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The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary By Oscar Wilde Analysis and Explanation
About the Author Oscar Wilde
|16 October 1854, Westland Row, Dublin, Ireland
|30 November 1900, Paris, France
|Constance Lloyd (m. 1884–1898)
|Wilde, Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, MORE
Short Summary Of The Picture of Dorian Gray in English
Oscar Wilde The Picture Of Dorian Gray Summary introduction
The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. The novel was one of renowned author Oscar Wilde’s controversial works, as it clashed with the Victorian understanding of art in his attempt to free art. It is said to be his sole novel. The story is set in the 1800s, where Dorian Gray has recently inherited a fortune. A beautiful young man, he arrives in London and encounters Basil Hallward, a reputed artist. Basil resides in his Aunt Lady Agatha’s house. Enamored by his beauty, he decides to paint a portrait of Dorian, which he considers his next masterpiece. After completing the picture, Basil shows the painting to his friend Lord Henry. Basil often views Dorian as a Greek hero. Lord Henry Wotton is starkly different from Basil. While Basil is a moral and compassionate man, Lord Henry is transfixed on pleasure and is the symbol of hedonism in the novel.
He is also known for his dirty wit and is married to Victoria Wotton. While showing the painting, Basil admits that he may have revealed his love for Dorian. Hesitantly, Basil introduces him to Dorian, fearful of the influence Lord Henry may have upon him. However, Basil’s fears are proven right: Lord Henry lectures Dorian on the temporary nature of beauty and how he must enjoy it. Though the portrait of him may remain young, Dorian will grow old and lose his charm. An impressionable man, Dorian curses the picture and wishes that at this age he will remain young, giving up his soul so that the painting may age and not him.
Dorian becomes the apprentice of Lord Henry, indulging in hedonism and pleasure. Dorian meets Sybil Vane, a young and aspiring actress. She acts in Shakespeare’s adaptations in the theatre located in the more inferior parts of London. They soon fall in love, and Dorian proposes. She calls him her “Prince Charming.” Dorian briefly decided to renounce hedonism. He invites Lord Henry and Basil to one of Sybil’s plays to impress them. While performing in the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Sybil performs poorly due to her love for Dorian. She is unable to pretend to be in love with someone else on stage when she is in love with someone in reality. It is revealed that Dorian loved Sybil only for her acting and, embarrassed, he breaks off the engagement.
When Dorian observes the painting, he sees that the portrait has changed, with a sneer of cruelty across his face. Dorian realizes that it is a result of his cruelty towards Sybil that is portrayed on the canvas. Remorseful, he wants to make amends and reconcile. Lord Henry arrives bearing bad news that Sybil had killed herself. He convinces Dorian to view her death as an artistic expression of her love for him. Dorian soon realizes that his beauty is the only thing that matters. He hides his portrait in a room, at all times locked, as it becomes grotesque with every immoral action he commits.
Lord Henry gives him a yellow book about a Frenchman and his sins and has the book bound in 12 colors, possibly to match his different moods. The publication influences him to seek a life full of pleasure. His infamous and wicked exploits become famous, and his reputation takes a hit as eighteen years pass. Dorian has acquired many enemies, and he fears that someone will try to seek revenge and steal the painting. Though considered beautiful by many, Basil decides to meet Dorian to ask him about the rumors about his behavior. Dorian shows the portrait to Basil after a heated argument. The portrait now depicts an evil and hideous man. Terrified of what it has become, Basil begs Dorian to repent. However, filled with rage from the painting, he stabs Basil. He blackmails Dr. Alan Campbell, a scientist, and Dorian’s old friend, to dispose of the body. Guilt stricken by having helped commit a crime, Dr. Alan Campbell kills himself.
Dorian goes to the opium den to forget about the crime that he has committed. He meets James Vane, Sybil’s brother. Bitter from the suicide of his sister, James blames Dorian for her death and is seeking revenge. Dorian tricks him by saying that Sybil killed herself eighteen years ago and he is too young to have been involved with Sybil. James is easily swayed, as he only knows Dorian as “Prince Charming” that Sybil called him. A woman in the opium den informs him that the man he spoke to was Dorian Gray. James later realizes that the young man was Dorian and follows him. He hosts a party at his country estate, and he sees James through the window. James is killed accidentally by a shooting party, and Dorian feels relieved.
Dorian tells Lord Henry that he will make amends to live a more righteous life Dorian is romantically involved with Hetty Merton and tries to remain loyal to her. However, Dorian does not dare to confess to his crimes. He decides to destroy the incriminating evidence, his portrait. As Dorian goes into the room where the painting is stored, he sees that the portrait he is enraged, as it now symbolizes hypocrisy. Dorian takes the knife he used to kill Basil and stab the painting. His servants hear a loud crash coming from the locked room. A passerby alerts the police. The servants find a horrific body of an older man with a knife stabbed into his heart. This figure is none other than Dorian, and his servants identify him by his rings. Dorian Gray becomes the grotesque man from the painting, with the painting restored to its original form, into Basil’s masterpiece. The story incorporates the message that beauty and physical appearances, though magnificent, is transient. Dorian Gray uses beauty and pleasure to escape from the crimes that he has committed, however, in the end, he meets a tragic end, where the beauty that he once sought has now deceived him.