Study Guide

The Picture of Dorian Gray Chapter 16

By Oscar Wilde

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.