Summary[ edit ] Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian's beauty ; he believes that Dorian's beauty is responsible for the new mode in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat's hedonistic world view: Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade.
The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences, while staying young and beautiful; all the while his portrait ages and records every sin.
The summary below deals with the longest version, the novel. However, certain episodes described—in particular Dorian's encounter with, and murder of, James Vane—do not appear in the version originally submitted by Wilde to Lippincott's.
The Picture of Dorian Gray begins on a beautiful summer day in Victorian era England, where Lord Henry Wotton, an opinionated man, is observing the sensitive artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of Dorian Gray, a handsome young man who is Basil's ultimate muse. While sitting for the painting, Dorian listens to Lord Henry espousing his hedonistic world view, and begins to think that beauty is the only aspect of life worth pursuing. This prompts Dorian to wish that the painted image of himself would age instead of himself.
Under the hedonistic influence of Lord Henry, Dorian fully explores his sensuality. He discovers the actress Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare plays in a dingy, working-class theatre. Dorian approaches and courts her, and soon proposes marriage. The enamoured Sibyl calls him "Prince Charming", and swoons with the happiness of being loved, but her protective brother, James, warns that if "Prince Charming" harms her, he will murder him.
Sibyl, too enamoured with Dorian to act, performs poorly, which makes both Basil and Lord Henry think Dorian has fallen in love with Sibyl because of her beauty instead of her acting talent. Embarrassed, Dorian rejects Sibyl, telling her that acting was her beauty; without that, she no longer interests him.
On returning home, Dorian notices that the portrait has changed; his wish has come true, and the man in the portrait bears a subtle sneer of cruelty. Dorian Gray observes the corruption recorded in his portrait, in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray Conscience-stricken and lonely, Dorian decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but he is too late, as Lord Henry informs him that Sibyl has committed suicide by swallowing prussic acid.
Dorian then understands that, where his life is headed, lust and good looks shall suffice. Dorian locks the portrait up, and over the following eighteen years, he experiments with every vice, influenced by a morally poisonous French novel that Lord Henry Wotton gave him. Dorian does not deny his debauchery, and takes Basil to see the portrait. The portrait has become so hideous that Basil is only able to identify it as his work by the signature he affixes to all his portraits.
Basil is horrified, and beseeches Dorian to pray for salvation. In anger, Dorian blames his fate on Basil, and stabs him to death. Dorian then calmly blackmails an old friend, the scientist Alan Campbell, into using his knowledge of chemistry to destroy the body of Basil Hallward.
Alan later kills himself over the deed. A 19th century London opium den based on fictional accounts of the day. To escape the guilt of his crime, Dorian goes to an opium den , where James Vane is unknowingly present. James had been seeking vengeance upon Dorian ever since Sibyl killed herself, but had no leads to pursue: In the opium den however he hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming", and he accosts Dorian. Dorian deceives James into believing that he is too young to have known Sibyl, who killed herself 18 years earlier, as his face is still that of a young man.
James relents and releases Dorian, but is then approached by a woman from the opium den who reproaches James for not killing Dorian.
She confirms that the man was Dorian Gray and explains that he has not aged in 18 years. James runs after Dorian, but he has gone. James then begins to stalk Dorian, causing Dorian to fear for his life. However, during a shooting party, a hunter accidentally kills James Vane, who was lurking in a thicket.
On returning to London, Dorian tells Lord Henry that he will live righteously from now on. Dorian wonders if his new-found goodness has reverted the corruption in the picture, but when he looks he sees only an even uglier image of himself. From that, Dorian understands that his true motives for the self-sacrifice of moral reformation were the vanity and curiosity of his quest for new experiences, along with the desire to restore beauty to the picture.
Deciding that only full confession will absolve him of wrongdoing, Dorian decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience, and the only piece of evidence remaining of his crimes—the picture. In a rage, he takes the knife with which he murdered Basil Hallward, and stabs the picture. The servants of the house awaken on hearing a cry from the locked room; on the street, passers-by who also heard the cry call the police. On entering the locked room, the servants find an unknown old man, stabbed in the heart, his face and figure withered and decrepit.
The servants identify the disfigured corpse by the rings on its fingers which belonged to their master; beside him is the picture of Dorian Gray, restored to its original beauty. Characters[ edit ] Oscar Wilde said that, in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , three of the characters were reflections of himself: Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks of me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.
The characters of the story are Dorian Gray — a handsome, narcissistic young man enthralled by Lord Henry's "new" hedonism. He indulges in every pleasure and virtually every 'sin', studying its effect upon him, which eventually leads to his death. Basil Hallward — a deeply moral man, the painter of the portrait, and infatuated with Dorian, whose patronage realises his potential as an artist. The picture of Dorian Gray is Basil's masterpiece.
Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton — an imperious aristocrat and a decadent dandy who espouses a philosophy of self-indulgent hedonism. Initially Basil's friend, he neglects him for Dorian's beauty. Lord Harry's libertine world view corrupts Dorian, who then successfully emulates him. To the aristocrat Harry, the observant artist Basil says, "You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. His distinguishing feature is total indifference to the consequences of his actions.
Scholars generally accept the character is partly inspired by Wilde's friend Lord Ronald Gower. Her love for Dorian ruins her acting ability, because she no longer finds pleasure in portraying fictional love as she is now experiencing real love in her life. She kills herself on learning that Dorian no longer loves her; at that, Lord Henry likens her to Ophelia , in Hamlet.
James Vane — Sibyl's brother, a sailor who leaves for Australia. He is very protective of his sister, especially as their mother cares only for Dorian's money. Believing that Dorian means to harm Sibyl, James hesitates to leave, and promises vengeance upon Dorian if any harm befalls her.
After Sibyl's suicide, James becomes obsessed with killing Dorian, and stalks him, but a hunter accidentally kills James. The brother's pursuit of vengeance upon the lover Dorian Gray , for the death of the sister Sibyl parallels that of Laertes vengeance against Prince Hamlet. Alan Campbell — chemist and one-time friend of Dorian who ended their friendship when Dorian's libertine reputation devalued such a friendship.
Dorian blackmails Alan into destroying the body of the murdered Basil Hallward; Campbell later shoots himself dead. Adrian Singleton — A youthful friend of Dorian's, whom he evidently introduced to opium addiction, which induced him to forge a cheque and made him a total outcast from his family and social set. Victoria, Lady Henry Wotton — Lord Henry's wife, whom he treats disdainfully; she later divorces him. Themes and motifs[ edit ] Aestheticism and duplicity[ edit ] The main theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray is aestheticism and its conceptual relation to living a double life.
Throughout the story, the narrative presents aestheticism as an absurd abstraction, which disillusions more than it dignifies the concept of Beauty. Despite Dorian being a hedonist, when Basil accuses him of making a "by-word" of the name of Lord Henry's sister, Dorian curtly replies, "Take care, Basil. You go too far Dorian enjoyed "keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life", by attending a high-society party only twenty-four hours after committing a murder.
Wilde conflates the images of the upper-class man and lower-class man in Dorian Gray, a gentleman slumming for strong entertainment in the poor parts of London town. Lord Henry philosophically had earlier said to him that: I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations"—implying that Dorian is two men, a refined aesthete and a coarse criminal. They then ask Socrates , "If one came into possession of such a ring, why should he act justly?
The disfigured and corrupted soul antithesis of the beautiful soul is imbalanced and disordered, and, in itself, is undesirable, regardless of any advantage derived from acting unjustly. The picture of Dorian Gray is the means by which other people, such as his friend Basil Hallward, may see Dorian's distorted soul.
Disruptive beauty is the thematic resemblance between the opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Faust[ edit ] About the literary hero, the author Oscar Wilde said, "in every first novel the hero is the author as Christ or Faust. In each story, the protagonist entices a beautiful woman to love him, and then destroys her life. In the preface to the novel , Wilde said that the notion behind the tale is "old in the history of literature", but was a thematic subject to which he had "given a new form".
Throughout, Lord Henry appears unaware of the effect of his actions upon the young man; and so frivolously advises Dorian, that "the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing. In chapter five, he writes: When Dorian tells Lord Henry about his new love Sibyl Vane, he mentions the Shakespeare plays in which she has acted, and refers to her by the name of the heroine of each play.
Later, Dorian speaks of his life by quoting Hamlet , a privileged character who impels his potential suitor Ophelia to suicide, and prompts her brother Laertes to swear mortal revenge. In the biography, Oscar Wilde , the literary critic Richard Ellmann said that: The references in Dorian Gray to specific chapters are deliberately inaccurate. Stoddart, an editor for Lippincott, was in London to solicit novellas to publish in the magazine.
Gill  at the Langham Hotel , and commissioned novellas from each writer. The literary merits of The Picture of Dorian Gray impressed Stoddart, but, as an editor, he told the publisher, George Lippincott, "in its present condition there are a number of things an innocent woman would make an exception to.
British reviewers condemned the novel's immorality, and said condemnation was so controversial that the W H Smith publishing house withdrew every copy of the July issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine from its bookstalls in railway stations. Wilde's textual additions were about "fleshing out of Dorian as a character" and providing details of his ancestry that made his "psychological collapse more prolonged and more convincing.
The sub-plot about James Vane's dislike of Dorian gives the novel a Victorian tinge of class struggle. With such textual changes, Oscar Wilde meant to diminish the moralistic controversy about the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Preface[ edit ] Consequent to the harsh criticism of the magazine edition of the novel, the textual revisions to The Picture of Dorian Gray included a preface in which Wilde addressed the criticisms and defended the reputation of his novel.