The Yellow Book – The Picture of Dorian Gray (Final)

The Yellow Book
The ‘yellow book‘ which corrupts Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray; is generally thought to be Joris-Karl Huysmans’s À rebours (1884).

Today on Wednesday’s book excerpt we revisit for the final occasion Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In our last encounter with Wilde’s only novel we explored Lord Henry’s enlightening views on humanity and science. The following dialogue between Henry and Dorian Gray occurs towards the end of the novel where the die has been well and truly cast on our protagonist Gray. Oscar Wilde paints such an alluring picture of youth in the first half of Dorian Gray that I like Dorian was being set up for the great fall due to my having succumbed to Henry’s morbid conclusions about ageing and windswept by his great monologue Youth is the One Thing Worth Having. You see, it’s the hedonistic and amoral Lord Henry who has corrupted the virtue and innocence that Dorian possessed at the start of the story. Henry appears on the surface unaware of the effect of his actions upon the young man, but even as Dorian remonstrates ‘I am going to be good’, Henry devilishly rebuttals ‘You cannot change to me, Dorian’ leaving Dorian behest to this unholy pact.

The book which Dorian accuses Henry of poisoning him with below is a thinly veiled reference to J.K. Huysmans’ À Rebours (“Against Nature”). The protagonist of that book is a representation of what Dorian could become—a robotic being with no true emotions and no true relationships—looking for only the next new sensation.

214 Dorian 1
214 Dorian 2

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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6 comments on “The Yellow Book – The Picture of Dorian Gray (Final)
  1. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Wow, those are some thick paragraphs without any breaks in them, lol !!
    I am confused about Dorian calling the premise of the book poison: “The protagonist of that book is a representation of what Dorian could become—a robotic being with no true emotions and no true relationships—looking for only the next new sensation.”
    It’s probably silly to ask questions without just reading the book for myself, but…
    that seems like sound advice to me, not poison.
    Isn’t Henry warning him? Or am I looking at it the wrong way………?

    • That’s a very astute and reasonable question. I assume the book reference is tongue in cheek by Wilde. A book of course cannot poison anyone, but the book seems to ‘cast a spell’ (the die is cast) – that Dorian will suffer the same fate as the protagonist. So it’s metaphorical. It may not come across from my quotes in the previous entries, that this book is in fact a Gothic and fantastical novel. Some things occur which don’t happen in real life such as the painting of Dorian rapidly ageing to become a horrid /transfigured future depiction of himself.
      Based on their conversations Lord Henry isn’t warning him, on the contrary, he is taking advantage of Dorian’s lack of experience and naivety. Also no-one is certain that the book is in fact J.K. Huysmans’ À Rebours (“Against Nature”), but it would appear to be an apt choice. But I understand your point and it’s a good one. If I had more time I’d like to dig a bit more deeper on it I would, but my brief interpretation above will have to do for now.

      • There are many things indicating that it is in fact “Against Nature”. Wilde’s novel seems to be inspired by it to a great degree, and follows the same path as Joris does in his book.

  2. selizabryangmailcom says:

    Yeah, it’s difficult to do second-hand, like without someone else having read the book too. I don’t think I’ve read it. Pretty sure I would have remembered.
    But I gotcha–that makes sense. Dorian basically is in denial, then, that he will walk down that same road.

  3. dfolstad58 says:

    I know my next book to read. Much appreciated

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