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The Picture of Dorian Gray - plot summary

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The Picture of Dorian Gray Before the Book: * The preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a series of aphorisms that deal with beauty, art, artists, and critics. They talk about beauty and how it should be admired without trying to find fault or meaning in it. One of the lines that most stuck me was, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all" (Wilde 2). I know this book received a lot of criticism when it was first published, so this quote from Wilde sustains these notions. Wilde also stresses that one should find beautiful meanings in beautiful things, but that trying to find a deeper meaning is dangerous. From the preface and what I know about the book, it is going to deal with a lot with the purpose of art, hedonism, and superficiality. * I know the novel is about a man who longs to stay young and beautiful forever. It was scandalous when it came out. I also know Oscar Wilde wrote mainly plays and short stories. He was put on trial for reasons I do not know and exiled. Chapters 1-4 * Summary: The novel starts off with Basil Hallward, a reclusive painter, entertaining his friend Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry admires one of Basil's latest paintings and asks who the subject is. Basil tells him that it is Dorian Gray and goes on to tell Lord Henry how they met. Basil described Dorian as the most beautiful man on Earth. ...read more.


When Sybil loses her ability to act, Dorian no longer sees anything of great value in her. His cruelty towards her marks the beginning of Dorian losing his sole, as evident in the first change of the painting. Lord Henry continues to be a bad influence on Dorian. The main women we meet in these chapters are Sybil Vane and Victoria Wotton. Wilde makes both of them simple, one-dimensional characters, as the other women characters introduced up to chapter nine. Sybil is melodramatic and na�ve. She falls in love with "Prince Charming" very quickly and does not think twice about marrying him. * Language: One of the most important symbols is introduced in theses chapters, the portrait. The portrait is the main symbol at work here. The portrait of Dorian Gray becomes a visible representation of Dorian's soul, which becomes uglier with every crime he commits. It becomes a kind of conscience. * Memorable Passage: "For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul" (Wilde 84). This quote is important because it the moment that Dorian realizes what the painting represents and seems to accept it. It is also when the readers becomes certain that the painting will serve as a representation of Dorian's soul and conscious. * Questions: How exactly did the painting become a mirror for Dorian's conscious? ...read more.


This passage shows that Dorian is not interested in forgiveness, but rather in forgetting his sins. The notions presented in this passage come up again when Dorian realizes the hypocrisy in wanting to forget instead of forgiveness. But Dorian cannot forget, and it leads to his downfall. * Questions: How can Lord Henry be so unaware of what is going on with Dorian, especially after Dorian confesses the murder to him? After Finishing the Book: * I really liked the book. The imagery was especially great. Wilde takes the time to paint detailed pictures that add to the mood very well. Some parts of the plot bothered me, but that's probably attributed to my realism. All in all, I wouldn't change anything. The novel isn't meant to be realistic and gets its message across better with the mysterious and menacing air that the portrait adds. * The title The Picture of Dorian Gray refers to one of the most important objects and symbols in the novel. It becomes the vessel which makes Dorian's seemingly eternal youth become possible. It also serves as the representation as Dorian's conscious and soul as he becomes more and more corrupt. * One of the themes in the novel is the purpose of art. Most characters, including Basil and Lord Henry, state that art should be unconscious, ideal, and remote; something meant to just be admired. But the portrait of Dorian plays a much bigger role in the novel. Wilde explores the purpose of art in his novel. Another theme of the novel is the superficiality of society. Even though Dorian gains horrible reputations, he still accepted into society because of his beauty and youth. ...read more.

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