Chapters Summary And Analysis In The Picture Of Dorian Gray

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

“What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it, and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.”

The first chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray greatly establishes the characters’ personalities and their roles. Lord Henry Wotton and Basil Hallward are the first characters we meet, and both seem to be polar opposites from one another. Lord Henry is a realist, he sees things how they truly are, does not sugarcoat details, and bases his beliefs on solid facts. Basil is more of a romantic, and easily blinded by beauty and its influences. He idolizes the man he painted, Dorian Gray. It is clear that Basil is a romantic because of how much the young and beautiful Dorian Gray influences his art, motivating him to create things very different from what he had done previously.

Lord Henry does not agree with how Basil sees Dorian Gray. Lord Henry states, “What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it, and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.”, which is basically telling Basil that as time passes, he will begin to see that Dorian Gray is not as special as he once seemed to be, eventually depriving Basil of the rich and happy ideas that once flowed through his mind. At the end of the chapter, Dorian Gray suddenly shows up at Basil’s doorstep, leaving me to wonder how Lord Henry will react upon meeting Dorian Gray for the first time, and if he too will begin to see in the eyes of Basil.

“Let our friendship be a caprice” “How sad it is…I am less to you than your ivory hermes or your silver Faun.”

Chapter 2 of The Picture of Dorian Gray continues the story with Lord Henry meeting Dorian Gray for the first time, although with some objection from Basil due to the fact that he does not want whatever it is that makes Dorian so special to him to go away as a result of outside influences. Lord Henry genuinely enjoys Dorian’s company in the beginning, and they go outside into the garden while Basil finishes the painting, where Lord Henry commences very thought provoking conversation about youth and beauty with Dorian. The points that Lord Henry makes about youth really hit me, as it made me realize how much I should cherish my youth, and to live in it for as long as I can. It takes me back to old childhood memories that I wish I could relive, but sadly, time will go on, and we cannot go back. Despite the gloomy mood their conversation sets, Dorian Gray appreciates the talk with Lord Henry, and really sees eye to eye with him, instantly wanting to “let their friendship be a caprice”. I’ve also come to conclude that Dorian Gray is only very young and impressionable, nothing else. He seems to believe and respect everything his elders, such as Lord Henry, say. This is further evidenced when Basil reveals the final copy of Dorian Gray’s portrait, prompting Dorian to say “How sad it is…I am less to you than your ivory hermes or your silver Faun”. Dorian becomes irrational, and claims that he will kill himself once he grows old. Lord Henry successfully changed the bright and positive Dorian that Basil knew and turned him into a naive youngster who dreaded the inevitable. I just hope in the coming chapters that Dorian learns to combat these new feelings and to see that Lord Henry is not as great as he thinks he is.

“Young people, nowadays, imagine that money is everything”

Chapter 3 introduces us to Lord Henry’s uncle, Lord Fermor, who identifies politically as a Tory. A particular quote of his caught my eye, “young people, nowadays, imagine that money is everything”. Even though this quote describes young people during those times, It still is true even today. As teens, we are taught to study hard so we can get the highest paying jobs, and we are taught lessons every day by our mentors or parents about the consequences of not abiding by those habits. From what I’ve seen, most of my peers have all gone after careers that they know they’ll eventually make six figures or more in. It’s no longer the good old times where we strove towards our dream jobs, such as being astronauts, soldiers, and even the President of the United States. Later in the chapter, Dorian Gray has lost interest in Basil, refusing to honor the promise that he would return to visit him, and instead wants to continue spending time with Lord Henry, who he says “No one talks so wonderfully as you do”.

I guess Dorian prefers Henry because he actually makes interesting conversations, whereas Basil only usually sits in silence and creates art based upon Dorian. This could be bad because Lord Henry could continue to influence more ideas into Dorian’s mind, causing him to become less pure and more pessimistic.

“When is she Sibyl Vane?”

Chapter 4 lets us know that Dorian Gray has been Lord Henry’s close friend for about a month now, indicating they spend most of their time together, as Dorian waited for Henry to come home, even letting himself into the house. It is then where we meet Lord Henry’s wife, Victoria. Lord Henry then comes home and talks to Dorian about how marriage is eventually, disappointing. On the topic of marriage, Dorian tells Harry that he has fallen in love with an actress, Sibyl Vane. Dorian says she is a genius, to which Harry replies, “My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex”, leading me to conclude that Harry is something of a misogynist. As the conversation continues on about how much Dorian adores the roles she takes on, Harry asks, “When is she Sibyl Vane?”.

My interpretation of this question is that Lord Henry believes that Dorian has only fallen in love with Sibyl as an actress, and not really with the real Sibyl. Regardless, Dorian’s love for her only makes him much more interesting in the eyes of Harry, as he noted, “His nature had developed like a flower…”, also showing how much Dorian has developed over time under Harry’s influence. I’ve also noticed that Lord Henry feels that Dorian is like his lab rat, or “gracious figure in a pageant or play”, as Dorian’s development is mainly a result of Lord Henry’s teachings. It makes me wonder what will eventually happen to Dorian if he continues on this path, especially now that it is revealed that he is engaged to Sibyl at the end of the chapter.

“I will find out who he is, track him down, and kill him like a dog. I swear it.”

This quote is said by James Vane in chapter 5, to his mother. When James’ states that he will kill Dorian if he wrongs his sister, he says it with a surprising amount of passion and sincerity, which is noted by his mother, who describes it as “the exaggerated folly of the threat, the passionate nature that accompanied it, the mad melodramatic words…”. I feel this quote foreshadows that something bad will happen to Dorian Gray.

I’m willing to bet that he will stop loving Sibyl for who she is and rather for who she was when he saw her as an actress, which goes back to how Lord Henry asked, “When is she Sibyl Vane?”. It might be far off, but that’s my prediction. James Vane’s statement also goes to show how protective he is of his older sister, like it’s his duty to. It also shows how foolish the youth are, in thinking they can take on responsibilities seriously. James is only sixteen, and he isn’t mature enough to know that the threat of killing someone over such a thing is unreasonable. This goes along with what I believe is the books’ theme; the immaturity of youth. Both James and Dorian are young and impressionable foolish men.

“You have killed my love…I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art…how mad I was to love you!”

Dorian Gray finally breaks the heart of Sibyl Vane. In chapter 7, which is what I knew he would eventually come to do. It is now all up to Sibyl to decide how she will handle this in the future, and whether or not James will go after Dorian. Like all great works of literature, I can assume James will definitely go on to find and kill Dorian. I do, however, understand Dorian’s reasons for his break up with Sibyl Vane. It is all simply because Sibyl was fake. She threw away her acting career when the opportunity arose. She never really believed in the art like Dorian thought she did, and his only true reason for loving her was because she was, in his eyes, the genuine embodiment of great poets and art itself, that of which he thought was what made Sibyl the most interesting and beautiful girl he ever met. To find out that Sibyl didn’t actually share the same passion he did, devastated him. This also signifies that Dorian Gray is changing, and that is evidenced by the fact that the picture of himself, now has a cruel expression.

“To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul!”

In chapter 16, it is well past the murder of Basil, and Dorian Gray retreats to a secluded and run down area of town, far from his home. Dorian has given up on life, and he cannot redeem himself. As it is said later in the chapter, he sold himself to the devil for a pretty face. Dorian is lost, and he resorts to opium to make him forget about his sins and his wrongdoings. Dorian says “To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul!” because it is now the only thing he knows to do. Lord Henry’s teachings have never left him, and it is all he has left. The appearance of Adrian and Basil’s Eyes in the opium room only further shows that Dorian cannot escape his crimes, and that it signals he is far too late for redemption. This is the beginning of the end of Dorian Gray.

“As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free. It would kill this Monstrous soul-life, and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace. He seized the thing, and stabbed the picture with it.”

The final narration in the moments before Dorian Gray’s death describes Dorian’s assumptions of what would happen if he were to finally get rid of the grotesque painting of himself. What this depicts, is Dorian coming to terms with killing himself. By stabbing the picture, it serves as a metaphor for him stabbing himself, as the picture represented the true Dorian Gray, and his current appearance represented what the painting should’ve always looked like. Dorian’s death finally set him free of his curse, and now he would finally be at peace with himself for doing what he believed to be the only good thing he’s ever done. What I would like to know, is if Dorian knew he would die after stabbing the picture. I think if he did know, he probably wouldn’t have, as it seemed his intentions earlier in the chapter were to start a new life on a fresh clean slate.

What I’ve come to realize now, was that the story of Dorian Gray’s path from good to evil was the story of the loss of innocence. Dorian had been a clean, and uncorrupt person, but after the introduction of Lord Henry, turned into a dirty and vile monster.


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