The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the struggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive." 

This is what I imagine as the studio
The beauty of honey-coloured laburnum 

What it's all about...

Lord Henry encouraged his friend Basil to exhibit his 'best work' of painting, but Basil refused the idea because he has 'put too much of himself' in the picture. "I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul."

It's a picture of Basil's new young friend, Dorian Gray, in whose personality Basil admitted that he saw a new manner of art. Dorian had influenced Basil such greatly that Basil was attached to him since their first meeting. Now Lord Henry was very curious, what kind of personality that has 'bewitched' his friend Basil who has always been an independent, self-natured man.

My random thoughts...

The reflection on our own art works
"Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself."

I know it is true, just like how a book being a reflection of the author personality, mind and mental state when he wrote it. That's how we came to know an author, by his/her writings. I think we can also feel close and very familiar to our blogger (or twitter) friends whom we never meet, because and from of our writings. 'You are what you write'.

Beauty vs Intellectuality
"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."

Lord Henry thinks that a person with a pure beauty can't be a thinker, thus one can't own both beauty and intellectuality. That's why Lord Henry sees Dorian Gray as Narcissus and brainless.

"There is no doubt that Genius lasts longer than Beauty." and that's why we filled our minds with as much knowledge as possible (rubbish and facts, said Lord Henry), but in the end it will just make us 'dreadful things' and took away our beauty. Here Lord Henry was quite sure that Basil will someday get tired of Dorian Gray, which Basil disagreed.

What I need to digest more...

  • How a singular man's personality can make us sees things (visually AND abstract idea) in a different and new perspective?
  • How a beautiful man like Dorian Gray can dominate an independent man like Basil?
  • Why Basil was afraid that the world will see his secret in his picture? What is the secret?

The characters…

Basil Hallward -- the painter, independent, self-natured man. After meeting with his model (Dorian), he became obsessed to him, and let himself being dominated by Dorian.

Lord Henry Wotton -- Basil's friend, easy going, cynical, have an expressive manner and different way of seeing life.


  1. This is NOT boring, Fanda. It's a great way to explore a book and help others too. I haven't read Dorian Gray but your comments intrigue me and make me want to try it. Your comments are thoughtful and insightful. They way you took the first passage you wrote and explained it using the pictures opened the story up for me. I think it will help others too. Regarding "what you want to digest more," it is my suspicion that your last comment is the unanswered question used by the author to drive the reader to keep reading but that is only a guess.

    1. I think so too (about the unanswered question). That's why I put it there, so later on when I finish or nearly finish this book, I can look back and search my questions, and see whether it's answered or whether my thoughts had been going into the right direction. Hope you will right this soon, Ali, I know you'll like it!


What do you think?