A short collection of Oscar Wilde’s description artists andart.The story starts out in theartist Basil Hallward’s house, with the painter and his guest Lord HenryWotton. The latter then admires and compliments Basil’s newest artwork, aportrait of a beautiful young man. However, when Lord Henry suggests for theexhibition of the portrait, claiming that it is the artist’s best masterpiece, hissuggestion is immediately declined as the artist feels that he has put too muchof himself into it. However, his guest does not believe this reason saying thatthe Basil bears no resemblance to the young lad in the portrait. Theexplanation he then receives is that an artist’s work reveals his/her feelingsand secrets more than it does the subject of the art. Although initiallyattempting to keep the young lad’s identity a secret, Basil eventually slipsand reveals his name to be Dorian Gray, and whose acquaintance he made at aparty.
He also informs Henry that Gray’s influence on him is so great it haschanged his style of art and that he utterly worships the young lad. Lord Henrythen becomes interested in meeting this new individual, and though his host isreluctant at first, he could not stop the encounter, especially after Gray’sappearance was announced by the butler. However, right before the meeting,Basil pleas with his friend to not corrupt the innocent and beautiful nature ofDorian Gray with his terrible influence.
When Lord Henry meets Dorian forthe first time, he admits that he is a very handsome and innocent looking younglad. Basil then asks Lord Henry to leave so that he could finish the portraitbut his request is denied by Dorian who seems to be attracted to Lord Henry.Henry than talks to Dorian about many of his own views and philosophies,negatively influencing him. Although Dorian admits that he is being influenced,being innocent and naïve, he does not see its corruptive powers, and iscaptivated by Henry’s words. While Basil is finishing the portrait’sbackground, Dorian and Henry retire to the garden where the latter continueshis influence by talking about the importance of youth and beauty whileencouraging the selfish actions of seeking pleasure. The conversation isinterrupted when Basil asks Dorian to return to the studio so that he mayfinish the portrait. After the artwork’s completion, Basil shows it to the twoothers in the room. Dorian is fascinated by the image of himself on the canvas,and becomes jealous by the fact that the portrait will get to keep his beautyand youth, while he will continuously age and become uglier.
He then wishesthat the portrait would carry his burden of aging while he would look foreveryoung and handsome, an exchange that he was willing to trade his soul for.Basil, seeing the change in the young lad, blames Henry, who merely claims thathe had brought to the surface what was already there: the real Dorian. Afterwitnessing the terrible effect of the portrait on the men, Basil is about todestroy the portrait when he is stopped by Dorian who claims that such anaction would be murder. The two other men then depart leaving Basil with theportrait. Before doing so, Henry refuses to fulfil the painter’s request to notcorrupt Dorian further. Chapter 3:SummaryLord Henry visits his uncle, LordFermor, to seek information about Dorian Gray.
From him, Henry learns ofDorian’s dark family past. His mother was an aristocrat by the name of MargaretDevereux, daughter of Lord Kelso, who ran away with a penniless soldier,Dorian’s father .Because the marriage was looked down upon and disapproved,Dorian’s father was murdered, due to his grandfather on his maternal side. Withina year, Margaret was also dead, leaving Dorian an orphan. The young lad got hisbeauty from his mother, and his fortune also from her side of the family.Later, Henry and Dorian both attend a luncheon, where the older of the two onceagain talks about his philosophy, fascinating Dorian with his words. The twothen leave lunch together, after Dorian confesses his loyalty and admiration ofLord Henry.
Dorian is in Lord Henry’s librarywaiting for its owner who is late. Finally, Henry’s wife enters and she isexcited to meet Dorian whom she has seen numerous photos of. The two conversefor a short while before Lord Henry arrives at the scene explaining how hespent the last few hours bargaining for a piece of fabric.
After the two wereleft alone together, Dorian confesses his love of an actress named Sibyl Vaneto Henry. He had been watching the play Romeo and Juliet from a private theatrebox, and when he saw her perform Juliet, became infatuated with herimmediately. Returning to the theatre night after night, Dorian had seen herperform in many roles including Rosalind, Juliet, and Imogen. When firsttelling his friend about his love, Dorian had been concerned, for he knew ofHenry’s opinion of actresses, but the latter assured him otherwise. Dorianclaims that what draws him to Sibyl is her job as an actress, for she issomeone different every night, and therefore is never boring. In fact, it canbe said that he fell in love with Sibyl’s profession and not her as a person.Henry agree to visit the theatre with Basil and Dorian.
After the young ladleaves, Henry reveal his thoughts to the reader, to him, Dorian is nothing morethan an experiment for him to observe. That night, it is revealed to Lord Henryin a note that Dorian is engaged to Sibyl.Sibyl and her mother arediscussing her relationship with Dorian. She is very excited to be engaged toDorian Gray. Her mother is revealed to be a realistic and a materialisticallygreedy woman. The two are much in debt to Mr. Isaacs, but her mother is willingto let her daughter marry Dorian if the latter is wealthy.
Sibyl is alsorevealed to be a very innocent and naïve young lady as she seems to have noregard for the family’s debt, so long that she marries for love. On top ofthat, she is engaged to a man whom to her is only a fairy-tale character. Sibylis revealed to have a very loving relationship with her brother James Vane whois a sailor headed for Australia, where he plans to make his fortune.
James isvery protective of his sister, and disapproves of her relationship with “PrinceCharming”. During a walk in the park with his sister, he reveals that hebelieves that the “gentleman” is taking advantage of his sister. When theyreturn home, he asks their mother whether or not she ever married their father,and the answer was no. She defends him however, saying that he was a gentleman,hinting that Sibyl’s relationship with another “gentleman” is doomed. He vowsthat if Sibyl’s lover ever harms his sister, he will track him down the man andkill him. Lord Henry brings Basil the newsof Dorian’s engagement.
Basil is surprised by this news and Lord Henrycontinues by telling him that it is to some actress, showing his disdain forDorian’s choice which he dared not show in front of the lad. Basil is trulyupset by the news and wonders how Dorian could possibly make such a mistake.Lord Henry’s words which state that Dorian is merely engaged and not married,foreshadow the fact that Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl may not reachmarriage.
He expresses there to be some value in the relationship as Sibyl isapparently beautiful, a trait that is highly valued by Lord Henry. He thensuggests that if Dorian does marry, that he should remain loyal for only half ayear before going out and finding himself a mistress. Dorian then arrives atthe scene, filled with excitement from seeing Sibyl’s performance of Rosalindthe previous night. Dorian then reveals his plan to marry the actress in lessthan a year’s time, as soon as he reaches the legal age to marry. After beingquestioned by Lord Henry, Dorian admits that the engagement was not a formalone, but simply that Dorian confessed his love for Sibyl and the latterconfessed herself unworthy of being his partner in life. For the first time inthe novel, Dorian rejects Henry saying that his cynical views and philosophyare unsuitable for the purity and innocence of Sibyl, and that he would choosehis love over his friend. Lord Henry and Dorian then leaves together with theartist following behind. It is at the end of the chapter that Basil admits thathe feels as if he has lost the relationship and loyalty of the young lad he hadonce painted of.
The three men arrive at thecrowded theatre. That night, Sibyl plays the role of Juliet in Romeo and Julietand although she looks just as beautiful and innocent as ever, her performance waslistless and disappointing. Dorian himself was disappointed. Basil and Henry,who both admitted that Sibyl was in fact beautiful and supported the marriage,were appalled by the acting. Like many of the members of the audience thatnight, they could not bear the show and left before the curtains fell.
Only theyoung lad himself waited until the end before visiting Sibyl demanding a reasonfor her terrible performance. Sibyl joyfully explained that it was because shewas so in love that she can no longer act as she once was able to. She admitsthat because of Dorian, she is now aware of the true reality and can no longerthrive in the false world of acting that she once dominated in. Dorian isdisgusted by her and the romantic feelings that he once possessed seemed tohave vanished in that instant. Instead he now finds Sibyl shallow and foolish,proving to the reader that the young lad did in fact fall in love with Sibyl’sprofession and not her as a person. Sibyl is absolutely heartbroken and even asshe sobs uncontrollably and begs Dorian to stay, but the young man ends theirrelationship and walks out of the theatre. That night, after arriving home,Dorian notices that the portrait that Basil had painted of him seems different.The lines around the mouth seemed to possess a new look of cruelty.
Shocked,Dorian checks his own reflection in the mirror but notes no difference, yetupon a closer examination of the portrait, the cruel look on the painted facewas unmistakable. He then remembers the wish that he had made impulsively inthe artist’s studio, and realized that unwittingly, it must have been granted.After a moment of reflection, Dorian realizes that the reason must have beenhis cruel treatment towards Sibyl. He then vows that he would apologize toSibyl and marry her to compensate for his sin, and to commit no more vile actsin his future. After recognizing that Lord Henry has a terrible influence onhim, he plans to sever all ties with the man. He then pulls the curtain overthe portrait and after leaving the house, repeatedly calls Sibyl’s name intothe peaceful dawn.After sleeping in late, Dorian isreceives a pile of letters, one of which is from Lord Henry, but he does notopen it. He recalls the changes in the portrait from the night before and goesto check it to confirm that what he had seen was real, and indeed it was.
Heseeks to save his soul by writing a long apology letter to Sibyl asking for herforgiveness and telling her that what he did had been terrible. By writing theletter, Dorian felt that he was no longer guilty of his treatment of Sibyl. LordHenry then pays Dorian a visit, and seems unnaturally consoling compared to hisusual self. He then asks Dorian a number of questions regarding Sibyl from thenight before, and states that the tragic events were not his fault. Dorian thentells him of his plans to make amends to Sibyl by marrying him. Here, aconfused Lord Henry asks if his letter had been read and Dorian admits that hehad not done so.
Henry then explains the purpose of the letter: to informDorian that Sibyl was dead, by suicide via poison. Dorian shows no sign ofregret over the incident and jokes that his first letter was directed to a deadgirl. He even goes as far as to blame the suicide on Sibyl’s own selfishness.For a moment, Dorian seems to feel guilty by the fact that he cannot seem tofeel grief at the news and wonders if he is in fact heartless. Henry continuesto corrupt Dorian by assuring him that the whole tragedy could be viewed asnothing but a wonderful experience for Dorian. He then checks the portrait tofind that it remained unchanged, and after concluding that it only registersevents that have occurred, vows to continue life by seeking the ultimatepleasures while retaining his youth and beauty. Here he lets go of whateversmall piece of conscience he has left and fully enters his life of sin andcorruption. During breakfast the followingday, Basil arrives to give Dorian his condolences and expresses his shock atDorian’s heartlessness.
He had paid an earlier visit only to find that Dorianhad gone to the opera, so soon after the death of his fiancée. On top of that,Dorian’s apparent boredom and indifference regarding Sibyl’s tragedy is verydisturbing to Basil. The young lad does not even care about how the rest of theyoung actress’s family members are dealing with the issue. Instead, Dorianchanges to topic and asks about Basil’s paintings. Basil, after angrilyaccursing Dorian’s lack of a heart, blames his new behaviour on Lord Henry.
Dorian immediately defends Henry saying that he has taught him more than theartist whose only lessons were teaching him how to be vain. Basil’s next wordsforeshadow his own fate when he says that he will one day be punished forcorrupting Dorian (by making him vain). Dorian then tries to convince himselfby saying that he has changed. The young lad then tells Basil that while he isa better person, the former is the courageous one who is not afraid of life.Dorian then requests of Basil a portrait of Sibyl. The latter agrees and asksthat Dorian sit with him again, but Dorian declines, saying that it isimpossible for him to do so again. Upon being asked for his portrait by theartist so that it can be displayed in an exhibition in Paris, Dorian ishorrified and convinces Basil that the artwork is never to be displayed inpublic.
Dorian then prides himself at being able to successfully manipulatethose around him while keeping his secret safe. It is here when he decides thatthe portrait is to be hidden permanently.Dorian decides to move theportrait to the attic where it could be hidden and accessible to no one buthimself. Not even trusting his own servants to not look at the portrait, hesummons Mr. Hubbard, the frame maker, and asks for his assistance in moving theportrait.
From his housekeeper, Mrs. Leaf, he requests the key to the oldschoolroom that has been abandoned for years. He covers the portrait with apiece of fabric used to cover coffins before his servant, Victor’s return.Dorian becomes paranoid that his servant’s will find out his secrets and use itto blackmail him. There is a moment when Dorian realizes the poisonousinfluence of Lord Henry and wonders if he could turn to Basil to avoidtravelling down the sinful path he is currently headed.
However, the momentpasses as quickly as it had come, and the young lad discards the possibility ofhis redemption deciding that it was too late already. Dorian in a way securedhis own fate by choosing to head down a path that will utterly corrupt him andhis soul. After the frame maker arrives with two men, they transport theportrait to the designated room, which contain many of Dorian’s childhoodmemories. Afterwards Dorian receive a book and a newspaper article aboutSibyl’s death from Henry, and after reading the article, Dorian is angry atHenry for pointing out the ugliness of Sibyl’s death. The book, however, graspsDorian’s interest.
There is no plot and revolves around only one character, andtells of the sins of the world. He becomes so engrossed by it that he readsuntil Victor reminds him of his dinner with Henry. When the two meet, Henry isnot at all surprised that Dorian enjoys the book which he has given him.
Manipulation:Dorian Gray is manipulated by Lord Henry who wishes to makeothers see his views and live by his philosophy. After sensing that Dorian ishighly impressionable, Henry begins manipulating the young lad, and ultimatelycorrupting him.Corruption:The novel, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, documents the titlecharacter’s corruption from an innocent and pure young lad to the monster atthe end of the novel.
His corruption was mainly due to the influence of hisfriend, Lord Henry.Innocence:The first half of the novel shows Dorian’s loss of innocenceafter being negatively influenced by Lord Henry. It can be argued that thisnovel sends to the reader the message that innocence does not last, asdemonstrated by the two characters Dorian and Sibyl. Dorian becomes corrupted,and Sibyl’s innocence led her to her death because she was unable to realizehow corrupted her fiancée was. Loyalty:The artist Basil demonstrates his loyalty to Dorian as hetries to stop him from interacting with Lord Henry knowing that the latter hada negative influence on those around him.
He truly does have Dorian’s bestinterest in mind, and is pained when he sees that Dorian has been corrupted.Vanity:One of the most important themes in the novel, it is due tovanity that the events in the book were able to unfold. Lord Henry possesses avery Hellenistic views which he imposes on Dorian. It is a result of his ownvanity that causes Dorian to trade his soul for eternal youth and beauty, believingthe latter to be more important, thus setting the stage for the events of thenovel.