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The Picture of Dorian Gray
Introduction (en français) Oscar Wilde, his time, his life, his works,
And for more about Wilde's life,
click here :
The Picture of Dorian Gray:
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3(summary), Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6(summary), Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9
Summaries of :
Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19
J'ai donc dû tout d'abord annoter le livre (editions : Penguin Popular Classics) dans sa totalité (vocabulary notes). J'ai également rédigé des notes de lecture pour aider les élèves dans leur compréhension du texte, pour leur expliquer certaines références ou faits de civilisation. Une partie de ces notes ayant pour but de leur faire se poser les bonnes questions, se présente donc sous forme de questionnaire.
En 1995, nous avons ouvert au lycée de Noyon la classe d'anglais de spécialité en terminale L. Les élèves ayant choisi à la quasi unanimité d'étudier The Picture of Dorian Gray, c'est avec un grand plaisir que je me suis lancée dans un travail sur cette oeuvre, largement inspiré, je suis heureuse de le dire, par les cours de Robert Merle que j'ai eu la chance de suivre à Nanterre dans les années 60.
Les élèves ayant à lire à peu près cent pages, j'ai résumé un certain nombre de chapitres qu'ils pouvaient néanmoins lire si ils le souhaitaient car je leur avais donné les annotations nécessaires. Pour les chapitres qu'ils devaient lire obligatoirement, j'ai rédigé en style télégraphique la trame de mes cours. C'est cette trame que j'ai pensé mettre sur le Web. Si parmi vous, English teachers, certains sont intéréssés par le travail d'annotations, qu'ils m'envoient un mail (email@example.com).
OSCAR WILDE, HIS TIME, HIS LIFE, HIS WORKS.
Born 1854, lived 2nd half of Victorian Era.
1) England , first world power, a lot of money for the rich, the poor are very poor, social movements don't really exist yet or, they are just beginning. Children work in the mines while the aristocracy has more money than we can imagine.
2) The Victorian mentality. Role of the Queen. Puritanism and hypocrisy.
3) Literary movements. Two branches have evolved from the romantics.
a) Keats : worship of beauty ( "A thing of beauty is a joy forever") . Then, Pre-Raphaelites ( ref. to Raphael and the Italian renaissance as the epitomy of beauty) Birth of Aesthetic Movement : Art for art's sake
b) Blake and Wordsworth : the social trend continued by Dickens and popular novels of the 19th century, also by a decorator, William Morris
O.Wilde belongs to the first group, but influence of the second group too.
1) Youth : Irish of English origin. Father : a great doctor (the Queen's ophthalmologist)
O. Wilde's life
Mother : a poetess, a feminist, a very original woman. Wanted a little girl. Dresses him as such. Father always absent (in London).
2) Education : The best possible : Trinity College in Dublin, Oxford.
3) Adulthood : becomes a homosexual at Oxford, but gets married to Constance, an innocent woman who
doesn't know what homosexuality means. They live in London. They will have two children, a boy and a girl for whom O. Wilde will write the most beautiful tales in the English language.
Becomes a famous writer. Well-known for his poems, and plays. Scandal when he publishes his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (PDG).
Scandal when he attacks Lord Douglas for libel.
He is the father of Oscar Wilde's former lover and has accused him of being a "sodomite". To prove him wrong Oscar Wilde must prove he is not . But during the trial, all the witnesses called by Lord Douglas's father will say that he is. For Wilde, this trial is in fact, a way to expose his "shame" in public, therefore to punish himself, to expiate. Leads to two years imprisonment in Reading jail. Very hard conditions. Weakened. Liberated in 1899. Dies in 1900 in Paris from syphilis.
Plays. Comedies : Extremely witty. He was a celebrated wit. The Importance of Being Earnest. Lady Windermere's Fan. An Ideal Husband. All picture the aristocratic society that he knew so well. And Salambo, a tragedy that he wrote in French for Sarah Bernhard of whom he was a great admirer.
His works.Some of the most beautiful poems in the English language.
Fairy tales (written for children, so the good side of O. Wilde, but his problem with homosexuality is latent in all of them. Love in these fairy tales is always against nature) The Fisherman and the Mermaid, the Happy Prince, the Nightingale and the Rose, etc.
Aubrey Beardsley, The Peacock Skirt, detail
A long poem : The Ballad of Reading Goal. For the first time in his life, as he is suffering from the very hard conditions of detention in this prison, Wilde starts caring for the others and in place of his usual feeling of superiority he experiences compassion. A very human poem.
And for more about Wilde's life,
click here : Wilde Discussed
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
O. Wilde's only novel. He has put a lot of himself in it.
A partly autobiographical novel
Four main characters. Three men :
Dorian Gray, Lord Henry, Basil Halward
Dorian : represents the sort of young man O.Wilde could fall in love with. He is also an image that the young Wilde had of himself, an image with which he was narcistically in love. He is an ideal of beauty and purity at the beginning of the book but will become a degenarate soul. This degradation expresses Wilde's disgust with his own sexual life.
Lord Henry : he is Oscar wilde's dark side : the corruptor. So he has what can corrupt : Wilde's charm and elegance, his intelligence, his wit.
Basil Halward : he is Wilde's conscience, good and and pure, disinterested. He is also the artist in the story, not a poet and writer like Wilde, but a painter.
One woman :
Sybil Vane : the victim. In this world of men, nice, pure, young women can only be victims. Also an actress. Wilde had a special relationship to actresses, the only kind of women he felt attracted to in a way.
Besides, the novel describes accurately the kind of elegant aristocratic life Wilde lead in London.
A supernatural novel.
It doesn't seem so at first, but the supernatural element will develop and take more and more importance as the plot unfolds. The end of the novel is a remarkable coup de théatre.
A poetic novel :
Wilde at its best as a writer, some very poetic passages. Besides, the story of the degradation of a pure soul is in itself darkly poetic.
A symbolic novel : The characters embody the myths expressing the moral conflict between good and evil, innocence and temptation. L.H is Mephistopheles and D. is Faust.
A thrilling novel : as the plot unfolds we understand that the pattern is simple. It is a story of crime and punishment. But till the very last words we will not know what the punishment will be. A real suspense.
Why it created a scandal.
The book was forbidden for a long time in England.
Nothing in the novel is explicit. The homosexual relationships between the characters are never depicted, they are hardly even alluded to. There is nothing overtly sexual in this story..
Why such a scandal then? The Victorian readers were not stupid enough not to understand what it was all about . Besides, Wilde, through L.H. words, openly attacks the hypocrisy of the institutions and the society of the time. This was sufficient pretext to forbid the book.
Work given to the pupils : read and choose two or three aphorisms or witticisms which you think particularly clever or interesting explain what they mean to you and why you chose them..
The studio .
The perfume of flowers. These perfumes are rich and heavy. Our senses are at once mobilised.
Flowers (quote a few), colours.
The furniture: a divan of Persian saddle-bags : exotic, oriental, sensual.
The same scents, the same flowers, but insects and birds too. The bees, a dragon-fly, swallows, sparrows.
It's all like an impressionist painting, a garden by Monet.
Lord Henry. Innumerable cigarettes. P.8 we learn that they are "opium tainted". He is an aristocrat keen on pleasure. Page 8 line13: languidly.
He is witty p.8 l.14 to19. Does not hesitate in attacking what we would call today "the establishment". The Academy is for him "vulgar". Later, he says that "in the church, they don't think."
Is married but apparently has no respect for the institution, no love for his wife and lives like a bachelor. P.10 last§
Is not only witty but clear-sighted and realistic when he predicts to Basil that he will tire of Dorian when the latter ages and loses his beauty.
Physical description: pointed brown beard, long delicate fingers. We can suppose that he is of great elegance. We know very little about him. We can just imagine. Pointed beard : Devilish attribute. Mephistopheles. (ask about Faust) Not evident yet at this point in the novel. Will become more and more obvious as we will read on.
Note page 8 the remark about his disappearance. We don't notice it then. We do if we read the book a second time.
We are immediately struck by his sincerity.p.9 line 2.His conception of art implies his sincerity. End of P.11 beginning of P.12
Then he is described physically by Lord Henry as contrasting with the beauty of the portrait. He's got "coal-black hair", a "rugged face".
He is naive in a way. Believes Lord Henry is not sincere when he scorns marriage. P.11 l.7 & 8 "Your cynicism is simply a pose."
He is also clear-sighted (end of chapter). He fears and knows Lord Henry will have a bad influence on Dorian and take him away from him.
He has fallen in love passionately, sincerely, with the young man in the portrait, Dorian Gray. Love at first sight "Je le vis, je rougis, je palis à sa vue." P.13 1st§. (to read). idem P.14 1st §. P.16 L. 28
Stunningly beautiful. Young Adonis, Narcissus (question about the myth, very important) P.17, L.25: reference to the Greek spirit. We can suppose the painting to be in the Pre-Raphaelite style. "The harmony of soul and body" is indeed what Pre-Raphaelites have tried to express.
Through Basil's eyes. "He has a simple and beautiful nature".(P.21 L.21) Purity, but (P.19 1st§) can be cruel.
THE COUP DE THEATRE AT THE END
Unexpected, brutal. We learn at the same time that Basil doesn't want Lord Henry to meet Dorian, and that the meeting is inevitable.
Meeting between L.H. & D.
Inevitable. B. cannot stop fate.
I. FIRST MOMENTS
a) D. has his back turned : suspense. Moment of L.H.'s meeting face to face with D. delayed. How are they going to react?
b) Blushes at L.H's sight. Shyness? or already attraction?
c) They start talking about L.H.'s aunt and her charities. We learn then that D. has got involved in these charities but has already failed to go. Good impulses, but weak nature. not able to be faithful to his engagements.
d) Reacts to L.H.'s first witticism about Aunt Agatha. Is shocked but amused.
e) D. seen through L.H.'s eyes.
1) D.' s beauty. L.5 to 11 P. 23. pure and feminine kind of beauty.
2) L.H. fascinated by the lad, by the influence he can have on him. P.27. L.15.
II. THE FIGHT OF INFLUENCES BETWEEN B. AND L.H.
1) B. asks L.H. to go. L.H. immediately asks for D's complicity and obtains it. He is already sure of himself, of his influence on the young man. P.23 L.19 to 25.
2) L.H.'s art: he makes himself desired by then threatening to go when B. has against his will and better judgment accepted that he should stay.P.24 L. 2 & 10
3) B. tries to warn D. L.20 to 21
4) L.H. warns D. himself P.24 L.34 about the immorality of influencing people. It will enhance his pleasure at doing it. (Attitude of the hunter having cornered his prey, of the killer before he shoots his victim). And it is at this particular moment that L.H. begins to influence D. P.25 L. 18 and 19.
5) Content of this influence.
A. Let your impulses rule your life.
Not only does L.H. impose his friendship on D. who immediately feels attracted to him, wants to see more of him, but he also immediately starts changing the young man's conception of life and distilling his poison. The message is: it is a crime to refrain our impulses whatever they are. P. 25 L. 32 and 33. P. 26 L. 2 and 3. It's a witticism, but it's also what he will teach D.
B. We all have impulses. He reveals to D. his dark side. P. 26 L. 9 to 13.
Result : D. is troubled. L. 18 to 21.Is conscious of the effects of L.H.'s words : "They had touched a secret chord. How terrible they were." P.26. L.24. 30.tries to defend himself and deny the influence. P. 27 L.30. L.H. doesn't believe him. He knows better. Realizes L.H. is right P.27 L. 3.
L.H.'s long monologue :
Uses false logic, a false syllogism :
A. We must enjoy the pleasures of life to be happy.
B. We can only enjoy them when we are young
C. We must be young to be happy.
A. and B. are premises. B. is false.
In fact what he says is : Beauty is everything that matters, and beauty doesn't last. Beautiful speech, convincing, logical, but based on false premises. ex: "you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you".P.30 L.10. He exaggerates the effects of aging.L.4. 5 P. 31.
Uses poetry as a weapon. "Time is jealous of you and wars against your lilies and your roses." (cf. Ronsard). Other comparison with flowers (end of P.30)
Conclusion : Therefore live, "be afraid of nothing"L.23. :"There is absolutely nothing in the world than youth".
6) D.'s reaction : After L.H.'s monologue, D. openly declares his friendship : P.32. L.5. he is won over.
III. SENSUAL ATMOSPHERE
Sensual scenery like in the first chapter : the flowers, the bees, etc.
Sensual attitude of the characters: "The half parted lips", L.27 P.27, L.H.'s "dreamy languorous eyes," L.34. He has an attitude of seduction.
L.H.'s speech has woken up D's senses. P.28 L.10 11. He is stirred.
Emphasis on the senses. Superb witticism : "nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."
L.H.'s sensual voice. Like a mermaid. P.24 L.27
(We learn more about the characters : L.H. "Tall graceful young man, olive complexion" movements of his white hands (end of P.28).)
All this contributes to:
IV. THE PORTRAIT AND THE WISH
1) Dorian's reaction to the portrait
P.33 L.7 "the sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation." D. understands fully the implications of L.H.'s speech. Suffers intensely at the idea that his own beauty will fade. Therefore, wishes never to grow old and that the portrait should grow old in his place. "I would give my soul for that." This is the key sentence in the whole novel. The turning point. That's when the knot is tied. In fact he has just done it. We don't know it yet, we will discover it later in Chapter 7 when D. realizes his wish has come true. At this moment we will realize that the novel is a supernatural one. The first supernatural element is that the portrait will age instead of Dorian.
Dorian is quite beside himself. Says crazy things. P.34 L. 30. 31. P.35. L. 3. Repeats his wish. L.7. 8. He has tears in his eyes. Has in fact a womanish (ish, pejorative) attitude.
Finally declares he loves the portrait. "It is part of myself" which means of course: I love myself. Narcissism. (B understands this, he addresses the portrait as if it were D. "As soon as you are dry...P.36 L.9) The fact that the portrait and Dorian are one being is capital too. It is the second supernatural element in the novel.
After the scene, D's first reaction of defiance towards L.H. P.36. L.24 to 26.
2) Basil's reaction : first, doesn't understand D. is in a real state of shock. He speaks lightly.
Then, reproaches L.H.'s with his having stayed and with the fine work he has done. L. 13 to 20. realizes that something has destroyed the harmony of his life and his friendships, thinks it is the portrait and tries to destroy it, which shows that indeed his love for D. is sincere and that he values it more than his best work of art.
After the scene, he lets L.H. and D go to the theater together. "I shall stay with the real D." P.38. L. 2. The clear-sighted Basil has understood that D. has been irretrievably changed. However he insists: "Stop and dine with me"
But the naive Basil reminds L.H. that he trusts him P.39. L.8. And finally the clear-sighted B. feels pain.
3) The symbolic value.
Dorian is Faust
L.H. is Mephistopheles, a demon, the servant of the Devil. We'd say in French that he has "la beauté du Diable". His role is to tempt Dorian, to bring him to sign the contract. He is like a hunter, Dorian is his prey.
Lord Henry goes to see his uncle at his club, a "genial if somewhat rough-mannered old bachelor" who " had set himself to the serious study of the great aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing." (Read from line 18 page 40 to line 3 page 41).
In fact, the reason of this visit is that Lord Henry wants information about Dorian. We learn that Dorian's mother, a very rich and beautiful young lady, married below her rank, and had to leave England. Her father, Lord Kelso, managed to have his son in law killed in a duel. Dorian's mother died a year after that, leaving her infant child to the care of her father.(Read from the last line p.44 to line 10 p. 45).
Then Lord Henry thinks back of the delightful evening he has had with Dorian the night before, and how pleasant for him it has been to see the effect of his influence on the lad. He decides he is going to "make that wonderful spirit his own. There was something fascinating in this son of Love and Death."
Then, Lord Henry goes to his aunt Agatha's were there is a dinner, and where he meets very fashionable people. It is the occasion for Lord Henry to show how witty he is. Dorian is present at this dinner and on leaving, prefers to go with him to the Park rather than to Basil's where he is expected.
Plan of our study.
Intro: The time and place
1. The changes in the relationship between the two men
2.The appearance of women in the novel
Sybil and the actress.
L.H.'s comments on women, his misogyny.
3. The homage to Shakespeare.
4. Oscar Wilde's anti-Semitism.
5. D.'s evolution.
The time and place
One month later. In L.H.'s house. D. is waiting for '"Harry". Their friendship has developed. They are now intimate.
The setting : on Mayfair. Urban as opposed to Basil's garden.
Cosy atmosphere, luxury : cream coloured walls, felt carpet, silk long-fringed rugs.
But also very cultural. Lord Henry is an adept of all kinds of pleasures, particularly those of the mind. statuette, Les Cent Nouvelles. L.H. like O.W. reads French.
Part 1: The appearance of women in the novel.
Lady Henry. Plays no role in the story. Her portrait here is just an "acte gratuit" by O.W. who has apparently taken pleasure in picturing her. We don't know why she has come. She forgets it herself.
Very vivid and pleasant portrait. Untidy, tempestuous woman. not in love with her husband at all. Light-headed, contradicts herself without the slightest hesitation. P.57 l. 25 : "a bird of paradise that had been out all night in the rain".
Sybil Vane. Her name Vain. D. Gray (Am. spelling for grey. aristocratic colour but also a mixture of white, purity, the state in which D. was before meeting L.H. and black, the colour of his soul after L.H.'s influence has been at work).
She is first and foremost an actress. D. once speaks about her personality P.67 L.14, he says she is shy and gentle P.65 L.5, but in fact he describes her roles to his friend. She has genius because "one evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen"(the heroine of "Cymbeline" who was a king of Britain). She is Juliet, she is Cornelia, she is all of Shakespeare's heroines, but she is not in D's eyes anything else. P.66 L. 15 to 20.
She is also a pretty young woman. P.61 L.31 to the end, and like L. H. she has a lovely voice. P.62 L. 5 to 12. description much longer than that of her face. Importance of the voice for O.W. Was probably very sensitive to voices.
How she reacts to D's courtship : Falls in love with him at first sight. Pure and naive. Calls him immediately Prince Charming. reveals her childlike purity. P.65 L.5 and 15. Innocent. probably unable to defend herself. A perfect victim for a tragedy.
O.W.'s relationship to actresses (Oxford romance, Sarah Bernard for whom he wrote "Salomé" in French, the imaginary actress who was supposed to be his mistress when he wanted to conceal his homosexuality from his wife).
Lord Henry's comments on women. Misogyny (but misantropy too) P. 58 L.19. 20. 21. 26.
Finally not jealous of Sybil. Cannot be jealous of a woman. P.68 L. 29. 30. 31.
Part 2 : The homage to Shakespeare (the Bard).
In this particular chapter and in chapter 7, the plays with the greatest feminine roles are evoked or (in chapter 7) quoted. To the Shakespeare lover, or just to the educated English person the magic of Shakespeare is added to that of O.W.'s. In fact he uses SH.'s aura.
Part 3 : O.W.'s anti-Semitism. One of the darkest sides of the book. We could suppose that it is the character ( D.) who is anti-Semitic, but there is nothing to atone for his horrible description of the owner of the theatre. P.59. L.31 to the next page. This man has decidedly all the faults in the world. He is dirty, obsequious, vulgar . His theatre is to his image, tawdry, dingy. End of P.60. One contradiction, however : this horrid man loves Shakespeare. P.64 L.20.
O.W. not quite nice from a political point of view. No compassion for people. Only when in jail will he really understand that the others are like himself, that he is not superior or inferior to them. Hence his most beautiful work of art: "The Ballad of Reading Goal". This disdain of the others was not constantly with him (absent from his fairy tales which are also full of humanity). But it is present in the P. D. G., the book in which O.W. like Basil in his portrait "put too much of himself". He does not only despises the Jews but also the working classes, people in general. Such an attitude is most of the time the result of a form of suffering. O.W. suffered from not being able to be like the others, so he had the choice either to despise and hate himself or to despise and hate the others. For a while he chose the second solution, until the isolation it engendered became unbearable, he then chose the first one, and this is when he attacked Lord Douglas's father for libel.
I am not excusing him. Such an attitude has to be fought first and foremost, but to be fought it has to be understood. This is to be compared to any kind of racism, xenophobia or intolerance.
Part 4 : Dorian's transformation.
The fight between Dorian's original purity and L.H.'s evil influence.
Has met Sybil 3 weeks before, that is one week after having met L.H. Acknowledges the influence. P.59 L. 10 11, 12. Compares L.H.'s influence to an exquisite poison (L.17). Is conscious of the dangerous character of such an influence. Then again P.63 L. 10 to 15
Announces his love through an aphorism. P.58 L.3, 4. Shows he is copying his friend.
But this is also a very bad omen concerning Sybil because love outside marriage was terrible at the time in the Victorian society. Considered the worst dishonour. Worse than death. He does not think so seriously then because later he is shocked when L.H. suggests he might already have had sex with her ( without mentioning the word of course which was totally taboo at that time, even for somebody like L.H.) P.63 L.20. Dorian still has some purity in him then. L.H.'s work is not finished yet.
L.H. immediately tries to destroy Dorian's great passion.P.60 L.10 to 16. Then speaks of faithfulness L.26. Whatever he says is destructive.
Compared to L.H. , B., for D, has become a bore.P.68 L.1. 2. And D. is annoyed by good advice. He must know that he has already taken the evil road. To the point that D. has completely abandoned Basil.P.67 last§. We can thus have an idea of the quality of D's feelings. No faithfulness in friendship at all. He has abandoned Basil. We may fear he will do the same for other people, Sybil for example.
Finally L.H. is satisfied with his work. P.66 last §. P.69. L.25 : he thinks D. is premature (not so much from our point of view, but this is the Victorian era). There is a lot in store for him. We can suppose with L.H. that he's going to live many experiences.
P.70. 71. we enter L.H.'s stream of consciousness, he thinks about the soul, about passion. The dramatic intensity of the passage subsides. It is then that we have a new coup de théatre : the telegram. Very efficient narrative technique to finish a chapter like this. Because usually when we read a book, we mark a pause at the end of each chapter. But thus a suspense is created (how is L.H. going react? Is Dorian really going to marry her?) and we have to read on. Technique used in films too, in television series when something unexepected happens just before the commercials.
This chapter is quite particular. The only one of this kind in the book.
It is the only one which is not dedicated to either Dorian, Basil or Lord Henry. The
main character here is Sybil, and this time she's not seen through anybody's eyes, but we
can get directly acquainted to her through an objective narrative. And Sybil, even though
she's going to disappear from the story quite soon is an important character, the only
important feminine character in the novel.
Besides, it is an important chapter because we are introduced to a new
character who completes the image of the actress conveyed by Oscar Wilde in the
book: Sybil's mother, and to another who will play an important part at the end of the story: Sybil's brother.
Furthermore, we feel throughout the chapter the growth of the incoming danger threatening Sybil.
Finally this chapter is also quite unique because it is the only one which concerns the lower class. The only one not set in the world of aristocrats.
We already know her through Dorian's eyes, and we know that in fact he only sees
the actress in her, she is for him nothing else but the roles that she plays. Nevertheless, we have guessed a few elements of her personality, we know that she is innocent, naive, spontaneous.
The chapter is going to confirm our first impressions and we will learn a bit more
about Dorian's first victim.
Sybil is indeed very pretty. Several times in the chapter she is compared to a flower. (P.72. L.25. 26. P.75 L.32. 33.)
In the first page, she tells her mother about her love for Prince Charming, in the most
spontaneous and naive way. These traits of her character are emphasised by the opposition with the mother who is on the contrary, prudent, crafty, cunning (p.73,l. 10,20).
But we also learn that she is passionate. L.12: "She was free in her prison of passion."(End of page 74: l.24 to 29).
She is also disinterested. She never reacts to her mother's questions about Dorian's
money. P.72 L.13: "Love is more than money". L.10 11 P.74.
She is affectionate. Kisses her mother and hugs her brother. Tenderly kisses him goodbye at the end of the chapter.
She is gay and light-hearted. (P.75 L.24 25).
She is extremely imaginative. She imagines incredible stories concerning her
brother's future in Australia.(P.78)
But she also has faults, one at least: she is too childish, even a bit foolish when she raves about her "Prince Charming"(P.80 L.10 11 and the following §). Her brother is conscious of it (L.4 P.81).
II. SYBIL'S MOTHER.
Offers a sharp contrast with her daughter. Is a middle-aged unsuccessful actress. She's "a faded, tired-looking woman"(P.72 L.2)
She's grotesque, vulgar, she has "crooked, false-jewelled fingers"(P.73 L.2), she is coarsely made up (P.73 L.30. 31)
She is interested in money, crafty, cunning
She is theatrical, always behaves as in front of an audience.(P.74. L. 21. 22. P.75 L.1. P.85. L.1 to 5)
Finally we can say that the character created by Oscar Wilde corresponds to a stereotype, a caricature. And it is a pitiless one. She seems to be the living proof of the veracity of Lord Henry's monologue about beauty and youth. Did Oscar Wilde who loved actresses reject them pitilessly when they became old and not so attractive? ( I'm afraid the answer is yes).
In fact Wilde has been criticised for the painting of this character. Because contrarily to all the other characters in the book, this one is not true to life.
III. SYBIL'S BROTHER: JAMES.
He is a lad, with a rather coarse physique. He is rough, thick-set, clumsy. Offers with his sister a sharp contrast, at which Oscar Wilde marvels himself. There is a certain similarity with Basil Halward (rough brown hair). (P.74.)
He is not an intellectual at all. "I hate offices and I hate clerks" he says P.76.
A year younger than Sybil but he feels responsible for her. (P.75 L.10.11), wants to take her off the stage. (Shows the ambivalence of the status of actresses at the time. Adulated by some of the educated few, they were nonetheless considered non respectable women.) He is a very good lad. He loves his sister. But mostly he is worried by her relationship with "Prince Charming". First he pleads for his mother's protection: "Don't let her come to any harm, Mother" (L.11 P.76.). Then he starts threatening to avenge his sister himself if she came to harm, and this goes crescendo till the end of the chapter when he says: "I will ... kill him like a dog, I swear it."(P.84. L.34.)
Like Basil who is good, James who is good too is not attractive. Why? Probably because non attractive men for O.W. could not constitute a danger, so they could be pure.
IV. THE DANGER THREATENING SYBIL.
It is of course James's fear for his sister and his threats concerning Dorian which enhance our fears for Sybil
But there are other elements too. We rapidly understand that Sybil and her brother have been born out of wedlock. Mrs. Vane is pained when Sybil refers innocently to her father (end of page 73), and we can suspect that the doubts James has about his mother concern this question. When the young lad finally learns the truth at the end of the chapter, we are not surprised at all. In fact we had been expecting it all along. And therefore, we are expecting the same thing for Sybil now.
All the more so as we learn that she still doesn't know Dorian's name, as if Dorian preparing himself to commit the irreparable (for the time) was trying to protect himself against any possible retaliation.
At the end of the chapter we expect Dorian to seduce Sybil and make her pregnant and we expect James to avenge his sister and kill him. This is the traditional pattern of a lot of melodramas written at the time. But this is not a cheap melodrama, and this is not what will happen.
V. THE LOWER CLASS
This chapter is O.W's only (unsuccessful) attempt to describe the lower class.
What makes the Vanes lower-class people? Why is this description a relative failure?
They are poor, in debt. There's one arm-chair in their dingy sitting room. (P.72) It's dirty and noisy (P.83 L.20 to 25). The mother is coarse and vulgar, the brother is coarse though not vulgar, and Sybil is a perfect rose.
This description is not very convincing. How can Sybil be so perfect having grown up in such a milieu? How can James have such strict morals if he has been brought up by such a mother? Is it because people are poor that they are necessarily dirty? All this is not very coherent. However we don't feel it too much while reading the chapter because these flaws are not the dominating elements .
The dominating elements of the chapter.
A) The characters: even if they don't fit together, they are very vivid. Sybil really comes alive as an all too charming girl whom we cannot but love. James if not seducing, triggers our sympathy and even Mrs. Vane is finally pathetic under her gaudy make up.
B) The suspense. It is artfully created by O.W. who leads us on the wrong track. We are sure that something terrible will happen to Sybil. We don't know what, so we make suppositions and we make the wrong ones. This, of course, to preserve the dramatic intensity of Chapter 7 where the knot will be tied.
Lord Henry and Basil meet at the Bristol (their club). The former announces Dorian's engagement to the latter. Basil is surprised and worried for Dorian. He hopes the girl is worth being loved by such an exceptional young man. They are to go and see her play after dinner. Then, Dorian joins them. He's very happy and excited and tells them how he and Sybil became engaged: he went to see her act (Rosalind, in a most attractive costume, boy's clothes, p.89 lines 22 to 33). After the performance he went to see her and they kissed. He says p.90 line 17: "I have had the arms of Rosalind around me and I kissed Juliet on the mouth".
Lord Henry reacts with his usual cynicism, Basil with his usual care and love : he doesn't want Dorian to suffer. The young man tells them what his love for Sybil means to him: it is good and pure. He opposes it to Lord Henry's teachings (p.91 from line 26 on: "When I am with her I regret all that you have taught me.... The mere touch of Sybil Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.")
The three men keep on talking as usual. Lord Henry reasserts his power on Dorian (p .93 line 28. Dorian : "Harry, you are dreadful! I don't know why I like you so much"....Lord Henry : "You will always like me, Dorian."...p.94 : "Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit."
Finally, they leave for the theatre, Lord Henry and Dorian in one cab, Basil following in another, absorbed in his thoughts : "He could not bear this marriage, and yet, it seemed to him to be better that many other things that might have happened.(lines 21, 22, 23.) "A strange sense of loss came over him. He felt that Dorian Gray would never again be to him all that he had been in the past. Life had come between them.... His eyes darkened and the crowded, flaring streets became blurred to his eyes. When the cab drew up at the theatre, it seemed to him that he had grown years older."(line 26 to the end of the §).
Three distinct parts in this scene.
1) The theatre: Sibyl's bad acting.
2) Dorian's reaction: he rejects Sybil and wanders home through Covent Garden.
3) At home, he realizes the portrait has changed.
I. The scene at the theatre.
A. . The Jew and the house itself.
The description of the Jew is particularly ignoble (read P.95 from L.2 to 6). We can loath O.W. for that. Everything in the theatre reeks of vulgarity (ask for a list of adjectives describing vulgarity). This enhances of course L.H.'s and D.'s sophistication and refinement.
B. Sibyl's performance.
Dorian praises Sibyl's acting in advance. This of course will make her mediocre performance all the more disappointing.
She is indeed pretty, charming (read P.95 L.30 and P.96 L.7 to 12.) but she is going to show herself a terrible actress on this particular night. The passages quoted are among the most famous and the most beautiful of the play, and their beauty also enhances the mediocrity of her performance.
C. The three men's reaction.
L.H.'s reaction of course is to go away before the end of the play. Basil with his usual goodness tries to find excuses for the girl. And it is Basil, who is an artist, who has to tell Dorian "Love is a more wonderful thing than art". (P.99 L.10)
Dorian's reaction: he is shocked, does not try to excuse Sybil. Her bad acting is too obvious. But he gets angry at L.H.'s humorous way of concluding on the situation. He is not in a mood to appreciate his witticisms. He seems to be suffering (P.99 L.26 to 30).
II. Dorian's rejection of Sybil
A. Why has Sybil acted so badly?
Because Dorian is "more to (her) than all art can ever be" (line 18,19 P.101). She has suddenly realized, the setting, the Romeo, the play itself were fake, they were just illusions. They were vain. What the poor girl has not understood is that Dorian loved her for this very fakeness, this very vanity.
Her explanation is not only an explanation, it is a declaration of passionate and, this time, mature love (read L.27 to 32 P.101). Sybil has grown. Love has made a woman out of the charming but childlike girl that she was. She doesn't want to play, to pretend anymore.
B. Dorian's rejection.
a) But nothing in this touches Dorian. On the contrary he realizes he cannot love her anymore. He loved the actress in her and only the actress. She has killed the actress, so now she is nothing to him. Absolutely nothing. This will explain his indifference, his absolute coldness. (P.102. L.7.)"You simply produce no effect. You gave shape and substance to the shadows of art.(L.10)You are nothing to me now (L.13.) Without your art you are nothing" (L.19). He is cruel: "I will never see you again." (L.13).
b) Sibyl's pleading: She's ready to do anything for him now. She crouches at his feet, she promises to act well again. She reminds him of their kiss, of the physical contact which has revealed to her the reality of their love (implying that for Oscar Wilde, real love is physical), she even remembers her brother's threat, feels Dorian is in danger and is on the point of saying something to warn him, but thinks better of it. She cries.
c) Dorian's final answer: his "exquisite disdain" (L.18 P.103). Comment on this oxymoron.
C. Covent Garden.
Dorian has been wandering through the night. He doesn't remember where he has been to until he comes to Covent Garden. This shows that despite his coldness towards Sybil, he is troubled, he is not himself. But if he has been suffering it's not because of the loss of Sybil, but because of the loss of his beautiful love story. Certainly also because he has felt humiliated because of her in front of his dearest friend.
Covent Garden was the name at that time of London's central market, and of its opera and a curious place where in the little hours of the morning, two worlds met. The world of the aristocrats who were coming out of the opera, or finishing a night they had spent in not very respectable places in town, and the world of fruit and fish mongers, shop keepers, hard workers who began their day. It was full of life and colours.
For Dorian the passage through Covent Garden is a passage through normality, through life that is beginning, so, it is "an anodyne for his pain"(L.10 P.104). But he is far from it, estranged from it to the point that he can't understand the generosity of a carter who offers him cherries.
III. At home. The portrait has changed.
A. At home.
It is dawn when Dorian arrives (P.104. L.30 to 34). A beautiful piece of writing. We are introduced for the first time to the luxury and the refinement of his home. But Dorian immediately sees something not quite normal in the portrait. He's not sure at first, then comes back to is and has the confirmation of his first impression (P.105 L.2O. 21.).
B. Dorian's reaction.
He remembers the wish he had made in Basil's studio and realizes it had been a mad wish. He also realises all that it meant (read L.9 to 16 P.106)
He recognizes the new expression of the portrait: cruelty, and of course questions himself as to his behaviour. But immediately finds excuses for himself. It was Sibyl's fault, not his. And he even thinks that "women (are) better suited to bear sorrow than men."(L.32. P.106) If such a horribly selfish thought comes to his mind, it is directly the result of L.H.'s work: l.2 P.107.
Then he tries to deny the reality of what he has seen. It's not the portrait that has altered it's he who is going momentarily mad. Then he foresees the future (read L.18 to 21. P.107). It's time to make a good resolution, not to sin anymore, to become good, not to listen to L.H. anymore. He even tries to believe in his love for Sybil again.
This is a very important chapter because it is the narrative, the description of Dorian's first sin. The original sin.
And it has been different from what we expected. Dorian has not dishonoured Sybil, has not had sex with her, because for Oscar Wilde the temptation of sex resides in men, not in women.
The portrait has changed. We understand that the wish has come true, that this novel is a fantastic novel, that this story is a supernatural story. And we realize it only now, around the hundredth page.
Finally the portrait is going now to play a role now. It has already altered Dorian's perception and memory of what has happened between him and Sybil. At this point in the story it could play the role of Dorian's conscience or on the contrary we feel that it could encourage him to go on sinning as long as proof is made that the young man himself will not alter, will remain young and handsome whatever he does.
e immediately asks Dorian many questions about what he was doing last night, about Sibyl's, etc. Dorian, who is enjoying his wine, answers with a complete indifference that he was indeed at the opera. Basil is shocked. For Dorian this tragedy already belongs to the past. Basil exclaims: "You call yesterday the past?" (p.126, line 15). Then later, after Dorian has explained that he doesn't "want to be at the mercy of [his] emotions" (lines 19 and 20) he declares : "Dorian, this is horrible, something has changed you completely!"(line 22) "It is all Harry's influence, I see that." (lines 28 and 29)
They quarrel in a wayThis is an important chapter because it is the moment when Dorian learns about Sibyl's death and we see how he reacts to it, finally making up his mind to follow his own impulsions in the discoveries of new pleasures and new sins. At the end of the chapter, Dorian has become totally evil. He will never again in the course of the novel be tempted by goodness, except at the very end.CHAPTER 8
Part I. Dorian is alone, at home.
He wakes up and slowly remembers what has happened to him the previous night, as well as his good resolution to write a letter to Sybil. Letters have been brought to him by his valet. One is from L.H., but he refuses to read it because he determined not to listen to his bad advice anymore. It is of course important that he should not open it since we will understand that the letter announces Sibyl's death.
Then Dorian writes a letter to the young woman, a passionate letter. He will never send it because he is interrupted by the arrival of L.H.
Part II. The dialogue with Lord Henry
There is a rather long misunderstanding. L.H. has come to comfort Dorian about Sibyl's death (which for him is an unfortunate incident) whereas Dorian thinks he just wants to comfort him about Sibyl's bad performance. When finally, Dorian understands the truth, he is of course struck and shocked but immediately, L.H. will minimize the importance of the young woman's death by concentrating his attention on the problem of the possible scandal and not on the event itself (P.114 L.21 to 19). In fact Sybil has committed suicide just after Dorian left her and therefore he is directly responsible for her death.
Then as Dorian is still in a state of shock he tries to show him that life should go on as usual and invites him to the theatre for the same evening. Dorian at last is able to express himself and he immediately realizes that he's not so shocked after all. (P. 115 L 22 to 25).
Then another idea comes to his mind :"How extraordinarily dramatic life is!" This is all like a beautiful tragedy. It's even "wonderful" (L.31).
Then another idea: he thinks of the portrait again and realizes that now there is nothing left to protect him from sin, to stop the deterioration of the picture. Sybil was the only one who could have kept him on the path to salvation (P.116 L.7 to 10). But L.H. is going to drown his anxiety in his usual witty and charmingly immoral speeches, about marriage, about women, etc. He also convinces him that Sybil in fact had no reality, that she was nothing more than the roles she played (P.120 L.21 to the end of the §).
Finally, Dorian comes to the most incredible conclusion that he has been very lucky that such a wonderful thing should have happened to him (P.121 L.6 to 8). And he goes to the theatre.
Throughout this scene, Dorian's feelings have been quite muddled, sometimes contradictory. He has passed from shock to a sort of aesthetic pleasure, then the thought of the portrait has brought a sort of remorse caused in fact by fear. But what has prevailed is this aesthetic pleasure? Sibyl's life has been sacrificed to the altar of art. Art needs no justification. Art exists just for art's sake.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER IX
Basil visits Dorian at breakfast the next morning. He is quite sure the young man is mad with suffering. He has called the preceding evening and he has been told that Dorian was at the opera, but hasn't believed it, and he has spent the night worrying, fearing he had committed a desperate act.
He immediately asks many questions about what he was doing last night, about Sybil's death, etc. Dorian, who is enjoying his wine, answers with a complete indifference taht he was indeed at the opera. Basil is shocked. For Dorian this tragedy already belongs to the past.Basil exclaims : "you call yesterday the past?" (p.126, line 15). Then, later, after Dorian has explained that he doesn't want to be at the mercy of his emotions (lines19 and 20) he declares : "Dorian, this is horrible, something has changed you completely!" (line 22). "It is all Harry's influence, I see that." (lines 28 and 29).
They quarrel in a way for a while. Dorian tells Basil that Sybil has killed herself. The painter's pain and horror increasesThen Dorian begins a long soliloquy (in Lord Henry's manner) about what has happened and about how beautiful this tragedy has been. "She lived her finest tragedy" he says (line 23 p.127) and ends up with : "Basil, don't quarrel with me, I am what I am." (p.129 line 3).
Basil is moved. He forgives him a bit, then they talk about the material details of the tragedy and we learn that Sybil didn't know Dorian's name, but his Christian name only. Therefore, Dorian can't be mixed up in the inquest. His reputation will be preserved. Dorian asks The painter for a drawing of Sybil, so that he can remember her and the latter agrees, then asks Dorian to come and sit for him again. The young man exclaims that it is impossible. Basil, of course, doesn't understand. Then he asks about the portrait and is surprised by the fact that Dorian has put a screen in front of it and expresses his desire to see it. Dorian wildly refuses. Basil is this time thunderstruck. The young man is trembling all over and the painter doesn't understand why he can't see his own work. Furthermore, he wants to exhibit it in Paris in autumn. Dorian refuses again, and Basil says "If you keep it behind a screen you can't care much about it" (p. 131 line 25). Then, Dorian, to try to explain his totally irrational attitude tells Basil : "We have each of us a secret. Let me know yours and I shall tell you mine." (p.131 line 34). Dorian reminds Basil that one month ago he had told Lord Henry that he would never exhibit the picture for a secret reason.
Basil, then, reluctantly opens his heart. His secret is his love, his adoration for Dorian. Dorian who feared he knew something about the supernatural power of the painting is relieved by the confession of this absolute love which he compares to his friendship for Lord Henry "[Lord Henry] was too clever and too cynical to be really fond of."(p.134 line 18).
There's no need to reveal his secret now all the more so as Basil, moved by his own confession forgets to ask him about it anyhow. And the painter is sad, because Dorian has not been moved and has declared (p.135 line 10):"It was a disappointing confession...you mustn't talk about worship, it is foolish." "You and I are friends, Basil, and we must always remain so."(lines 15 and 16). "You have got Henry" says the painter sadly and Dorian answers " Oh, Harry, I don't think I would go to Harry if I were in trouble. I would sooner go to you, Basil." (lines 25 to 22).
But however, he refuses to sit for Basil again, and as the painter leaves, Dorian feels a bit sorry for him, but he realizes that he must hide the portrait now.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER X
Dorian, who is growing now suspicious of his servant, calls for the housekeeper, Mrs Leaf, and asks her for the key to the "schoolroom", a room where he used to play when a little boy and where he was then taught by his preceptors. It hasn't been used for years and is covered with cobwebs. He asks for the help of a frame-maker, Mr. Hubbard, and his assistants to carry the picture upstairs to this room, because he doesn't want his servants to know where the picture has been moved to.
When he comes back to his living-room, his servant is back. He had sent him away under the pretext of carrying a letter to Lord Henry, letter in which he reminded the young Lord, they were to meet at the club at five, and asked him to lend him something interesting to read. Lord Henry has lent him a French book whose name will remain unknown throughout the novel (1)and by which Dorian is immediately absorbed. It tells the story of a young man who discovers life and all its possible sins. The book is poison and Dorian is fascinated to the point that he forgets the meeting with Lord Henry and arrives very late at the club.
(1) In fact, the book which has terribly marked Oscar Wilde himself is "A Rebours" by Huysmans. Wilde was also greatly influenced by "Studies on the Renaissance" by Walter Pater.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XI
"For years, Dorian could not free himself from the influence of this book." This is how this chapter begins and this immediately makes us understand that we are going to witness Dorian's evolution throughout the years.
The book in question deals with the adventures of a romantic French young man experiencing life, but also ageing as years go by. This isn't Dorian's case, and he rejoices in this. His beauty is intact, unspotted. But strange rumours have begun to circulate about him. He is said to spend some of his nights in an ill-famed tavern (a tavern with a bad reputation), but we don't know what goes on there. We can just guess, imagine.
When at home, Dorian has a grand style of life. He gives dinners, entertains his friends with the help of Lord Henry who seems to be serving him now rather than guiding him (just as Mephistopheles serves Faust once the pact is sealed). He fascinates people, especially young men who have studied at Eton or Oxford.
However, he is suspected by others of being what the rumours pretend him to be. Though many people say that he spends time with sailors and thieves in dirty taverns in Whitechapel, his boyish charm denies these calumnies. But some of those who have been most intimate with him, "women who had wildly adored him, and for his sake had braved all social censure ....were seen to grow pallid with shame or horror if Dorian Gray entered the room".
Dorian indulges in passions for various representations of life and collects exotic and sometimes priceless musical instruments, the most extraordinary perfumes, the most beautiful jewels, incredibly rich and delicate embroideries, sumptuous church garments and famous objects from the past. And Oscar Wilde indulges in long, splendid, poetic descriptions of these objects which trigger our imagination, make us dream of all sorts of distant and fascinating worlds and civilisations.
But meanwhile, the portrait keeps becoming older and uglier.
We learn that Dorian has shared a villa at Trouville with Lord Henry, that they have had another one in Algiers where they have spent several winters together. But now, Dorian is afraid to get away from the portrait too long, afraid that someone might see it during his absence, so he has sold these houses. But he has his great family house in Nottinghamshire though, the family's summer house where the "young" man often thinks of the complexity of his personality and wonders about its hereditary character, especially when looking at the portraits of his ancestors all gathered there. Most had been Lords and Ladies rich, powerful and sinful (p 164-165). But he thinks he also had ancestors in literature, all the great sinners of history, the Borgias for instance ( Oscar Wilde here, rather alludes to murder than to sex. This is probably because sex was more taboo than murder at the time).
Oscar Wilde thus concludes his chapter : "There were moments when he looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realise his conception of the beautiful".
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XII
On the eve (the day before) of his 38th birthday, around eleven o'clock, Dorian meets Basil by chance in the street, not far from his house. Basil has just called on him and has waited for him for a long time. He tells Dorian he is leaving for Paris by the 12.30 train for six months and that he would like to talk to him. They haven't seen each other for a long time.
Inside Dorian's living-room, Basil asks him about the rumours. He can't believe them. " At least, I can't believe them when I see you. Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face." Then he reports Lord Staveley's words about Dorian : "I reminded him that I was a friend of yours and asked him what he meant. He told me. He told me right out before everybody. It was horrible! Why is your friendship so fatal to young men?(p.172 line 32 to line 1 p.173) Then Basil makes a list of the young men whose life, career or reputation has been ruined by Dorian (this time the allusion to homosexuality is rather clear).
Dorian interrupts him, counter-attacks, in accusing the people who accuse him of being vile themselves, and in pretending it's not his fault if his victims have perished or suffered. He also attacks the middle classes, who, according to him take their revenge on the aristocracy by accusing them, slandering them (attacking their reputation). He ends up declaring : "My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite"(lines 30,31 p.173)
Basil is not convinced : "You seem to lose all sense of honour, of goodness, of purity".
He alludes to Lord Henry's sister: "You should not have made her name a by-word" (un nom qu'on ne respecte pas. Lines 8 and 9 p. 174). Dorian gets angry, but Basil keeps on talking. Her name is Lady Gwendolen. She was pure when Dorian met her. Now, "even her children are not allowed to live with her." Then he reproaches Dorian with having been seen in horrible taverns, of corrupting everybody he meets and then, he says that to know if he knows Dorian, he should see his soul. Dorian panics at the idea but then laughs when the painter says "Only God can do that." Dorian then decides to let Basil see his soul. He feels a mad pride in his degradation and a strange joy at the idea that the man who is going to know his secret is the man who has painted the portrait.
Basil doesn't understand how the other can show him his soul. He wants him to deny the accusations, but Dorian just takes him upstairs to the old school-room.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XIII
They arrive at the door of the school-room, and Dorian asks Basil if he is sure he wants to know. He adds : "You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know everything about me. You have had more to do with my life than you think." Then he uncovers the picture. Basil is horror-stricken : he recognizes Dorian, his own work, and still cannot believe it. Dorian watches the painter's expression of emotions as a spectator. Then, he declares : "Years ago, when I was a boy, you met me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who explained to me the wonder of youth, and you finished the portrait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment that even now I don't know whether I regret or not, I made a wish, perhaps you would call it a prayer..." (p.180, lines 7 to 15)
Basil examines the canvas and understands that the change has come from within. Dorian is sobbing (crying) by the window and Basil thinks he can perhaps repent. He asks him to, but Dorian says it's too late and suddenly feels an intense hatred for the painter. He sees a knife on a chest (une commode), grabs it and stabs Basil to death.
Then, when everything is over, he locks himself in the room. He looks out of the window, then thinks of how to keep the whole thing secret and make the murder a perfect crime. He hides the dead man's coat and bag. Nobody has seen Basil come into the house with him. He was about to take the train to Paris. "It would be months before any suspicions would be aroused" (lines 26 and 27 p. 184). To make really sure he won't be suspected, he puts on his coat, goes out and rings the bell as if he were just arriving home, as if he had forgotten his keys. Then in his library he takes an address book and selects the name of
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XIV
Dorian wakes up next morning, fresh as a rose-bud, but then remembers the murder and wants to drive it away from his mind. He has breakfast and writes a letter to Mr. Campbell and orders his valet to deliver it immediately. He does a bit of drawing and realizes that he can't help drawing Basil's face. He tries to read poetry by Théophile Gautier about Venice, but remembers Basil in Venice. Then, he fears Alan Campbell might not come. We understand that the latter resents Dorian, that he is a young man interested in science and music and has been Dorian's friend at one point. They have stopped seeing each other. Campbell has gained a reputation as a scientist carrying out strange experiments.
Dorian is waiting anxiously for him, obsessed by nightmarish visions. But finally, the young scientist arrives. " I had intended never to enter your house again, Gray. But you said it was a matter of life and death." (lines 11,12 p.192). Dorian knows that what he is going to ask him to do is dreadful. He tells him that there's a dead man in the room at the top of the house. Campbell refuses to hear more, but Dorian insists and asks him to destroy the body, turn it to ashes. Campbell tells him he is mad and refuses. Dorian says "It was suicide" (line26 p.193). Campbell refuses again very strongly. Then, Dorian confesses the murder. The other is of course shocked and refuses once more. Then, Dorian tells him it will be like dissecting a body for the progress of science. He appeals to their former friendship, says he can't ask anybody else. He pleads, he begs, it is without effect. So, he takes a piece of paper, writes something on it and hands it to Campbell who nearly faints (s'évanouir) reading it.
In fact, Dorian is of course blackmailing him. He threatens to send a letter. We don't know what the letter is about but he orders Campbell "to do it" and in agony, the latter has to accept. The scientist asks if there is a fire in the room. Then he says he must get home to get instruments from his laboratory, but Dorian doesn't let him go and sends his servant to get them. When the man comes back with the necessary equipment, Dorian sends him away to get some orchids (flowers) from Richmond (a distant suburb of London) to keep him away from the house. Then, Dorian and Campbell go upstairs. Dorian hesitates in entering the room, but sees the portrait which he had forgotten to cover. Its hands are sweating blood. He finds the courage to walk in and cover it. Campbell asks him to leave him alone, and about five hours later the scientist comes down and says:" And now, good bye. Let us never see each other again."
Dorian walks upstairs. There is "a horrible smell of nitric acid but the thing that had been sitting at the table [is] gone".
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XV
On this very evening, Dorian goes to a small party given by Lady Narborough. There, he plays the part of the perfect young man and enjoys it but during the dinner, he shows the first signs of uneasiness: he doesn't eat much, doesn't talk, drinks too much. Lord Henry who is there is surprised at Dorian's attitude. People, around the table, talk a lot about love and marriage in particular. Lady Naboroughh seems to be a good woman. She's clever and sincerely loved her husband but is old and very ugly now .She says that she'll try to find a wife for Dorian who should get married. After dinner, Lord Henry and Dorian have a chat. Lord Henry enquires about Dorian :"Are you better, my dear fellow? You seemed to be rather out of sorts at dinner."(p.207 lines 30 and 31). Dorian assures him he was just tired and then talks of a party he's going to give on the 20th, and of the guests who will be there. Then, Lord Henry remarks that he left early the night before. "What did you do afterwards? Did you go straight home?" he asks (lines 27 and 28 p. 208). Dorian gives explanations, says he was at the club, no, he wasn't at the club, that he came home at half past two. Lord Henry can make sure if he wants to, because he had forgotten his key and had to wake up his valet.
Lord Henry doesn't care about these details but remarks Dorian is strange and says : "Something has happened to you. You are not yourself tonight."(p.209 lines 10 and 11).
Dorian leaves then and goes home with a sense of terror at the thought that the murder might be discovered. Once home, he decides to burn Basil's coat and bag. Its takes a long time to do it and the smell is horrible. When it's all over he takes out from a cabinet (un secrétaire, un meuble) a small Chinese box containing a jade green paste, but resists the temptation, puts it back and goes out. It's around midnight now. He hails a cab and asks the driver to go somewhere quite far as quickly as possible.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XVI
Dorian is now somewhere in the worst district of London, near the docks on the Thames, in the port area. His idea is to wash away his sin through a new sin. Lord Henry's words still ring in his mind. "To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul." (lines 24 and 25 p.212). But Dorian wonders " Innocent blood had been spilt. What could atone for that? Ha! For that, there was no atonement; but though forgiveness was impossible, forgetfulness was possible still, and he was determined to forget..."(lines 27 to 30 p.212). After an interminable ride during which his thirst for opium increases, he finally arrives at a small house where he is admitted. It is an opium house;
One of his former friends, Adrian Singleton is there as well, as many other men. "The twisted limbs, the gaping mouths, the staring lustreless eyes fascinated him. He knew in what strange heavens they were suffering, and what dull hell was teaching them the secret of some new joy."( lines 9 to 12 p.216). Troubled by the presence of someone he knows, Dorian prefers to go to another opium house a bit farther. Just as he is leaving, one of the prostitutes of the place calls him "The Devil's bargain". "Don't call me that" Dorian says, angrily. "Prince Charming is what you like to be called, ain't it?" answers the woman.(p.217 lines 30 and 31).
At these words, a sailor who was half asleep at the bar, suddenly wakes up and follows Dorian outside. He catches him up in the dark, grabs his throat, points a gun at his temple. Then he tells him he is going to kill him because he is James Vane, and he is at last going to avenge his sister. He had been looking for Dorian for many years, had had no other indication on him than that he was nicknamed Prince Charming by his sister. Dorian has then the presence of mind to ask him, as if he had never met her, when Sybil died. Eighteen years ago says the sailor. "So, I'm not the man you're looking for" , he says, "take me to the street-lamp and look at my face." In the light, James Vane discovers the pure face of a very young man and thinks he was about to commit a terrible mistake. As he excuses himself and as Dorian goes away, he is joined by the prostitute who tells him, but it's too late, Dorian is gone, that the man nicknamed Prince Charming, the man who has sold his soul to the Devil for a pretty face, is not a young man, and is the one who made her what she has become eighteen years ago.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XVII
A week later, Dorian is entertaining some of his guests in the conservatory of his country house, a sort of indoor garden. It is tea time, and Lord Henry, being as witty as ever, is talking to a charming young and pretty Duchess, who is very much attracted to Dorian. They are talking about names and nicknames, and Lord Henry mentions that Dorian used to be called Prince Charming. Dorian offers to go and get an orchid for the young woman to wear on her evening dress at dinner. He walks to the other end of the conservatory and there, he is heard groaning and then falling. He has fainted because he has just seen the face of James Vane looking at him through the glass wall.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XVIII
The next day, Dorian doesn't leave this room, obsessed by the memory of this face. Was it real or was it his imagination? Is he now condemned to be pursued by the phantoms of his crimes? By Sibyl's brother? By the image of Basil sitting dead at the table? When finally Lord Henry comes up to se how he is, he finds him crying.
But after three days Dorian feels well enough to take a walk in the park with the Duchess and then to join her brother who is shooting. Geoffrey (the brother) aims at a hare (un lièvre). "Don't shoot it!" cries Dorian suddenly struck by the grace of the animal. But the man, not listening to Dorian's strange request shoots, killing not only the hare, but also a man, one of the beaters (rabatteurs). This accident , which for Harry is of no great importance troubles Dorian greatly. To change his mind, Lord Henry engages a conversation about the Duchess and women in general, but Dorian exclaims:" I wish I could love... But I seem to have lost the passion and forgotten the desire....My own personality has become a burden to me." (p.234, lines 29 to 33). The Duchess joins them, they talk about the accident again and Lord Henry says :" It [the accident] has no psychological value at all. Now, if Geoffrey had done the thing on purpose, how interesting he would be! I should like to know someone who has committed a real murder."(p.135 lines 21 to 24). At these words, Dorian nearly faints again.
After that, he makes up his mind to go back to London abandoning his guests to the care of Lord Henry. But he has then the visit of his game-keeper who comes to tell him that the victim of the accident was not one of the beaters, but an unknown sailor. Dorian immediately rides to the farm where the body has been taken and there, weeps for joy when he recognizes James Vane.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XIX
Some time later, Dorian tells Lord Henry that he has changed and that he has become good. He has begun doing good actions the day before. He had had a romance with a beautiful and charming country girl, Hetty. She was very much like Sybil, knew nothing of him and thought he was an angel. They were to go away together (which would have meant the girl's ruin by Victorian standards since Dorian didn't have the intention to marry her) and he spared her, at the last minute, he did not elope with her. Lord Henry is sceptical about the goodness of such a deed. He thinks the girl will be miserable anyway. Perhaps she has already drowned herself like Ophelia.
Since Harry won't understand, Dorian to change the subject, asks him what people are talking about in London. "The people are still discussing poor Basil's disappearance." (line12 p. 242). They have been talking about it for six weeks. But there are other topics of conversation : Lord Henry's own divorce - his wife has run away with another man - Alan Campbell's suicide.
Dorian suddenly asks his friend : "Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?" (p.243 line 21). Harry doesn't seem to think it's a possibility, so Dorian adds : "What would you say Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?" (line 5 p. 244). Lord Henry answers very coolly that it is quite impossible "Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders" he adds (line 12). He goes on talking about Basil, about his probable accidental death, then of his art that lost its beauty after he and Dorian ceased to see each other, and finally, of the portrait. " By the way, what has become of that wonderful portrait he did of you? I don't think I have ever seen it since he finished it."( lines13 and 14 p. 245). Dorian answers, quoting Hamlet that to him the painting was "like a painting of a sorrow, a face without a heart." Lord Henry, then, unexpectedly asks : " what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (p.246 lines 5,6,7). Dorian starts, frightened, but his friend tells him he has just asked this question because he has heard a preacher at Speakers' Corner ask it to his listeners. He doesn't believe we have a soul. Dorian disagrees with that : "The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought and sold,...It can be poisoned."(lines 25 and 26). Lord Henry, thinking his friend is strangely serious begins a long monologue, asking him how he has kept his youth, marvelling at the perfection of his life. "I'm not the same, Harry " says Dorian, but Lord Henry insists. Dorian who was playing a nocturne by Chopin, interrupts himself and says he wants to go.
Now the pupils have to read from page 249 line 18 to the end of the novel.
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