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East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: March 2013 Classic Book Discussion (The Picture of Dorian Gra

Meeting Recap: March 2013 Classic Book Discussion (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)

Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 33
In this first classic book discussion meeting of 2013, we talked about a book about art and morality written by a flamboyant author whose homosexuality made him notorious in his time. It was a good discussion because, as always, opinions varied but everyone felt free to express themselves. Here's a sample of the comments during the meeting.

Discuss the relationship between Dorian and Basil.
- Basil sees Dorian as a perfect object and doesn't want Lord Henry to defile him. But it deteriorates over time as Dorian avoids Basil.
- Basil was in love with Dorian's surface and knows nothing of Dorian's soul.
- It makes one wonder if there was really any relationship between Basil and Dorian outside the painter-model relationship.
- If you think about it, Basil wants to be distant from Basil because that's how he can admire Dorian's appearance.

Is Lord Henry's belief of individual freedom an evil one?
- Lord Henry is an instigator, making people do things out of their character, yet not do such things himself.
- Given the Victorian era, things were boring, so having people like Lord Henry around could stir things up.
- Dorian, who is corrupted by Lord Henry, does see the consequences of his actions via the portrait.

The character of Sybil:
- Dorian and Sybil is just like Basil and Dorian, where the only thing one person cares about is outer appearance.
- It seems that the theme of the book is outer beauty versus the inner soul.
- Dorian reacts to Sybil's death, while Lord Henry seems cold about it.

Some side comments:
- Dorian is not evil. He's just violating social mores.
- Counterargument: Dorian was cold to Sybil after her bad singing, AND he murdered Basil. That's definitely sinful.
- Note that the book doesn't explicitly list Dorian's sins. It might be in text that was edited out of the original manuscript.

Regarding Chapter 11, the long one depicting jewels and all sorts of artistic things:
- Some people found it very long, but then again, that kind of writing was acceptable back then.
- Anthony the Organizer summed up what is likely the purpose of the chapter: by suggesting that Dorian wants to experience it all and would do anything, even evil things, to have it all

Overall, a little more than half of the attendees liked the book, and the rest either disliked it or had mixed feelings because the book is superficial and has nothing profound. But like I said, it doesn't matter whether or not people like the book. All that matters is that people enjoy the discussion, and this latest meeting was certainly no exception. :-)
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