Study Guide

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of one beautiful, innocent young man's seduction, moral corruption, and eventual downfall.

And, oh yeah: it's also the story of a really creepy painting.

We meet our three central characters at the beginning of the book, when painter Basil Hallward and his close friend, Lord Henry Wotton, are discussing the subject of Basil's newest painting, a gorgeous young thing named Dorian Gray. Basil and Henry discuss just how perfectly perfect Dorian is—he's totally innocent and completely good, as well as being the most beautiful guy ever to walk the earth. Lord Henry wants to meet this mysterious boy, but Basil doesn't want him to; for some reason, he's afraid of what will happen to Dorian if Lord Henry digs his claws into him.

However, Lord Henry gets his wish—Dorian shows up that very afternoon, and, over the course of the day, Henry manages to totally change Dorian's perspective on the world. From that point on, Dorian's previously innocent point of view is dramatically different—he begins to see life as Lord Henry does, as a succession of pleasures in which questions of good and evil are irrelevant.

Basil finishes his portrait of Dorian, and gives it to the young man, who keeps it in his home, where he can admire his own beauty. Lord Henry continues to exert his influence over Dorian, to Basil's dismay. Dorian grows more and more distant from Basil, his former best friend, and develops his own interests.

One of these interests is Sybil Vane, a young, exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally talented—and exceptionally poor—actress. Though she's stuck performing in a terrible, third-rate theatre, she's a truly remarkable artist, and her talent and beauty win over Dorian. He falls dramatically in love with her, and she with him.

For a moment, it seems like everything will turn out wonderfully. However, this is just the beginning of Dorian's story. Once he and Sybil are engaged, her talent suddenly disappears—she's so overcome with her passionate love for Dorian that none of her roles on stage seem important to her anymore. This destroys Dorian's love for her, and he brutally dumps her. Back home, he notices a something different in his portrait—it looks somehow crueler. In the meanwhile, the distraught Sybil commits suicide, just as Dorian decides to return to her and take back his terrible words.

Sybil's suicide changes everything. At first, Dorian feels horrible... but he rather quickly changes his tune. On Lord Henry's suggestion, Dorian reads a mysterious "yellow book," a decadent French novel that makes him reevaluate his whole belief system. The protagonist of the book lives his life in pursuit of sensual pleasures, which intrigues Dorian. From this moment on, Dorian is a changed man.

Dorian starts to live as hedonistically as his wicked mentor, Lord Henry, does. The only thing that documents this turn for the worst is the portrait, which alarmingly begins to exhibit the inward corruption of Dorian's soul; the beautiful image changes, revealing new scars and physical flaws with each of Dorian's dastardly actions. As years pass, the man in the picture grows more and more hideous, as Dorian himself stays unnaturally young and beautiful. Rumors start to spread about the various people whose lives Dorian has ruined, and his formerly good reputation is destroyed.

On Dorian's 38th birthday, he encounters Basil, who desperately asks his former friend if all the horrifying rumors about him are true. Dorian finally snaps and shows Basil the portrait, in which the horrible truth about his wicked nature is revealed. Basil recoils, and begs Dorian to pray for forgiveness. In response, Dorian murders Basil, stabbing him brutally. He blackmails another of his former friends into disposing of the body.

Dorian retreats to an opium den after dealing with all of the evidence, where he encounters an enemy he didn't know he had—Sybil Vane's brother, James. Through a rather complicated turn of events, James (who's on a mission to punish Dorian for his mistreatment of Sybil) ends up dead. Dorian isn't directly responsible, but it's yet another death to add to Dorian's tally of life-wrecking disasters.

Dorian is relieved that his enemy is out of the way, but this event sparks a kind of mid-life crisis: he begins to wonder if his vile but enjoyable lifestyle is worth it. He actually does a good(ish) deed, by deciding not to corrupt a young girl he's got the hots for, which makes him question his past actions even more. Seeking some kind of reassurance, Dorian talks to Lord Henry, who's not any help at all, unsurprisingly. Dorian even practically admits to murdering Basil, but Henry laughs it off and doesn't believe him.

That night, Dorian returns home in a pensive mood. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he hates his own beauty and breaks the mirror. Again, he vows to be good, but we find out that his various crimes don't really haunt him, because he doesn't consider them his fault. Instead, he selfishly wants to be good so that the painting will become beautiful again. Heartened by this thought, he goes up to see if his recent good deed has improved the painting. In fact, it only looks worse. Frustrated, Dorian decides to destroy the picture, the visible evidence of his dreadful crimes, and the closest thing to a conscience he has. Dorian slashes at the painting with the same knife that killed Basil, trying to destroy the work as he did the artist.

A tremendous crash and a terrible cry alert the servants that something very, very bad has happened— it's even audible outside the house. Finally, they go upstairs to check it out, and are horrified by what they find: a portrait of their master, as beautiful as ever, hangs on the wall, and a mysterious, grotesquely hideous dead man is lying on the floor with a knife in his heart. Upon close examination, the rings on the dead man's hand identify him as Dorian Gray.

  • Chapter 1

    • In the midst of a beautiful, luxurious painter's studio, we meet Lord Henry Wotton and his friend, artist Basil Hallward. The studio is Basil's, and, as they chat, he critically regards his current masterpiece, a portrait of a gorgeous young man.
    • Lord Henry tells Basil that the painting is his best work ever and suggests where he should exhibit it—but Basil says he doesn't want to do that.
    • Lord Henry is appalled, but Basil holds out, claiming that he's put too much of himself into this painting. Henry protests that there's absolutely no resemblance between Basil and the man in the picture; while the subject of the painting is totally hot, intellectuals like Basil, he half-jokingly says, are generally pretty ugly.
    • Basil tells Henry that he's wrong—looks aside, anyone who's different in any way is marked by fate. He predicts that his art, Lord Henry's wealth, and Dorian Gray's beauty will make them all suffer for their distinction.
    • Lord Henry ignores Basil's dire prophecy, and focuses on the name—Dorian Gray, the beautiful boy in the portrait. Basil, it turns out, hadn't wanted to tell Henry Dorian's name, and Lord Henry asks why.
    • Basil replies that some names are special to him; whenever he likes someone, he always conceals their names from friends, because it makes them seem more mysterious. In general, mysteries are more appealing.
    • This is something Lord Henry completely understands. In his marriage for example, he and his wife have nothing but secrets, and they both like it that way.
    • Basil laughs off Lord Henry's cynical attitude, and claims that his friend isn't really a cynic on the inside. Lord Henry responds that everyone's a poseur of one kind or another, and that cynicism is entertaining, in the least.
    • The friends go out into the garden, and Henry announces that he has to leave. Before he goes, though, he asks one more question: why won't he exhibit Dorian's portrait?
    • Basil protests that he already told Lord Henry the real reason. Under pressure, he explains further, that it's not the sitter that the portrait reveals, but the artist himself. Basil is afraid that showing the picture would reveal the secret of his very soul.
    • Lord Henry laughs and asks what this secret is; Basil says he will tell it, though he warns that Lord Henry will hardly believe it, much less understand.
    • Basil then relates how he met Dorian at a party at Lady Brandon's. As he chatted with various boring nobles, he realized someone was looking at him—someone so utterly fascinating that it terrified him.
    • He tried to leave, but Lady Brandon grabbed him. He suddenly found himself face to face with the handsome young man who scared him: it's Dorian Gray.
    • Basil and Dorian start their friendship by laughing together at Lady Brandon; Lord Henry says lightly that laughter is a good way to begin a friendship, but the best way to end one, to which Basil replies that Henry does not understand what friendship or enmity is.
    • Lord Henry, who apparently is never serious, protests that he does indeed distinguish between his friends and enemies. He chooses his friends for their looks and his enemies for their brains.
    • Basil and Henry kid around a bit, and Basil claims again that his friend really is a decent man, inside his flippant façade.
    • Henry returns to the subject at hand—Dorian Gray. We learn that Basil sees Dorian every day.
    • Lord Henry remarks that it's amazing that Basil now cares for something more than his art, but Basil insists that Dorian is his art now; apparently, meeting Dorian has changed the whole way he sees the world.
    • Lord Henry starts hassling Basil about meeting Dorian. Basil finally admits that he doesn't want to exhibit the picture because the world will find out about his adoration for Dorian, something he hasn't even told Dorian about.
    • Lord Henry asks if Dorian feels the same way about Basil; Basil thinks Dorian likes him, but isn't sure. Lord Henry suggests that Basil might get sick of Dorian—after all, he reasons, genius lasts longer than mere physical beauty.
    • Basil thinks not. He argues that Lord Henry couldn't possibly understand, since he's so faithless in his loves. Ooh, ouch.
    • Lord Henry remembers that he's heard the name Dorian Gray before, from his Aunt Agatha; he hadn't paid attention when she mentioned him, but now wishes he had.
    • Basil replies that he's glad he didn't because he still doesn't want Henry to meet Dorian—and right on cue, Basil's butler announces that Mr. Dorian Gray has arrived. Score one for Lord Henry.
    • Basil orders the butler to tell Dorian to wait a few moments. Then he turns to Lord Henry authoritatively, and tries to impart once more how much Dorian means to him. Basil tells Lord Henry that Dorian is his best friend and warns him not to "influence" him.
    • Lord Henry just laughs him off, and we have to wonder what his plans are…
  • Chapter 2

    • Basil and Henry return to the house, where they find Dorian at the piano. He's startled to see that there's someone else there. Basil introduces his two friends.
    • Lord Henry brings up their other mutual acquaintance, his Aunt Agatha. While he chats politely with Dorian, he notices just how splendid the boy's looks are—there's something about him that's totally innocent and pure.
    • Basil is distracted by Henry and Dorian's conversation—he's worried about what his old friend will say to influence his new one. He asks Henry to leave, but Dorian raises a fuss begs him to stay.
    • Basil gives in and allows Henry to stay, but warns Dorian (not entirely jokingly) not to listen to everything Henry says, since he's a bad influence over everyone except Basil himself.
    • Dorian has taken a liking to Henry already—he's charmed by how different the young lord is from his friend.
    • As Dorian poses for the painting, Henry takes it upon himself to enlighten the boy; he launches into a long explanation of his own decadent values, basically claiming that any form of influence is a bad influence, and that people should try to live their lives fully and give into their impulses.
    • Dorian is shocked by all this, and Basil, who's wrapped up in his painting, notices a new look in the boy's face for the first time.
    • Henry continues his diatribe about returning to the Hellenic (ancient Greek) mode of life, in which everyone yields to all of their desires and temptations. He suggests daringly that even Dorian, whose youthful innocence is complete, has secret desires that he won't even admit to himself. This is too much for the boy, and he demands silence so he can think things through.
    • The provocative, challenging words of Lord Henry resonate mysteriously within Dorian's soul, and he's not quite sure what's happening to him. All of a sudden, it seems as though his whole life has changed, and things that he didn't even recognize in himself before come to life.
    • As Dorian ponders the meaning of this conversation, Henry looks on, intrigued and pleased—he knows his words have hit close to home. Meanwhile, Basil, in a painting trance, works in silence, not noticing what's happening between his two friends.
    • Dorian breaks from his pose, and demands some rest—Basil lets him go, commenting that whatever Henry was saying to Dorian must have been working, because he posed beautifully.
    • Henry follows Dorian to the garden, where he finds the boy desperately trying to calm himself down via aromatherapy with some lilacs. Henry approves of this—he thinks the best way to calm the soul is to appeal to the senses, and vice versa.
    • Dorian is disturbed by the effect Lord Henry has on him, and a little afraid of him—but he's deeply intrigued by the other man.
    • Henry warns Dorian not to get sunburnt, telling the boy that he should value his youth and exceptional beauty. He explains that to him, Beauty is the most important and valuable thing in the whole world—but that it's transient, and Dorian should enjoy it while he can.
    • Basil calls his friends back into the studio, and as they go into the house, they confirm their new friendship.
    • Dorian gets back into picture pose, and Basil continues his work—soon enough, he's actually done with the painting. Henry comes over to admire it exuberantly, and calls Dorian over.
    • Dorian is overjoyed by the recognition of his own beauty; Lord Henry's words opened his eyes for the first time to just how gorgeous he is. This just makes him afraid of the day when he'll grow old and lose his beauty, and he breaks down in tears.
    • Basil doesn't understand Dorian's reaction, and asks if he doesn't like it.
    • Lord Henry tries to make Basil feel better, and asks to buy the painting—but Basil says it already belongs to Dorian.
    • Dorian explains his sadness in seeing the beauty of the portrait. He can't believe that he himself will grow older every day, but the painting will never age, and he wishes it was the other way around—why can't the painting age as he stays the same? He says he would give his soul to have this wish come true.
    • Henry jokes that Basil wouldn't like this arrangement, as it would reflect poorly upon his own work. Dorian responds too seriously that it's true—Basil likes his work better than his real friends.
    • Dorian goes on rather madly, saying that Basil only cares for his youth and beauty, and that the day he grows old and ugly, he'll kill himself. Basil is horrified, and blames Henry for this change in Dorian; Henry, however, responds that it's the real Dorian who's emerged.
    • Basil turns on the painting, the cause of this argument between him and his best friends. He attempts to slash the canvas, but Dorian stops him, saying that he's in love with this image of himself.
    • Everyone calms down, and it seems that the moment of high drama is over. Everyone settles down, and, like good Englishmen, the three settle down for a cup of tea.
    • Lord Henry proposes that they all go to the theatre that night. Dorian is all up for it, but Basil says he has to stay home and work—he sadly comments that he'll stay with the "real" Dorian, the innocent one in the painting.
    • Basil begs Dorian not to go to the theatre with Lord Henry, but the boy says that he must. We get the feeling that this is rather more symbolic than it seems—will he stay back with Basil and his old self, or will he go out with Lord Henry, and perhaps come back a different person?...
    • Dorian and Henry leave Basil in the studio, alone and pained.
  • Chapter 3

    • The next day, Lord Henry goes to visit his crotchety old uncle George, with the intent of finding out about Dorian's background. It seems that Uncle George is something of a society gossip, underneath his gruff exterior.
    • We learn that Dorian's the grandson of one Lord Kelso, an old acquaintance of Uncle George's; Dorian's mother, Kelso's daughter, was Lady Margaret Devereux, who was incredibly beautiful. Lady Margaret apparently fell passionately in love and married a guy far below her social rank, and rumor has it that Lord Kelso arranged for his son-in-law to be killed in a duel.
    • Uncle George imagines that Lord Kelso probably left his grandson a huge fortune when he died—so Dorian's probably rolling in dough (or at least, he will be once he comes of age).
    • The conversation veers off into idle gossip about some guy named Dartmoor and his American fiancée. Lord Henry heads out and walks over to Aunt Agatha's house for lunch. As he walks, he muses over the tragic, romantic story of Dorian's parents.
    • He thinks again about how very marvelous and special Dorian is, and decides that he wants to do for Dorian what Dorian did for Basil—that is, change the way the boy sees the world entirely.
    • Lord Henry notices that, in his thoughtful daze, he's passed his aunt's house. When he finally reaches his destination, he's late, and gets told off by Aunt Agatha.
    • The dining room is full of notable visitors, including the Duchess of Harley, Sir Thomas Burdon (a politician), and Mr. Erskine (some kind of intellectual), among other luminaries. Dorian is also there.
    • The conversation here is also about Dartmoor and his American sweetheart. The genteel gathering is rather puzzled by Americans, especially by American women, who are all the rage at the moment.
    • Lord Henry quickly assumes control of the whole conversation, and entertains the table with his extravagant ideas. Everyone is totally charmed by him, none more than Dorian.
    • The luncheon ends when the Duchess, followed by the other ladies, leaves. Mr. Erskine pulls Lord Henry aside, asking why he doesn't write a book; he invites Henry to come visit him at his home, Treadley, sometime.
    • Even though he's supposed to hang out with Basil, Dorian asks if he can accompany Lord Henry, so he can listen to Henry talk some more. Henry agrees, but says that he's talked enough for today—the two friends go to the park to "look at life."
  • Chapter 4

    • A month later, we find Dorian hanging out alone at Lord Henry's house in Mayfair, a ritzy London neighborhood. He's waiting for Lord Henry, who's always (intentionally) late.
    • For the first time, Dorian encounters the other Wotton—Lord Henry's shrill wife, Victoria.
    • Lady Victoria is a totally ridiculous creature; she tries to be stylish, but just ends up looking foolish. Unlike her husband, she has no appreciation for art, or any of the finer things in life; instead, she's totally shallow.
    • Fortunately, Lord Henry arrives to save Dorian from his wife. Once she's gone, Henry tells Dorian never to get married (we can understand why!).
    • Dorian tells Henry that he'll never get married—after all, he's too much in love.
    • This is big news. Henry wants to know all the details, and Dorian obliges.
    • Dorian's flame is an actress named Sibyl Vane—he claims she's a genius, even though Henry says irritatingly that women can't be geniuses.
    • Ignoring Henry's misogyny, Dorian goes on with his story. He first discovered Sibyl three weeks ago; it actually all started with Lord Henry himself, who got Dorian thinking about all the different people out there in London, whose lives all fascinated the boy all of a sudden. As he was wandering around the city one day, he stumbled upon a sketchy little theatre, where a Jewish manager (described in grossly anti-Semitic terms we won't replicate here) lures him inside. There, he finds what he calls "the greatest romance of [his] life."
    • Here, Henry interjects—Dorian's too young to identify this relationship in such hyperbolic terms, and should remember that he'll always be loved, and that this is just the beginning. Only loving one person is simply too dull for Henry, and he thinks the same is true for Dorian.
    • Dorian continues. In the tacky, dingy theatre, he discovers that the play is Romeo and Juliet. The actors, for the most part, are miserable, unattractive, and untalented.
    • However, Juliet is a different story. The actress playing her is the most beautiful thing Dorian has ever seen—she's just seventeen, and she's so beautiful it brings tears to Dorian's eyes. Her voice is so thrilling it even gives Lord Henry's gorgeous pipes a run for their money.
    • Sibyl Vane (for that's her name) totally fascinates Dorian, and he's amazed by how she changes into a different person with every role she plays. He raves over how great it is to be in love with an actress.
    • Lord Henry immediately shoots him down cynically, asking what exactly the deal is between Dorian and Sibyl. To put it bluntly, are they getting it on?
    • Dorian is appalled at his friend's crudity, and exclaims that Sibyl is sacred—again, Henry doesn't buy this argument.
    • Back to the story—after the play is over, the manager tries to convince Dorian to come backstage and meet Sibyl, but he refuses.
    • Dorian returns to the theatre the next night, and the next. Finally, he feels ready to go and meet her.
    • In real life, Sibyl is a complete innocent; she doesn't even realize how talented she is. She falls for Dorian immediately, and dubs him "Prince Charming."
    • We find out that every night since then, Dorian has gone to see Sibyl act. Henry peevishly comments that this explains why Dorian hasn't been paying him enough attention recently (though in fact they see each other every day).
    • Henry asks Dorian to dinner, but instead, Dorian insists that he has to go see Sibyl perform again. Dorian is in a fit of excitement—Henry notices that something has blossomed within his young friend.
    • Dorian asks Henry to come to the theatre with Basil one night to see Sibyl. He intends to rescue her from the dreadful place she's performing in, and set her up at a posh theatre in the West End (London's equivalent of Broadway).
    • The friends set their dinner and theatre date for the next day, then digress slightly to talk of Basil—ever since he's been chilling with Henry, Dorian finds Basil a little lacking.
    • Dorian rushes off to the theatre in a tizzy, and Henry stays at home, pondering the wonders of human nature… specifically Dorian's. He muses that Dorian is really his creation, since Henry's influence made the boy what he is now.
    • Henry goes on to coldly evaluate his "experiment" with Dorian's personality—there's something rather chilling in the way Henry looks at Dorian as a kind of lab rat, through whom he's trying to figure out the workings of the human soul and body.
    • Finally, Henry gets ready to go out for the evening; as he leaves, he thinks again about Dorian's splendid life, and wonders ominously how it will end.
    • When Henry gets home that night, he finds a telegram with the news that Dorian and Sibyl are engaged.
  • Chapter 5

    • Sibyl and her mother are at home in their dingy house, a world away from Lord Henry's luxurious abode. Sibyl is totally infatuated with Dorian, and love is the only thing on her young, naïve mind.
    • Sibyl's world-weary mother, however, has other things on her mind—she's cynical, and is more concerned with things like money than Sybil's innocent adoration. Sibyl asks her mother if she was ever this in love with her absent father; obviously, this hits close to home. We have to wonder what Sibyl's mother was like in her youth—was she as naïve and optimistic as her daughter?
    • The narrator informs us rather cruelly of how "second-rate" and ridiculously theatrical Mrs. Vane is, playing up the fact that she's always conscious of how her actions look, even when her audience is just her children. When Sibyl's brother, James, enters the room, their mother pauses dramatically with her arms around Sibyl for theatrical effect.
    • James and Sibyl are obviously quite close. He's leaving for Australia to try and make some money, and he wants to take Sibyl out for one last walk. The siblings agree to go to the park.
    • While Sibyl's upstairs changing, James grills his mother about his sister's mysterious suitor. We gather that Mrs. Vane thinks highly of Dorian, who she calls a "perfect gentleman."
    • James is unconvinced, and makes his mother promise to look after the girl.
    • Sibyl and James go off on their walk, leaving their obnoxious mother behind.
    • Compared to Sibyl, James is a horse of a different color. He's much more suspicious of people, and is a lot more street-smart than his dreamy sister. Sibyl goes on and on about her vision of James' idyllic future in Australia, but all the while, he's worrying about Dorian's intentions towards his sister. After all, Sibyl and Mrs. Vane don't even know Dorian's name yet. Who knows if he's trustworthy?
    • James comes out and warns Sibyl to be careful, but she laughs him off, saying that Dorian is Prince Charming, and can do no wrong.
    • The siblings sit on a park bench, watching the wealthy people go by. Suddenly, Dorian drives past in a carriage. Sibyl and James strain to see him, but, before James catches a glimpse, the carriage is gone.
    • James is torn between his love for his sister and his resentment of this mysterious Prince Charming. He promises not to hurt Dorian as long as Sibyl still loves him.
    • At home, James and Sibyl say their goodbyes. Even though James is resentful and jealous of the strange suitor, he's still terribly sad to leave home—after all, he's just sixteen.
    • After leaving Sibyl in her room, James goes to see his mother. He demands to know whether or not she was married to their father—it turns out, she wasn't. We find out that he was also a gentleman, like Dorian, and he couldn't (or wouldn't) make an honest woman of her—he died without leaving them anything.
    • James again insists that his mother take good care of Sibyl, and says that if her suitor does anything to hurt her, he'll come back and kill him.
    • Mrs. Vane is secretly thrilled by the melodramatic ring of this threat—it actually cheers her up, despite the fact that her son is leaving home for a strange country. She feels like things are looking up.
  • Chapter 6

    • The next night, Henry and Basil get to the restaurant before Dorian, and they take advantage of the opportunity to discuss Dorian's sudden engagement. Basil doesn't approve, but Henry looks at it lightly as a part of his experiment. He hopes that marriage won't ruin Dorian, and that the boy will marry Sibyl, love her madly for a little while, and move on.
    • Dorian shows up in the middle of this heated discussion. He's in a jolly mood, and he recounts the story of his engagement to Sibyl.
    • The night before, Dorian watched Sibyl perform in As You Like It, and was overwhelmed by his adoration for her. Backstage after the show, they kissed and exchanged vows of love.
    • Back to the present—Basil is slowly won over by this story, convinced that Dorian really is in love with the girl. Henry is still incredulous and, as usual, expresses his cynical viewpoint.
    • Dorian laughs Henry off, saying that being with Sibyl undoes everything Henry's done to him—she makes him forget all of Henry's "poisonous" theories about life and love.
    • Henry goes off on another of his philosophical binges, this time about goodness, morality, and women. He basically thinks that everyone should just be concerned with themselves and their own pleasures. Basil and Dorian disagree, but Henry persists in putting forth his ideas. Oh yeah, and he also thinks that women are pretty worthless—in his estimation, they're always hanging on to men, preventing them from attaining greatness.
    • Dorian promises that Henry will feel different about all of this once he's seen Sibyl Vane. Henry demurs, admitting that it's possible that he'll be really taken with her. They leave in Henry's carriage, and poor Basil has to follow in a cab.
    • During his solitary ride, Basil is saddened by the feeling that Dorian is lost to him forever—the marriage will drive them apart. However, he reasons, it's better than some things that could have happened to his young friend…
  • Chapter 7

    • The three friends meet up at the dingy theatre, where they're met by the manager. Dorian hates the guy more than ever, but Lord Henry claims to like him—then again, we're never sure how serious he is.
    • The theatre sounds hellish—it's hot, noisy, and grotesque. Dorian promises that Sibyl will make this outing worth it, and Basil believes him.
    • Finally, Sibyl comes on stage as Juliet, and Henry and Basil are both enraptured by her; Basil even jumps up and applauds. Her beauty is more remarkable than ever.
    • Sibyl's acting, however, is worse than ever before. Every spark of her amazing talent is gone, and she's absolutely terrible.
    • Dorian feels betrayed, and his friends are terribly disappointed. They wait for the famous balcony scene to pass judgment—and she fails miserably. Everyone in the theatre is bored and disappointed.
    • Henry and Basil leave the theatre at intermission; Basil is willing to seek an explanation, saying that Sibyl must be ill. Dorian, however, can't believe it—he doesn't know what happened to the Sibyl he loves.
    • Dorian, weeping, tells Henry and Basil to leave him alone with his heartbreak.
    • The rest of the play is a disaster. Dorian sits through it, miserable, then rushes backstage to confront Sibyl.
    • The girl is overjoyed to see her fiancé. She happily tells him that she will never act well again—and, to make matters worse, it's Dorian's fault. Before she met Dorian, acting was the only real world to her, but now that she's in love with him, he's everything to her. She says that it would be profane for her to act at being in love on stage, since she's found real love with Dorian.
    • This explanation isn't enough for Dorian, and he tells Sibyl that he doesn't love her anymore. He goes on in a fit of passion to tell her that she's basically worthless—he can't believe he ever loved her, and he wishes he hadn't. To add insult to injury, he calls her a "third-rate" actress.
    • Sibyl is stunned and horrified—she can't believe Dorian's saying this (neither can we!). She begs him to reconsider, but, instead, he coldly leaves her in tears.
    • Dorian flees the theatre, not paying attention to where he's going. He ends up in the flower market in Covent Garden, and eventually makes his way home in a cab around dawn.
    • When he gets back to his opulently decorated house, Basil's portrait catches his eye. For some reason, Dorian thinks it looks different this morning, as though there's a new cruelty in his painted twin's expression. He quickly checks to make sure he doesn't look like that; his actual face bears no such change.
    • Dorian remembers the rash wish he made in Basil's studio—he wished that the portrait could change and grow old, while he stayed the same. Could it be that his wish was granted?...
    • Looking at the portrait's new expression, Dorian starts to feel bad for poor Sibyl. He can't stop looking at the picture, and realizes that it will keep changing for the worse if he himself does. He draws a screen in front of the portrait, and tries to put it out of his mind, vowing to go back to Sibyl and marry her. Dorian, certain that his love for her will return, feels like everything will be all right.
  • Chapter 8

    • When Dorian wakes later that day, he goes about his usual business—he peruses his mail (setting aside a letter from Henry, unopened), gets dressed, and has a pleasant breakfast.
    • During his meal, Dorian's eye falls upon the screen that hides the portrait. He worries that the frightening change he saw in it last night might still be there in the clear morning light. As soon as his valet leaves the room, Dorian locks the doors and takes another look at his picture.
    • His impression the night before was right—the portrait has changed. He can't understand or explain it: does the painting have some kind of link to his own soul? He's horrified.
    • Regarding his altered image, Dorian feels terrible about what he's done to Sibyl. He decides to go back to her and devote his life to loving her—the portrait's embodiment of his sins serves as a kind of conscience. He immediately sits down to write her a long, melodramatically passionate letter; when he's done, he already feels forgiven.
    • At that moment, Lord Henry shows up. He wants to make sure Dorian's not too worried about the whole Sibyl thing; Dorian tells him that he's not sorry for any of it, and that it's taught him more about himself. He announces that he wants to be good from now on to keep his soul from growing hideous, and says he'll start by marrying Sibyl Vane.
    • Henry is taken aback—it turns out that the letter he wrote to Dorian (the very one we saw the boy put aside unread) contains some terrible, terrible news: Sibyl Vane is dead.
    • Dorian is understandably distraught, but Henry mostly wants to make sure that Dorian's in the clear, and that he won't be scandalously involved in the death.
    • It turns out that Sybil almost certainly committed suicide by poison (ugh!). Dorian is incredibly upset, but Henry callously starts talking about the opera—he wants Dorian to come out with him and his sister.
    • Dorian can't get over the shock, and hashes out all of his feelings—he's guilty and sad and angry all at the same time. Henry convinces him that the whole Sibyl thing was a mistake to begin with, and that they would never have been happy had they gotten married.
    • Dorian is alarmed by the fact that he doesn't exactly feel this event as much as he should—rather, he's starting to look at it like the completion of a beautifully tragic work of art.
    • Henry seizes upon this moment of weakness to convince Dorian even more fully that this was how things had to play out; he even claims that Sibyl proved just how special she was by killing herself over Dorian. Wow, if that's not warped, we don't know what is.
    • Henry ends by claiming grandiosely that since Sybil never "really" lived, she didn't really die, either. This logic seems a little flawed to us, but Dorian buys it. He gives in to Henry's torrent of words, and agrees to go to the opera.
    • Once his friend leaves, Dorian takes another look at the portrait. The cruelty in the painted figure's face has a new meaning now—it's associated with Sibyl's death. He gets all emotional about the idea of Sibyl's tragic sacrifice (notably, he's no longer sad about the girl herself, but her abstraction).
    • Regarding the portrait, Dorian thinks for a moment that maybe he should pray to try and stop the weird, symbiotic relationship between his soul and the picture. He decides, however, that he should leave the portrait as it is, so he can watch what happens to his soul. All that matters to him is that his own physical beauty remains unmarred.
  • Chapter 9

    • The next morning, a distraught Basil Hallward shows up at Dorian's pad. He feels awful about Sibyl—he read about her death in the newspaper, and has come to comfort his friend. He assumes that Dorian is heartbroken, and wants to know if he went to visit Sibyl's mother.
    • Dorian's heart (if he has one anymore) is in one piece. He basically brushes off Basil's concern, and starts talking about the grand time he had at the Opera with Henry last night.
    • Basil is shocked and horrified—how can Dorian prattle on unsympathetically while Sibyl lies dead?
    • Dorian orders Basil to stop bringing up the past (apparently, to this new Dorian, yesterday is ancient history).
    • Saddened, Basil says that this change in Dorian is all Lord Henry's fault, and that he wants the old Dorian back.
    • Dorian tries to explain his reasoning to Basil; he goes through the argument that Sibyl's suicide was a great romantic act, and, while he can appreciate it aesthetically, he's pretty much over it. He reminds Basil that he's developed a lot since they first met, and asks that they remain friends.
    • Basil rather sadly promises never to bring Sibyl up again, as long as Dorian's name isn't tangled up in the investigation of her death. Dorian assures him that he's in the clear.
    • Dorian asks Basil to do up a sketch of Sibyl so he can have something to remember her by. Thinking of his work, Basil asks Dorian to come sit for him again—he refuses. Miffed, Basil asks if Dorian didn't like the portrait.
    • This is not the right question. Dorian kind of freaks out, and (understandably) makes Basil promise that he'll never look at the painting again.
    • Basil protests, saying that he changed his mind and wants to exhibit the portrait after all; it is his best work, and he'd like to show it off.
    • Dorian freaks out again, and asks why Basil why he didn't want to show it in the first place. Basil claims that there's something mysterious about the portrait, and we wonder for a second if knows the link it has with Dorian's soul. He then admits that he didn't want to exhibit it because he totally worshipped Dorian, and felt like his idolatry showed through somehow in the picture.
    • Dorian is off the hook—Basil doesn't know. Still, he refuses to show the artist his work ever again.
    • Dorian refuses again to sit for another painting, and Basil leaves in a bit of a mood. Something has changed between the two friends—and it's not good.
    • When Basil's gone, Dorian immediately rings for his servant to remove the portrait.
  • Chapter 10

    • Dorian decides to hide the portrait in his house's old schoolroom. He calls for the key, and wraps up the dreadful portrait with an ornate, funereal coverlet.
    • While Dorian is taking care of business, he wonders why he didn't tell Basil the truth about the painting; he knows that Basil could have helped him resist Lord Henry's malignant influence, but decides that it's too late.
    • Dorian looks at the canvas one more time before sending it away—it looks more hateful than before to him.
    • Dorian's servant almost walks in on him contemplating the incriminating portrait, and he hastily writes a note to Henry, asking him for something new to read, and reminding him that they have a date later. He sends the servant to deliver the note.
    • In a moment, Mr. Hubbard, a famous frame-maker, arrives with his helper. He tries to sell Dorian a new frame, but Dorian cuts him off brusquely, saying that he just wants a heavy picture moved to another room today.
    • Mr. Hubbard and his assistant move the picture to the schoolroom for Dorian.
    • The schoolroom has been empty ever since Dorian grew up; nobody's been in it for four years. The room, where he spend much of his childhood, away from his unloving grandfather, reminds Dorian of his innocent youth, and it occurs to him that it might be wrong to keep the proof of his corrupt soul there. However, there's nowhere else that's safe to keep it. Dorian has a brief moment of regret —maybe he can salvage the portrait by being a better person? He ignores this impulse, realizing that the portrait will grow old anyway. He locks it in the schoolroom and rushes Mr. Hubbard out.
    • When Dorian returns to the library, he finds that Lord Henry has complied and sent him a rather worn book. It's covered with yellow paper, and looks well-read. Along with it, Henry has sent a short note and a newspaper, in which he's circled a brief paragraph about Sibyl Vane.
    • To distract himself from this unpleasant item, Dorian starts to read Lord Henry's yellow book. It completely absorbs him—it's beautiful and "poisonous," and he can't stop reading it.
    • Dorian loses track of time, and is late for his meeting with Lord Henry. When he gets there, he apologizes, saying that he was wrapped up in the book, which fascinates him—however, he can't say that he exactly likes it.
  • Chapter 11

    • In this rather lengthy chapter, the narrator describes the profound influence the yellow book has on Dorian—it totally changes his life.
    • The book involves a young Parisian hero, who reminds Dorian a lot of himself. The hero, like Dorian, was once incredibly beautiful, but suddenly loses his beauty. This terrifies Dorian.
    • As the years pass, Dorian remains as beautiful as ever. Even though awful rumors circulate about him, people still love Dorian because of his seemingly innocent, golden beauty.
    • Dorian often looks at the portrait, and takes pleasure in the aging, corrupt image on the canvas. He's morbidly obsessed with it, and delights in comparing his own untouched beauty with the marred portrait.
    • It turns out that Dorian is still hanging out with Lord Henry, who's helped him become a leader of the decadent social scene. All the young men try to imitate his grace and elegance.
    • Dorian, however, wants to be more than just a figure of fashion. He strives to understand, well, basically everything about human nature. He longs to find new sensations and pleasures everywhere.
    • In his explorations, Dorian dabbles in the ritualized beauties of Catholicism, then decides (surprise, surprise!) that the Church is not for him.
    • Dorian also dabbles at a lot of other things, like perfumery, music, jewels, famous luxury goods of antiquity, and textiles. We get a long, long list of his various acquisitions and obsessions. He's really, really into collecting stuff.
    • All of Dorian's accumulated goods are just distractions from his real fascination—the portrait. After a while, he can't bear to be away from it for too long, and he becomes stranger and stranger.
    • Society takes note of Dorian's increasing oddness, and not in a good way. Mysterious rumors about him catch on like wildfire.
    • The scandals only serve to make Dorian more seductive and fascinating, however, and he goes about his business relatively undisturbed.
    • In his personal time, Dorian loves to stroll through the picture gallery of his country house, looking at the portraits of his famous (or infamous) ancestors. He also ponders his literary and historical "ancestors," such as the hero of the yellow book.
    • Disturbingly, we see that Dorian is obsessed with decadent violence. He's fascinated by sinners of the past, and he finds aesthetic pleasure in grotesque crimes of antiquity.
    • The narrator blames the yellow book for Dorian's state of mind, saying that it taught him to see evil as beautiful.
  • Chapter 12

    • It's the night before Dorian's thirty-eighth birthday, and he's walking home from dinner at Lord Henry's. He runs into Basil, who's walking in the other direction, suitcase in hand. He pretends not to see him, but Basil notices. Dorian feels strangely apprehensive.
    • Basil apparently just came from Dorian's house, where he'd been waiting for hours.
    • Dorian makes an excuse for ignoring Basil and asks where he's off to. Basil's plan it to leave England for half a year and hang out in Paris until he's painted a masterpiece.
    • The pair reaches Dorian's house, and Basil invites himself in, saying that he's got something to say to Dorian.
    • Dorian vaguely tries to get Basil to leave, but Basil isn't to be stopped—he's got everything he needs for his trip, so he's in no rush.
    • The two men settle in Dorian's library, and Basil gets down to business: he wants to talk to Dorian about Dorian.
    • Basil lays it all out there—though Basil himself can't believe that someone as innocent looking and beautiful as Dorian could commit any crimes, Dorian's name has been dragged through the mud, and pretty much everyone else in London either loathes him or fears him. Rumor has it that he's ruined the lives of loads of young women and men in various ways.
    • Dorian revolts, saying that people gossip about how he's ruined so many of his ex-friends, but it's actually their fault—he just brings out tendencies that are already innate in people (sound familiar?).
    • Dorian then tries to blame it all on English society… kind of a lame excuse.
    • But Basil's not done—he continues to enumerate the horrible things he's heard about Dorian, who has apparently even ruined the reputation of poor Lady Gwendolen, Henry's sister. We wonder how Lord Henry feels about that.
    • Gravely, Basil says he thought he knew Dorian, but he obviously doesn't, for he can't see into Dorian's soul.
    • For obvious reasons, this comment really gets to Dorian. He laughs bitterly, and announces that Basil will see his soul tonight, since it's his own work. Uh oh—this can't possibly end up well for Basil.
    • Dorian is excited—and insane! He can't wait to show the portrait to Basil, and hopes that the painter will feel bad for what he's done.
    • Basil is understandably frightened. He begs Dorian to simply answer one question—are all these charges against him true?
    • Dorian smiles contemptuously, and lures Basil upstairs, saying that he has a diary in which he records all of his actions (which is kind of what the portrait is, after all). Basil agrees to go with him. Cue ominous organ music…
  • Chapter 13

    • In the old schoolroom, Dorian asks Basil once more if he's sure he wants to see Dorian's secret. Basil confirms, but he's obviously uncomfortable—what are they doing in this dingy old room? Why would Dorian take him to this dreadful place?
    • Basil thinks Dorian has lost it (which he pretty much has). Dorian flings off the covering from the painting, and Basil sees the horrible image that lies beneath.
    • Basil is shocked, appalled, terrified, disgusted—basically, there aren't enough adjectives to contain his horror. He sees his own signature on the terrible picture, and he can tell that the subject is Dorian, but he can't believe his eyes. What could it possibly mean?!
    • Dorian is eating all of this up; he's delighted by Basil's terror. He reminds Basil of the wish that he once made, that the portrait could grow old and he stay young…
    • Basil remembers, but doesn't believe that it could possibly have happened (understandably). He tries to explain the portrait's transformation scientifically, but it's impossible.
    • Basil is thoroughly disgusted by the image of the evil man in the portrait. If this is what Dorian's soul looks like, he says, all the grotesque stories about him must be true. He has the answer to his question.
    • By now, both Basil and Dorian are upset—even Dorian is crying. Basil tries to capitalize upon this moment of vulnerability, and tells Dorian he must pray for forgiveness, but Dorian weakly says that it's too late. Basil pushes back, saying that Dorian's done enough evil—after all, the cursed portrait proves that.
    • Dorian looks back at the portrait, and is suddenly filled with hate and rage for Basil. He seizes a knife and brutally stabs his former friend to death.
    • Whoa. That was really sudden—we totally didn't expect it, and neither did Dorian. He's flustered, but he doesn't actually feel bad about the murder; he tries to emotionally disconnect from it. His primary concern is how to dispose of the body and avoid getting caught.
    • Dorian realizes that since Basil was supposed to leave England, it'll probably be ages before anyone even notices that he's missing.
    • Dorian has a sudden flash of inspiration—he makes his own alibi by sneaking out of the house, then ringing the doorbell to get back in, as though he's just coming home really late. When his valet lets him in, Dorian explains that he forgot his key, and has been out all night.
    • Back in the library, Dorian thinks over the situation, and comes up with a solution, apparently in the person of someone named Alan Campbell.
  • Chapter 14

    • The next morning, Dorian is awakened at nine by his valet. At first, he doesn't remember what happened the night before—his sleep was untroubled by conscience.
    • Then, the memories come back; Dorian can't stop thinking about how much he suffered, but totally unsympathetic towards Basil (who was murdered—come on, man).
    • Dorian tries not to think too much about all of this unpleasant stuff, and goes about his business, getting dressed, reading letters, and having breakfast. He then writes two letters, and has one sent to the mysterious Alan Campbell.
    • Dorian then lounges about in the library, comforting himself with poetry. Caught up in emotion, he briefly feels a little bad for Basil, then tries again to forget about it.
    • However, though Dorian keeps trying to think of more pleasant things (like sphinxes and aesthetic crocodiles), he is overcome by nerves. What if Alan Campbell doesn't show up?
    • We learn that Alan is one of the ex-friends that now hates Dorian. He's a brilliant young man—a scientist—and he and Dorian were great friends for a while. They were brought together by their love for music and were totally besties for about a year and half. Then, all of a sudden, they weren't friends anymore—nobody knows why. Alan then devoted his life to science.
    • While Dorian's waiting for Alan, time drags on. He might not realize it, but this is the thing called "fear" that the rest of us are well acquainted with.
    • Finally, Alan shows up. He's cold and unsympathetic—we have to wonder what terrible thing Dorian did to him.
    • Dorian knows that he has to do another terrible thing to Alan, and there's pity in his eyes. He tells Alan about the corpse upstairs, and requests that Alan use "science" to get rid of it. You know, because "science" can do anything, including make dead bodies disappear.
    • Trying to get the reluctant Alan on his side, Dorian claims that Basil committed suicide, but then admits to the murder when Alan still refuses.
    • The two ex-friends argue fruitlessly for a while. When it seems as though Alan's just going to keep refusing, Dorian pulls out all the stops and resorts to blackmail. He writes something (that we don't get to see) on a piece of paper and shows it to the astonished, horrified Alan. Whatever it is, it must be damning.
    • Alan is totally miserable—wouldn't you be? Dorian has him backed into a corner; he has to take this mission, or Dorian will ruin his life.
    • Alan agrees to dispose of the body. Dorian sends his servant to get Alan's lab equipment and supplies from his house, and, while they wait, things are totally, horrifically awkward. Finally, the servant returns, and Dorian dismisses him for the rest of the day. They're ready to start the gruesome "experiment."
    • Dorian takes Alan upstairs, and leaves him in the schoolroom with the dead man. He flees the room, and Alan begins what he has to do.
    • Hours later, Alan emerges, pale and drawn. He's finished the job, and he never wants to see Dorian again.
    • Dorian goes to check out the schoolroom—it smells like acid, but Alan got the job done. The body is gone.
  • Chapter 15

    • That night, Dorian attends a very dull dinner party at the home of Lady Narborough, a clever but ugly socialite. She's very fond of Dorian, and she apologizes for how dull her other guests are that evening.
    • Fortunately, Lord Henry arrives, which livens up the party a bit. Still, Dorian's feeling listless; he can't touch a bite of the exquisite dinner, and he drowns his sorrows in champagne.
    • Henry and Lady Narborough rag Dorian a bit for being so low. Lady Narborough assumes he's in love, which directs the conversation to related topic, Dorian's friend, the infamous Madame de Ferrol. This famously beautiful lady is on her fourth husband, and they have a pleasant time gossiping sassily about her for a while.
    • However, Dorian is still feeling down. Lady Narborough tells him he ought to get married; Henry agrees, though it doesn't stop him from sharing his cynical views on marriage.
    • The conversation is interrupted by some of the other guests, who really aren't of interest to us.
    • Lord Henry and Dorian take this opportunity to talk privately. Dorian won't admit that anything's wrong, and just says that he's tired. They discuss plans for an upcoming holiday in the countryside.
    • Henry makes the mistake of asking Dorian what he was up to last night; Dorian has a minor freak out, and reacts defensively.
    • Dorian apologizes to Henry for being so irritable, and heads off home, full of anxiety.
    • At home, Dorian can't shake his feeling of terror. He burns Basil's traveling bag, making sure that there's no evidence that he was ever there, then tries to calm down.
    • Suddenly, he's filled with a craving—he reaches inside a cabinet for a small, ornate box. Inside is a mysterious substance that can only be one thing: opium.
    • Dorian puts the box back, then, disguised as a commoner, sneaks out of his house. He hails a cab and asks to be taken to a mysterious, distant location.
  • Chapter 16

    • Dorian's cab ride takes him to a sketchy part of town. Along the way, he can't help but mull over the words Henry told him when they first met—the only way to cure the soul is to give in to the senses. The best way he can think of to do that is to buy forgetfulness with opium.
    • Dorian's conscience is really getting to him, and so is his opium craving. Finally, way out in the middle of nowhere, the cab deposits Dorian in a horrifying quarter of the city. He walks through the hideous, poverty-stricken streets for a while, then turns in at a shabby old house.
    • Inside, he encounters some creepy characters, including his old friend, Adrian Singleton, one of the young men Basil accused him of ruining.
    • Adrian is in a bad state—he doesn't care about anything but opium. Dorian is disgusted; he asks Adrian to accompany him to another opium den, but he refuses.
    • The pair is accosted by two beggar women, one of whom seems to know Dorian. He's revolted, and throws some money at her to make her go away.
    • Dorian gets ready to leave, but, before he goes, he tells Adrian to write to him if he needs anything —could he possibly feel bad about ruining the guy's life?
    • As Dorian leaves, the beggar woman laughs and calls him "the devil's bargain" (aw, snap!). He yells back at her, and she mockingly calls him "Prince Charming."
    • A sailor in the background leaps up when he hears this nickname, and follows Dorian out.
    • Dorian walks along the waterfront through the rain, and he ponders Adrian's downfall. Could it really be his fault? Was Basil actually right, or all his former friends responsible for their own failures? He decides that the latter is true, and he bears no responsibility.
    • Dorian hurries on, but is suddenly seized by a mysterious figure. He finds himself pushed against a wall, a gun at his head.
    • The assailant accuses Dorian of ruining Sibyl Vane's life—it turns out that he's James Vane, back from Australia after all these years. He is the sailor that overheard Dorian called "Prince Charming," which he remembers to be her nickname for him.
    • Dorian panics and tries to deny it, but James is determined to kill him before he flees the country aboard a ship for India.
    • Suddenly, a brain wave hits Dorian—he asks how long ago Sibyl died. It was eighteen years ago, and, when he tells James to look at his face in the light, the vengeful sailor realizes that the man he's looking at can't be more than twenty. James is horrified by what he thinks is a terrible mistake—he's convinced he almost killed an innocent boy.
    • James lets Dorian go, and he walks away, unharmed.
    • The beggar woman from the opium den creeps up to James, and asks why he didn't go through with the murder. He tells her that Dorian wasn't the man he was looking for—he's too young. She only laughs, and tells him that it's been eighteen years since "Prince Charming" ruined her life… rumor has it that he sold his soul to the devil for eternal youth.
    • James curses and rushes to look for Dorian—but he's gone.
  • Chapter 17

    • Dorian and his aristocratic friends are at his country house at Selby. Among his guests are the Duchess of Monmouth, her husband, Lord Henry, and Lady Narborough. They're all having tea and lounging around, generally being fabulous.
    • Lord Henry comes over to chat with the Duchess (whose name is Gladys) and Dorian. They banter about aesthetics—you know, the usual.
    • Dorian goes off to fetch some orchids for the Duchess, and she and Henry keep chatting. He accuses her facetiously of flirting too much with Dorian. For the first time, we seem to have met a woman who can keep up with Dorian and Henry.
    • The two of them hear a groan and a thud from the other end of the conservatory. Everyone is startled, and Lord Henry rushes over to see what happened: he finds Dorian, collapsed face downwards.
    • The guests carry Dorian to a couch, and he comes to after a little while. He's obviously shaken up, and is still distraught. Henry, worried, tells him he should rest and not come down to dinner, but Dorian would rather be with the rest of the party than stay alone.
    • The reason for Dorian's collapse, we learn, was that he saw a terrifying sight through the conservatory window—James Vane.
  • Chapter 18

    • The next day, Dorian doesn't leave the house; he's terrified that his assassin will find him. He wonders if this is all a product of his imagination—could he just have hallucinated his vision of his would-be killer? Surely he's safe.
    • However, he can't get the vision out of his head; Henry comes in that evening and finds Dorian crying.
    • After a couple of days of sulking, Dorian feels well enough to go outside. He feels infinitely better, and looks back on his former fear with contempt.
    • Dorian goes on a walk in the garden with the Duchess, then joins some other friends to go hunting.
    • Dorian and the Duchess's brother, Geoffrey, stroll through the woods, looking for animals to shoot. They come upon a beautiful hare. Dorian is charmed by the creature, and tells Geoffrey not to shoot it, but he scoffs and takes aim.
    • Geoffrey hits the hare—but also hits something else. He accidentally shoots a man hidden behind the trees.
    • Geoffrey angrily yells at the gamekeeper; he thinks it's one of the "beaters," men employed to flush birds out of the trees to be shot at.
    • The body of the shot man is dragged out, and Dorian is distraught—he finds the whole thing to be dreadful. Henry gently walks him back to the house, and informs him on the way that the man has died. Dorian is profoundly disturbed.
    • Henry, however, is not. He thinks it's the man's own fault for being in the line of fire, though he admits that this situation is rather awkward for Geoffrey.
    • Dorian thinks this is a bad omen, and is certain that something bad is going to happen to someone—maybe him.
    • Henry blows off this presentiment, and they change topics to Dorian's affair with the Duchess. However, Dorian's distress is still palpable, but he won't tell Henry what's the matter.
    • The Duchess comes out to join them, and the three of them discuss the murdered man in the most alarming way—as though he's just an animal. Their snobbery is unbelievable.
    • Dorian leaves his two friends and goes into the house. Henry and the Duchess continue their banter; they're pretty much equally matched in wit.
    • Inside, Dorian is totally freaking out. He feels like death is coming for him.
    • Thornton, the gamekeeper, comes in to see Dorian about the dead man. It turns out he wasn't a beater, after all. In fact, Thornton says, he looks more like a sailor.
    • This really wakes Dorian up—he desperately wants to know the man's identity. He rushes out on horseback to see the body where it's being kept in a stable.
    • The dead man is James Vane. Dorian rides back to the house, crying tears of joy—he's safe.
  • Chapter 19

    • This whole James Vane incident seems to have shaken Dorian significantly. Back in London, he informs Lord Henry that he's going to become a good person again.
    • Henry doesn't believe it, nor does he think Dorian should change at all. In his view, his friend is perfect. For about the thousandth time, we think about how warped Lord Henry is.
    • Apparently, the day before, Dorian was staying out in the countryside by himself, and Henry comments that it's a lot easier to be good out there, since there's nothing to do.
    • Dorian continues, saying that he's altered (presumably for the better).
    • Lord Henry demands to know what Dorian's done that's so great.
    • Dorian tells Henry about a young girl that he met and fell in love with in the countryside. She reminded him of Sibyl Vane, and she totally fell for him. However, instead of corrupting her and destroying her life, he decided to let her go—he leaves her in her innocent state.
    • Dorian thinks this good deed is enough to set him on the path to righteousness, despite Henry's doubts. Lord Henry continues to mock Dorian's fantasies.
    • Dorian abruptly changes the subject, and asks Henry what's going on around town. Apparently, the gossip around their club is all about Basil—people are still discussing his disappearance. We also hear in passing that Alan Campbell committed suicide (no doubt because of what Dorian did to him).
    • Dorian plays it cool, and asks Henry what he thinks happened to Basil; Lord Henry's basically like, "Screw Basil! Listen to me talk about my life."
    • But Dorian doesn't want to let it go. He asks Henry if he's ever wondered if Basil was murdered—or, for that matter, if anyone else thinks that. Henry's just not that concerned; besides, he doesn't think Basil was interesting enough to get himself murdered.
    • Dorian asks an interesting hypothetical question: what would Henry think if he said that he had killed Basil?
    • Henry basically laughs this off, too, saying that crime is for the lower classes. He honestly just doesn't care, and even jokes that Basil probably drowned in the river Seine. Since Basil's paintings haven't been that great lately, Henry doesn't think there's anything to be sad about.
    • Henry brings up the portrait, which he identifies as one of Basil's great works. Apparently Dorian told him that it was either lost or stolen.
    • They discuss the painting a bit more, and Dorian confesses that he never liked it (we know why).
    • Lord Henry changes the topic slightly to souls—what might it be like to sell one's soul? Little does he know that he's talking to the one person who knows…
    • Dorian tells Henry that that he's sure that everyone has a soul, for better or worse.
    • Languidly, Henry asks Dorian to play some Chopin on the piano. As Dorian plays, Henry muses at length about Dorian's youth and beauty, and his own lost youth. He tells Dorian that he's led an amazing, full life, and mistakenly praises him for still being the same. Dorian corrects him, saying that he's not the same, but Henry doesn't believe it. He thinks that Dorian is perfect.
    • Henry goes on, saying that Dorian has always been loved by the world, even when it denounced him; he says that Dorian is the ideal of their time, and that, though he's never created anything, his whole life has been art.
    • Dorian stops playing and tells Henry again that things are going to be different from now on. He resists Henry's praise of him.
    • After insisting that he's going to change, Dorian reminds Lord Henry that the older man poisoned him with the yellow book, all those years ago. Henry doesn't buy it, saying that art doesn't influence real life.
    • Dorian says his goodbyes and extricates himself from Henry, after wearily promising to see him the next day.
  • Chapter 20

    • Dorian walks pensively home from Henry's house in the pleasant, warm evening air. On his way, he hears people gossiping about him as he passes.
    • Dorian wistfully thinks of the lovely country girl he left, and the idyllic town where nobody knew who he was.
    • At home, Dorian begins to worry about what Henry said—is it true that people can't really change? He thinks back on his innocent boyhood, and knows that he's ruined himself—but can't he change back?
    • Dorian regards his own beautiful face in the mirror, and suddenly is filled with self-loathing. He throws the mirror down, shattering it. He can't believe he's invested so much in youth—what a foolish thing!
    • Now, Dorian tries to get over the past and think of the future. As far as he can tell, he's perfectly safe from the law, and from anyone ever knowing about the things he's done. Looking back, he blames everything on the portrait; it was the portrait's fault that he killed Basil, after all.
    • Dorian longs for a new life, and wonders if he's already started it by saving Hetty, the young country girl, from his corruption. He wonders if this one good deed has started making the portrait look any different yet. Excited and anxious, Dorian goes upstairs to see.
    • In the schoolroom, Dorian confronts his portrait again, certain that it will look less loathsome. However, the terrible truth is that it's actually worse than ever—the bloodstain on the figure's hand that dates from Basil's death looks even brighter and more real. Furthermore, there's a new look of hypocrisy on its face—the portrait knows, even if Dorian doesn't, that he doesn't actually want to become good again.
    • Dorian wonders for a moment if he should confess all his crimes, but quickly dismisses that idea. Instead, he decides to destroy all the evidence of his shameful life—the portrait itself.
    • Fittingly, Dorian grabs the very same knife he used to kill Basil, and stabs the picture with it.
    • Downstairs, Dorian's servants are terrified—they hear a mysterious scream and a crash. It's even audible outside, and two passing gentleman go to get a policeman. The three men knock on the door, but there's no answer. When they find out that it's Dorian Gray's house, they leave—they don't want to help him.
    • Dorian's valet, Francis, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Leaf, are petrified. Finally, Francis and two other servants go up to the schoolroom to investigate. They easily knock down the old door.
    • Inside the schoolroom, the servants discover something terrible: the portrait of their master, Dorian, restored to its youth and beauty, hangs over an old, hideous, dead man with a knife in his heart. When they look at the mysterious corpse's rings, they realize that it's Dorian.