Study Guide

The Picture of Dorian Gray Chapter 20

By Oscar Wilde

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.