The Picture Of Dorian Gray is the novel of the decadent 1890's. Wilde's only full length novel, it is a thrilling, melodramatic tale of love, murder, thwarted revenge and final justice. But in its pages Wilde also expressed his own distinctive views on art, life and beauty through Lord Henry Wotton, the immoral aristocrat who corrupts Dorian Gray. In some ways both Dorian and Lord Henry are self-portraits of Wilde – not as he was but as he would have liked to appear. This adds to the novel's power and poignancy. 1. A WISH UTTERED. The book opens on a scene of typical luxury. Lord Henry Wotton, lolling on a divan, teases his friend Basil Hallward about his infatuation with the young Dorian Gray. Hallward, who is painting Dorian's portrait, warns Lord Henry against corrupting the youth. But when Dorian appears, he is overwhelmed by Lord Henry's daring views. Hallward completes his picture and Dorian, gazing at it, wishes that the portrait might grow old and ugly while he himself remained untouched by the passing years. 2. YOUNG LOVERS. A month later Dorian, a close friend of Lord Henry and much under his influence, reveals to him that he has fallen in love with Sibyl Vane, a young actress at a minor theatre. Lord Henry wonders what she is like when she is not on stage, but he consents to come to see her act that evening. Meanwhile, Sibyl tells her own family - her mother, a disappointed actress, and her brother James, who is going to sea - that she is in love with a young man whom she knows only by the name Prince Charming. James Vane swears that if this man ever harms his sister, he will find him and kill him. 3. A BRIEF ENGAGEMENT. That evening, while waiting for Dorian, Lord Henry tells Basil of Dorian's engagement to Sibyl. When Dorian arrives aglow with love, he relates how they fell into each other's arms, and how Sibyl makes him forget Lord Henry's poisonous ideas. Lord Henry protests, but at the theatre he is charmed by his first sight of Sibyl. She, however, appals Dorian by acting very badly. After the show, he is unimpressed by her explanation that she no longer feels that the theatre is worthwhile compared to the passion she feels for Dorian. Claiming that she has killed his love, he contemptuously abandons her. 4. THE PORTRAIT STARTS TO SNEER. After a night roaming the streets, Dorian returns to find something strange in his portrait: it now has a trace of cruelty not visible in his own face. Deeply shaken, he decides the next day to make amends to Sibyl. Lord Henry turns up to offer sympathy unaware that Dorian does not know of Sybil's suicide. When he does, he is grief-stricken for a moment but accepts Lord Henry's explanation that Sibyl never really lived as a person - only as an actress. The next day Basil is shocked to find that Dorian has spent the previous night at the opera and now dismisses the whole affair. Reluctantly accepting Dorian's conduct, Basil asks to see the portrait which is hidden by a screen. Dorian, terrified that Basil will notice the change, refuses him. 5. A PICTURE IS HIDDEN. Dorian asks Basil why he never exhibited the picture. Basil confesses that there is something extraordinary about his portrait. After he has gone, Dorian hides the picture in disused room. He then becomes entranced by a fantastic yellow book, which Lord Henry has sent him. 6. THE ROAD TO RUIN. Influenced by the yellow book, Dorian starts to live a life of secret debauchery, corrupting other young men and women. Soon, evil rumours start circulating about him but he still appears as fresh and pure as day his portrait was painted. That, however, grows steadily more menacing. One night, he meets Basil Hallward near his home and shows him the portrait. The...
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