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

 

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CHAPTER 17


Summary

It is one week later and Dorian Gray is entertaining guests at his country estate, Selby Royal. He is chatting with the Duchess of Monmouth when Lord Henry interrupts them. Lord Henry has decided to begin calling everyone Gladys as a means to combat the ugliness of names in the modern world. He engages the Duchess in a witty repartee about women and about values in general. The Duchess at one point mentions that Dorianís color is very poor. He seems not to be feeling well. Dorian tries but does not do well in keeping up with their conversation. Finally, he volunteers to go to the conservatory to get her some orchids for her dress that evening.

When he is gone, Lord Henry tells the Duchess that she is flirting disgracefully with Dorian. She jokes with him in return. He teases her that she has a rival in Lady Narborough. She asks Lord Henry to describe women as a sex. He says women are "Sphinxes without secrets." She notices that Dorian is taking a long time and suggests going to find him when they hear a crash. They rush into the conservatory to find Dorian fainted away on the floor. They carry him in to the sofa and he gradually comes awake. He asks Lord Henry if they are safe inside. Lord Henry tells him he just fainted and must stay in his room instead of coming down to dinner. Dorian insists he will come down to dinner. At dinner, he is wildly gay. Every once in a while, he feels a thrill of terror as he recalls the face of James Vane looking at him through the window of the conservatory.


Notes

James has apparently caught up with Dorian at his country estate. Dorian seems to have lost all ability to leave behind past sins with present enjoyments. He remains distracted and nervous in company.



CHAPTER 18


Summary

The next day, Dorian Gray remains in his house afraid to leave it for fear of being shot by James Vane. The second day brings its own fears as well, but on the third day, Dorian wakes up and feels that he has been imagining things. He tells himself that James Vane has sailed away on his ship and will never find him in life.

After breakfast, he talks to the Duchess for an hour in the garden and then he drives across the part to join the shooting party. When he gets close, he sees Geoffrey Clouston, the Duchessís brother. He joins Geoffrey for a stroll. Suddenly, a rabbit appears out of the bush and Geoffrey aims for it. Dorian tells him not to shoot it, but Geoffrey shoots anyway. Instead of the rabbit falling, a man who was hidden by the bush falls. The two men think it was one of the beaters (the men hired to beat the bushes so the wildlife will run and the hunters will be able to shoot at it). Geoffrey is annoyed at the man for getting in front of the gunfire. Lord Henry comes over and tells Dorian they should call off the shooting for the day to avoid appearing callous. Dorian is awfully upset by the shooting. Lord Henry consoles him, saying the manís death is of no consequence, though it will cause Geoffrey some inconvenience. Dorian thinks of it as a bad omen. He thinks he will be shot. Lord Henry laughs his fears away, telling him there is no such thing as destiny.

They arrive at the house and Dorian is greeted by the gardener who has a note from the Duchess. He receives it and walks on. They discuss her. Lord Henry says the Duchess loves him. Dorian says he wishes he could love but that heís too concentrated on himself to love anyone else. He says he wants to take a cruise on his yacht where he will be safe. As they talk, the Duchess approaches them. She is concerned bout her brother. Lord Henry says it would be much more interesting if he had murdered the man on purpose. He says he wishes he knew someone who had committed murder. Dorian blanches and they express concern for his health. He says he will go lie down to rest.

Lord Henry and the Duchess continue their talk. He asks her if she is in love with Dorian. She avoids answering. He asks if her husband will notice anything. She says her husband never notices and she wishes he would sometimes.

Upstairs in his room, Dorian lies on his sofa almost in a faint. At five oíclock he calls for a servant and tells him to prepare his things for his leave-taking. He writs a note to Lord Henry asking him to entertain his guests. Just as he is ready to leave, the head keeper is announced. He says the man who was shot was not one of the beaters, but seems to have been a sailor. No one knew the man. Dorian is wildly excited at the thought hat it might be James Vane. He rushes out to go and see the body. When the cloth is lifted from the face, he cries out in joy because it is the face of James Vane. He rides home with tears of joy knowing heís safe.


Notes

Dorian Gray is naive enough at the end of this chapter to think that the death of James Vane means the end of his fears for his own life. The reader probably suspects by now that Dorian Grayís fears will remain with him because his guilt over killing his friend Basil Hallward will not go away. Dorian Grayís implacable facade has already cracked. It is only a matter of time until his career in the pursuit of pleasure at the expense of others is over.

It seems that Oscar Wilde is an imminently moral writer after all.


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