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Free Study Guide for The Picture of Dorian Gray: Book Summary

 

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FREE BOOK NOTES AND ANALYSIS: The Picture of Dorian Gray


CHAPTER 9


Summary

The next morning after the opera, Dorian is visited by Basil Hallward. Basil assumes that he really didnít go to the opera the night before and is shocked to find out that he did so after all. He canít believe that Dorian is so unfeeling when Sibyl isnít even buried yet. Dorian tells him he doesnít want to hear about it because itís in the past. He thinks if he is a strong man, he should be able to dominate his feelings and end them when he wants to end them. Basil blames Dorianís lack of feeling on Lord Henry. Dorian tells Basil that it was he who taught him to be vain. Basil is shocked to find out that Sibyl killed herself. Dorian tells him it is fitting that she did, more artistic. "Her death has all the pathetic uselessness of martyrdom, all its wasted beauty." He tells Basil that he has suffered, that he was suffering terribly yesterday around five or six oíclock. He says he no longer has these emotions and it would be nothing but empty sentimentality to try to repeat the feelings that have passed. He asks Basil to help him see the art in it rather than to try to make him feel guilt over it. He begs Basil not to leave him but to stop quarreling with him.


Basil is moved by Dorianís speech and decides Dorian might be passing through a momentary lapse of feeling and should be berated for it. He agrees not to speak to Dorian again of Sibyl. Dorian asks him, however, to draw him a picture of Sibyl. Basil agrees to do so and urges Dorian to come sit for him again, saying he canít get on with his painting without Dorian. Dorian starts and says he will never be able to sit for Basil again. Basil is shocked and then looks around to see if he can see the portrait he gave Dorian. He is annoyed to find that it is hidden behind a screen and goes toward it. Dorian jumps up and stands between him and the screen keeping him away from it. He makes Basil promise never to look at it again and not to ever ask why. Basil is surprised but agrees to do so, saying that Dorianís friendship is more important to him than anything. He tells Dorian he plans to show the portrait in an exhibit. Dorian remembers the afternoon in Basilís studio when Basil said he would never show it. He remembers Lord Henry telling him to ask Basil one day about why. He does so now.

Basil explains to him reluctantly that he was fascinated with him and dominated by his personality from the first moment he saw him. He painted every kind of portrait of him, putting him in ancient Greek garb and in Renaissance garb. One day he decided to paint Dorian as he was, and as he painted each stroke, he became fascinated with the idea that the portrait was revealing his idolatry of Dorian. He swore then hat he would never exhibit it. However, after he gave the portrait to Dorian, the feeling passed away from him. He realized that "art conceals the artist far more completely than if ever reveals him." That was when he decided to exhibit the portrait as a centerpiece.

Dorian takes a breath. He realizes he is safe for the present since Basil clearly doesnít know the truth about the painting. Basil thinks Dorian sees what he saw in the portrait, his idolatry of Dorian. He tries to get Dorian to let him see the portrait, but Dorian still refuses. Basil leaves and Dorian thinks over what he had said to him. He calls his servant, realizing that the portrait has to be put away where he wonít run the risk of guests trying to see it.


Notes

Wilde structures the novel like a play. First, the three men go to the play together and witness the destruction of Sibyl Vaneís acting talent. Next, Dorian scorns her and she kills herself. The next morning, one of his admirers comes to him and convinces him to feel no guilt. The next morning after that, his other admirer comes to him and is shocked that he feels no guilt, but is led to forgive him for it. Wilde continues to play the triangular relationship with symmetrical precision.

The portrait is here taken to another level. Dorian hides it desperately, sure that anyone who looks at it will see his shame. Basil Hallway, who himself once swore that he would never exhibit the painting for fear that everyone would be able to see his idolatry of Dorian Gray, now feels that art is after all abstract, nothing but form and color.


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