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


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It is the ninth of November, not long before Dorian Gray will turn 38 years old. He is walking home late one night when he sees Basil Hallward. He becomes suddenly afraid to have contact with his old friend whom he hasnít seen in many months, but Basil sees him and stops him. Basil says heís been waiting for him all evening and has just given up. He insists on coming back inside with Dorian because he says he has something important to tell him.

Inside, Dorian acts as though heís bored and wants to go to bed. Basil insists on talking. He says he is going to Paris in one hourís time and will be taking a studio there for six months. He tells Dorian that he is always having to defend Dorianís name wherever he goes. He thinks Dorian must be a good person because he looks so beautiful. He says he knows sin tells on peopleís faces after a while, so he has a great deal of trouble believing the stories. However, the evidence has piled up and is quite compelling. He names several young men who have lost very promising reputations after being extremely close to Dorian. He names several young women, including Lord Henryís sister, who have lost their reputations. Lady Gwendolyn, Lord Henryís sister, has suffered such a fall that she is not even allowed to see her own children any more. He mentions the stories of people who have seen Dorian spending time in "dreadful houses" and in "the foulest dens in London." He mentions the stories of what happens at Dorianís country house.

Basil urges Dorian to have a good influence on people instead of a bad one. He tells Dorian that it is said that he corrupts everyone with whom he becomes intimate. He has even seen a letter shown to him by Lord Gloucester, one of his best friends, that his wife wrote to him on her death bed. It implicated Dorian Gray in her debasement. Basil sums up by saying that he doesnít know that he even knows Dorian any more. He says that he canít say without seeing Dorianís soul and only God can do that.

At his last words, Dorian goes white with fear and repeats the words "To see my soul!" He laughs bitterly and tells Basil that he will see his soul that very night. He will let Basil look on the face of corruption. Basil is shocked and thinks Dorian is being blasphemous. He stands over Basil and tells him to finish what he has to say to him. Basil says Dorian must give him a satisfactory answer to all the stories about him that very night. Dorian just tells him to come upstairs with him. He says he has written a dairy of his life from day to day and that it never leaves the room in which it is written.


A possible turning point occurs in this chapter in which Dorian meets Basil Hallward after many years. He is now 38 years old and, as Basil tells him, has caused so many scandals and ruined so many young men and womenís reputations that Basil has begun to question his integrity. Basil, the artist, is sure that a man cannot sin as Dorian is reputed to have sinned and remain beautiful. For Basil, morality is visible on the surface of the skin. Beautiful people must be pure people and ugly people must be immoral. Basilís view of beauty and goodness accords with the assumptions behind the story of the novel. Here, Dorian will show him his portrait. The reader must wonder if Basil will be able to see the ugliness that Dorian sees in the portrait or if the changes in the portrait have only been a figment of Dorianís guilt-ridden imagination.

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