Free Study Guide for The Picture of Dorian Gray: Book Summary |
After some years, he becomes unable to leave London for any purpose because he cannot bear to be away from the portrait for any length of time. Often when heís out with friends, he breaks off and rushes home to see if the portrait is still where it should be and to ensure that no one has tampered with the door. He develops a desperate fear that someone might steal the portrait and then everyone would know about him.
Most people are fascinated with Dorian Gray, but some people are distrustful of him. He is almost banned from two clubs. He is ostracized by some prominent men. People begin to tell curious stories about him hanging around with foreign sailors in run down pubs and interacting with thieves and coiners. People talk about his strange absences. He never takes notice of these looks people give him. Most of them see his boyish smile and canít imagine that the stories could be true. Yet the stories remain. Sometime people notice women, who at one time adored him, blanch when he walks in a room in shame or horror. To most people, the stories only increase his mysterious charm. According to Lord Henry, society doesnít care about morality in its aristocratic members, only good manners.
Dorian Gray canít imagine why people reduce human beings to a single, "simple, permanent, reliable essence." For Dorian, people enjoy myriad lives and sensations; they change radically from time to time. Dorian likes to look at the portrait gallery of his country house. He wonders about his ancestors and how their blood co-mingled with his own. He looks at Lady Elizabeth Devereaux in her extraordinary beauty and realizes her legacy to him is in his beauty and in his love of all that is beautiful.
He also thinks of his ancestors as being in literature he has read. These characters have influenced him more even than his family members have. The hero of the central novel of his life has certainly been his greatest influence. He also loves to think of all the evil heroes about whom he has read: Caligula, Filippo, Due of Milan, Pietro Barbi, the Borgia, and many more. He feels a "horrible fascination" with all of them. He knows he has been poisoned by the French Symboliste book. He thinks of evil as nothing more than a mode of experiencing the beautiful.
Chapter 11 is a sort of "time passes" chapter. It covers several years in Dorian Grayís life, summarizing his series of aesthetic interests from fine embroidery to the collection of exquisite jewels, and hinting at his debaucheries. The final sentence of the chapter encapsulates the ethos of Dorian Grayís pursuit of the beautiful: "There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful." It seems that in dismissing the deal of Sibyl Vane as nothing more than a playing out of the aesthetic (the beautiful) in life, as nothing to do with his own culpability, he has turned his back completely on the idea of goodness. Dorianís pursuit of the beautiful in life becomes a pursuit of the aesthetics of evil.
Yet, Dorian remains tied to the portrait to the extent that he canít leave London any more even for traveling. The portrait image grows old and ugly and he remains beautiful and innocent-looking. His greatest fear becomes the possibility that the portrait will be stolen. Dorian seems to believe that it is only the portraitís degradation that allows him carte blanche to continue cutting himself off from moral constraints.
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. 09 May 2017