Dorian is repulsed and wants nothing further to do with her. Henry arrives the next day, however, with news that Sibyl committed suicide the previous night, and he convinces Dorian that there is no reason for him to feel badly about it. Dorian has the portrait removed to his attic. Henry sends Dorian a book that he finds poisonous and fascinating critics have suggested that it might be Against the Grain by Joris-Karl Huysmans. He frequently visits the portrait, noting the signs of aging and of corruption that appear, though he himself remains unblemished.
One evening he runs into Basil, who tells him that there are rumours that he has destroyed the lives and reputations of many people. Dorian, however, refuses to accept blame.
Basil declares that he clearly does not know Dorian, who responds by taking him to the attic to see the portrait. The painting has become horrifying. Basil tells Dorian that if this is a reflection of his soul, he must repent and pray for forgiveness, and a suddenly enraged Dorian murders Basil.
He blackmails another former friend into disposing of the body.
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Some weeks later Dorian tells Henry that he has decided to become virtuous and recently decided against taking advantage of a young girl who was smitten with him. Dorian goes to see if the portrait has improved because of his honourable act, but he sees rather that it has acquired a look of cunning. He decides to destroy the portrait and stabs it with a knife. His servants hear a scream, and, when they arrive, they see a loathsome old man dead on the floor with a knife in his chest and a portrait of the beautiful young man he once was.
That is all.
Dorian Gray as Symbolic Representation of Wilde's Personality
However, for all its transgressive delights, The Picture of Dorian Gray could easily be read as a profoundly moral book, even a cautionary tale against the dangers of vice. Indeed, the beautiful boy is the least interesting character in the book that bears his name. Publication of the novel scandalized Victorian England, and The Picture of Dorian Gray was used as evidence against Wilde when he was tried and convicted in on charges related to homosexuality. The novel became a classic of English literature and was adapted into a number of films, most notably a version that was directed by Albert Lewin.
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Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Written By: Ronan McDonald. See Article History. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. It was the most notorious novel of its time. He exchanges his soul for youth that never fades. Fantasy , imaginative fiction dependent for effect on strangeness of setting such as other worlds or times and of characters such as supernatural or unnatural beings.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is getting a gender-swapped film adaptation
Novel , an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting. Within its broad framework, the genre of the novel has encompassed an extensive range of types…. Meanwhile, his portrait — an oil painting locked in the attic like a guilty secret — gradually decays, bearing every line of his debauchery as well as the ravages of time.
He can thus ignore the pious morality that pervades the society in which he lives.
His ability to have the best of both worlds — the continued acceptance of his peers and the ability to fulfil his basest desires — drives his fascination with events. In other words, any moral disgust or vicarious pleasure derived from the book reflects more upon us as readers than it does on the novel itself. The book is a tale, pure and simple.
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It is we, the readers, who force it to bear the weight of a moral dimension. This is exemplified in the novel by the dandyish Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry advocates the hedonistic pursuit of new experiences as the prime objective in life. He stands before his decaying portrait, comparing the moral degradation as depicted in oil with his unblemished innocence as reflected by the mirror. Dorian — via his wish to remain handsome, while the painting bears the weight of his corruption — muddies the boundary between art and life, esthetics and ethics.
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Paintings often play a sinister role in Gothic fiction. This latter idea suggests Dorian is a scientific case study, as well as a moral one. Throughout the book Lord Henry treats Dorian as a beautiful subject upon which to experiment, partly via his encouragement of Dorian to pursue a philosophy of pleasure, and partly through a call to social revolution — a wish to abandon the restraints of Victorian morality on the grounds that sin and conscience are outmoded primitive concepts to be swept aside in the pursuit of new sensations.
His call to youth is a call to courage. By attempting to destroy the painting, and thus free himself from the constant reminder of his own guilt he, ultimately, manages only to destroy himself. It is this later version that forms the standard text of the novel.
Guilt Gone Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
For many people Oscar Wilde the artist — with his flamboyant public persona and his secretive private life — and his novel with its two distinctly different versions and its duplicitous central character mirrored each other from the start. He has also edited and introduced collections of supernatural tales by authors including Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Edgar Allan Poe and Walter de la Mare.
The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License. It is a story of courtships, betrothals and confused identities in which two young men who pursue two young women who are both determined to marry 'Earnest'.