Picture of Dorian Gray

Get Started. It's Free
or sign up with your email address
Picture of Dorian Gray by Mind Map: Picture of Dorian Gray

1. Motifs and Themes

1.1. Youth & Beauty

1.1.1. The theme of youth is always present in one way or another in this novel. From before the book began, when Basil first met Dorian it was because of the beauty and youth in his face that lead him to such a deep attraction. As youth generally goes hand in hand with beauty and attraction, it is normal to fantasize about eternal youth, which Dorian Gray acquires. The way that his face never ages throughout the nearly 20 years that go by in the novel (about a full 19 in one long, boring chapter) depicts how ignorant it is that naturally humans look at a pretty face and automatically the person they're looking at is kind, well moralized individual.

1.2. Homosexuality

1.2.1. It’s important to note that Oscar Wilde was a very well-known and recognized man at this time period. He was a playwright, this was his only novel. Oscar Wilde was like the Freddie Mercury, or George Michael of the time: everybody knew that Oscar Wilde was gay, and, despite being married with children, he had male lovers, and one particular scandal led to a huge trial that sadly put Wilde in jail, as homosexuality was illegal at this time period (there was a play written about this trial, and this novel was a very important spark of the fire). The gayness of it all is evident within the first few pages when Basil describes the way he feels about Dorian Gray, and how he tells the story of how they met (see the quotes section for a better understanding). This is what made the book so controversial, as it was one of the first books by a mainstream writer to deal with such themes of homoeroticism. In this book, it is so obvious that the main characters, ESPECIALLY Basil, are gay. I remember about 2 pages in I asked my dad, who had read the book before, “am I reading a gay romance novel?” and he basically said ‘yeah, pretty much’. This is also supported by Wilde’s explanation of the personal meaning behind the three main characters and how they represent different aspects of himself. It’s also important to note that this novel was originally released in the same way that books at the time period like Great Expectations and Pinocchio were released, with a chapter regularly put out in a magazine or newspaper. The original text came out in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, and the magazine's editor, without Wilde's knowledge, deleted roughly five hundred words before publication as he felt the story was indecent. However, the book still managed to offend British book reviewers, some even said that Oscar Wilde warranted prosecution for violating the public morality. In response, Wilde continuously defended his novel to the British press. Despite this, he still made alterations for the final release, to make a longer, tamer version of the original. So, yes, the version most people have and will read is not the same as a darker, even gayer original text.

2. Summaries

2.1. Chapters 1-4

2.1.1. The novel begins in the elegantly appointed London home of Basil Hallward, a well-known artist. Basil discusses his latest portrait Lord Henry. This is where Basil describes the romantic first meeting of him and Dorian Gray. When Dorian Gray shows up at the house, Basil reluctantly agrees to let Lord Henry meet him but begs him not to influence the young man. Basil says that Dorian has a “simple and a beautiful nature” that could easily be spoiled by Lord Henry’s cynicism (foreshadowing). Basil warns Dorian that Lord Henry is a bad influence, but this seems to intrigue Dorian. While Basil continues to work, Lord Henry and Dorian walk into the garden, where he praises Dorian’s youth and beauty and warns him how soon is will go away. He urges Dorian to live life to its fullest and to explore many interests. When Basil completes the portrait, Dorian wishes that the portrait would grow old instead of Dorian (also foreshadowing). Despite Basil’s objections, Lord Henry and Dorian leave for the theatre together. When Lord Henry asks his uncle about Dorian Gray’s past, he tells him that Dorian comes from an unhappy family with a dark, tangled history. After receiving loads of information, Lord Henry becomes fascinated with Dorian, and the thought of having an influence on him gives him pleasure. Later, Lord Henry goes to dine at his Aunt Agatha’s, and Dorian Gray was invited as well. Henry goes on and on with his hedonistic views. Many of the guests are appalled by his selfishness but they are too impressed with his intellectualism that it doesn’t really matter, but Dorian Gray is especially fascinated, so much so that he leaves with Lord Henry instead of visiting Basil, his original plan. One month later, at Lord Henry’s home, Dorian shares the news that he has fallen in love with a Shakespearean actress named Sibyl Vane. After several trips to the theater, the owner insisted that Dorian meet Sibyl Vane, who would refer to him as “Prince Charming” (foreshadowing). Lord Henry agrees to go with Dorian to see Sibyl Vane play the lead in Juliet, in Romeo & Juliet, of course, the following night with Basil. Later that night, Lord Henry comes home to find a telegram bearing the news that Dorian is engaged to Sibyl Vane. It's kind of interesting that the man who was engaged to a woman name Sibyl got eternal youth.

2.2. Chapters 5-8

2.2.1. Sibyl Vane is extremely happy over her engagement but her mother is not as amused and is rather hopeful that Sibyl benefits from his wealth, and her brother, James, is also skeptical. James arrives to say goodbye before going on a sailing/business trip the next morning. James takes Sibyl on a walk where he eagerly listens to her discuss “Prince Charming.” As the two sit and watch “the smart people go by,” Sibyl sees Dorian pass by in an open carriage but he is gone before James can find him (foreshadowing). James swears that if Dorian ever wrongs her, he will track him down and kill him (also foreshadowing). Sibyl’s performance is so terrible at the start that Basil and Lord Henry leave and promise to come and meet Sibyl soon, and her acting worsens so much as the play goes on that by the end practically everybody has left. Dorian is heartbroken. When he confronts her, she explains how now that she has felt true love she can no longer express fake emotions, and she declares her acting career over. Dorian is horrified by this decision and exclaims that he no longer loves her and wishes to never see her again. As he returns home after a long night of wondering, he notices a faint sneer of cruelty that has appeared at the corner of Basil’s portraits mouth. He is astonished by the fact that his wish has come true and decides that he was wrong for what he did to Sibyl and decides to make amends with Sibyl in the morning, eventually marry her and to try and love her again, knowing that this should clear the cruelty of his soul that the painting has expressed. Lord Henry arrives the next afternoon with the news of Sibyl Vane’s suicide. Lord Henry manages to convince him that he should not go to the police and confess, but rather to regard Sibyl’s suicide as a perfect artistic representation of undying love. Having made this resolution, he joins Lord Henry at the opera that same night.

2.3. Chapters 9-12

2.3.1. When Basil comes the next day to help Dorian heal from his grievances, he simply, unsympathetically explains that “What is done is done. What is past is past.” Basil is horrified and Basil blames Lord Henry for Dorian’s heartless attitude. Dorian basically explains everything that Lord Henry made him think, and that he cannot fake emotions (ummmm….. really Dorian? Sound like anyone familiar?) When Basil begs Dorian to appear back in his studio for a sitting session, he refuses and exclaims that the original portrait shall never appear in public. Once Basil is gone, Dorian gets two men from a frame shop to help him hide the covered painting in an abandoned, top floor room that only he has the key to. When he returns downstairs, he settles down to read a book the Lord Henry has sent him. This yellow book traces the life of a young Parisian who devotes his life to collecting his hedonistic pleasures. After reading a few pages, Dorian becomes entranced and finds the book to be “poisonous.” Under the influence of this “yellow book,” Dorian Gray’s character begins to change. He orders nearly a dozen copies of the first edition and has them bound in different colors to suit his shifting moods. Years and years pass (about 19-20), but Dorian’s face remains young and beautiful. However, like the painting, his reputation grows dark and ugly with rumors and a terrible footprint on the lives of even the people he briefly encounters, and especially those who he befriend. Over the years he devotes himself to the study of beautiful things such as perfumes and their psychological effects, music, jewelry, embroideries, and tapestries. As Dorian continues to watch the portrait age and deteriorate, his reactions are often mixed: sometimes it fills him with terror, while other times he is grateful that his body has been spared the burden of age. On the eve of his thirty-eighth birthday, Dorian encounters Basil Hallward in a late, foggy night, and Basil mentions that he is about to leave for a six-month stay in Paris but felt it necessary to stop by and warn Dorian that terrible rumors are being spread about him and he demands to know why so many of Dorian’s friendships have ended disastrously. He we learn about how Dorian has ruined people: one boy committed suicide, one woman lost the rights to see her own children, others had their careers or reputations ruined, and basically any life-ruining thing has happened to people prior to meeting Dorian. When Basil wishes to see into Dorian’s soul, he, with rage, promises to allow that to happen. Isn't it terrible how hypocritical Dorian is here when he claims to not be able to make false emotions? It's even more interesting that with this influence from Lord Henry happening earlier, maybe Dorian would have shown more mercy towards Sibyl.

2.4. Chapters 13-16

2.4.1. Dorian shows Basil the painting and, long story short, Dorian stabbed Basil with a knife and kills him after a deep, intense feeling of hatred for him swept over him. After making sure that nobody on the foreground somehow got a glimpse of everything, he locked the room and returned to the library. Dorian removed any traces or evidence suggesting that Basil was there that night. When a servant notified Dorian of Basil’s appearance, he claimed to be sorry to have missed him. The next morning, Dorian woke up from a restful sleep. After breakfast, he sent for Alan Campbell, a young scientist and former friend. Campbell came reluctantly, having been summoned on a matter of life and death. Dorian blackmailed Campbell into removing Basil from the house. When they got to the room, Dorian noticed that the hands of the painting were dripping with red blood, “as though the canvas had sweated blood.” Campbell successfully removed the body. During dinner that night, after Lord Henry arrived to the party he was attending, Dorian found it impossible to eat. Later, after dinner, rather than join the women upstairs, Dorian decided to go home early. Once he arrived home, he retrieved Basil’s belongings from the wall compartment and burned them. Then he went to one of his drawers and drew out a canister of opium. At midnight, he dressed in common clothes and hired a coach to bring him to a London neighborhood where the city’s opium dens prosper. He decided that if he cannot be forgiven for his sins, he can at least forget them. When the coach stopped and Dorian exited he entered a squalid den and found a young woman named Adrian Singleton, whom rumor says Dorian had corrupted. As Dorian prepared to leave, she addressed him as “the devil’s bargain” and “Prince Charming,” and, then, a sailor leapt to his feet and followed Dorian to the street. While walking he was seized from behind and held at gunpoint by James Vane, Sibyl Vane’s brother. James’ plan was to kill Dorian to avenge the death of his sister years ago, but Dorian logicked his way out of the situation by explaining that the “Prince Charming” whom he was looking for was in love with Sibyl over 20 years ago, and, while bringing the two of them into the shine of a streetlight, revealed his beautiful face, that of a 20 year old man. James released him, but the old woman told him that Dorian had been coming there for eighteen years and that his face had never aged a single day. James is understandably furious and plots to hunt him down and kill him again.

2.5. Chapters 17-20

2.5.1. At dinner, a week later, Dorian feels occasional chills of terror as he recalls that, before fainting, he saw the face of James Vane pressed against the conservatory window. The following day, Dorian doesn’t leave the house, for the thought of becoming victim to James Vane is too terrifying to him. On the third day after the incident, Dorian ventures out. While strolling along with hunters at a shooting party, Dorian is enthralled by the graceful movement of a hare and begs for it not to be shot, only to be laughed at with an ungranted wish, as they persist on shooting the hare. Turns out, it was good for Dorian that they shot at it because they really, accidentally, shot, and killed, James Vane, leaving Dorian with a feeling of safeness; of relief (that poor mother, Ms. Vane, nobody left for her. Both of her kids are dead and she has no husband. DOESN’T JUST THE THOUGHT OF THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO GET SAD AND CRY AND JUST BE HEARTBROKEN?). Several weeks go by and Dorian explains to Lord Henry that he wants to reform himself and be virtuous; clear his mind and soul. Lord Henry dismisses him. That night, Dorian goes to the locked room to look at his portrait. He hopes his decision to amend his life will have changed the painting, but no such change has been made. Then he tries to kill the painting with the same manor and same knife as he used to kill Basil. Now, the last few paragraphs, and the last line, are simply amazing and are almost unforgettable, so it’s best to read them yourself to get the better experience!  I mean the revelation at the end it just SO… GOOD!


3.1. Gay Quotes

3.1.1. "Don't speak. Wait till you hear what I have to say. Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and power, by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream. I worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you. When you were away from me, you were still present in my art.... Of course, I never let you know anything about this. It would have been impossible. You would not have understood it. I hardly understood it myself. I only knew that I had seen perfection face to face, and that the world bad become wonderful to my eyes -- too wonderful, perhaps, for in such mad worships there is peril, the peril of losing them, no less than the peril of keeping them..." - Basil Hallward to Dorian Gray

3.1.2. "I turned half-way round, and saw Dorian Gray for the first time. When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale. A curious instinct of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself. I did not want any external influence in my life. You know yourself, Harry, how independent I am by nature. My father destined me for the army. I insisted on [7] going to Oxford. Then he made me enter my name at the Middle Temple. Before I had eaten half a dozen dinners I gave up the Bar, and announced my intention of becoming a painter. I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then–But I don’t know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I knew that if I spoke to Dorian I would become absolutely devoted to him, and that I ought not to speak to him. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. It was not conscience that made me do so: it was cowardice. I take no credit to myself for trying to escape. ...Suddenly I found myself face to face with the young man whose personality had so strangely stirred me. We were quite close, almost touching. Our eyes met again. It was mad of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him. Perhaps it was not so mad, after all. It was simply inevitable. We would have spoken to each other without any introduction. I am sure of that. Dorian told me so afterwards. He, too, felt that we were destined to know each other." - Basil Hallward on the first time he met Dorian Gray

3.2. Beauty & Youth Quotes

3.2.1. "You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray… [and] beauty… is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. …[W]hen you have lost [your beauty] you won't smile. …People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not so superficial as thought is. To me, beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. …Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you…" - Lord Henry of Dorian Gray

3.2.2. "Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth's passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Basil Hallward worshipped him." - Lord Henry, of Dorian Gray

3.2.3. "I know, now, that when one loses one's good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything. Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry Wotton is perfectly right. Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself." - Dorian Gray to Lord Henry and Basil Hallward

3.2.4. "...the face of the man he had sought to kill had all the bloom of boyhood, all the unstained purity of youth. He seemed little more than a lad of twenty summers, hardly older, if older indeed at all, than his sister had been when they had parted so many years ago. It was obvious that this was not the man who had destroyed her life." - from when James Vane was going to kill Dorian Gray, and a very important quote

4. Literary Devices

4.1. Symbols

4.1.1. The Picture of Dorian Gray This is a painting of Dorian Gray painted by Basil Hallward, completed in the 2nd chapter of the book. When Basil decides not to share it to the world he gives it as a gift to Dorian, who jokes... actually it wasn't that much of a joke... about wishing that the beautiful painting could get old for him and that he himself would never age, showing jealousy of the portrait. Dorian's wish is granted. The best way to describe the symbolic weight of this object is by this metaphor: Dorian Gray is the cover of a book that you used to judge the book completely, and the painting is the terrible story inside that you assumed was going to be amazing based on the cover. However, this symbolic element almost contradicts the message of the themes of Youth and Beauty portray. The painting represents what Dorian should look like if he hadn't acquired eternal youth. With that in mind, it's important to note that the painting is altered every time Dorian does another unethical act, which is expressed explicitly in the novel. If this picture shows what Gray is really supposed to be, and it gets uglier each time he misdeeds, doesn't that mean that beauty/youth and morality really DO go hand in hand?

4.1.2. À Rebours The yellow book that Lord Henry gives to Dorian, J.K. Huysmans' À Rebours ("Against Nature") immediately changed his life. The extremely wealthy protagonist devotes to getting every aesthetically pleasing anything he can, which foreshadows Dorian’s obsessions, especially with jewels, that occur later in his life. Ultimately he becomes a complete hedonist with no true emotions or moral values. Dorian claimed so see elements of his own life in the book (upon research I found that Oscar Wilde made some notable changes to the description of the original book to better fit his). It is also very important to note that this book was given to Dorian by Lord Henry, which shows the negative, self-destructive influence Lord Henry has on Dorian. Seriously, in the first chapter Basil said that he didn’t want Henry to meet Dorian because he feared he would have a negative influence on him. Of course he was right.

5. Characters

5.1. Dorian Gay

5.1.1. Dorian Gray is a young, attractive man whose face, described as full of youth and beauty, is what attracted Basil Hallward to paint him in the first place, but it is also the most prominent reason why his is so popular. Interestingly enough, as his mind, life, and reputation begin to spiral further and further downhill, his face never even wrinkles, leading some to believe that he sold his soul to the devil to get a pretty face, but the reader knows what's really going on. Oscar WIlde described Dorian as what he would like to be (in other ages, perhaps).

5.2. Basil Hallward

5.2.1. Basil Hallward is a painter of no notable reputation. He is very social and slightly well known around the community. He has a fascination with beauty, though not as much so as Lord Henry. His ideology of the connection between beauty and truth and explain his innocent ignorance of Dorian Gray, as he fully believed that as Dorian's face stayed youthful, so did his soul. Oscar Wilde described Basil as the person he thought he was.

5.3. Lord Henry

5.3.1. Lord Henry is a very philosophical thinker, which is what first attracted Dorian Gray to him in the first place. His views on life, beauty, youth, love, and knowledge are very controversial and the majority of the time confusing and un-agreeable, which is part of the reason he is known all around and invited to many social occasions and gatherings. His thinking and intelligence has had a profound effect on the mind and personality of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde described Lord Henry to be what the world thought of him.