I started to called one of my students "Dorian" today. Oops! Good thing I've finished this book.
Surprisingly Wilde doesn't go into a lot of detail about Dorian's hedonistic lifestyle. There are mentions of it, but the action concentrates on what is happening inside of Dorian. He sees James' face in the window at a party at his estate, but then wonders if it's his conscience terrifying him. During a hunt the next day, a man is accidentally shot. When Dorian finds out that the man is James Vane, he feels safe. Guess his conscience wasn't bothering him, after all.
As the book draws to a dismal close, I have to wonder if the portrait of Dorian played any role at all in his ultimate destiny. Without the portrait, would Dorian have grown from an innocent young man into an upstanding citizen? Or does the painting reveal what Dorian would have become all along?
Were the seeds inside him, waiting to be watered by Lord Henry's selfish view of life or were they planted and nourished by Lord Henry and the opportunity the portrait gave Dorian to be free of his conscience?
Ultimately, it makes no difference. The responsibility for how he chose to live his life was always Dorian's. And the real horror of the book is how spectacularly he failed to live up to that responsibility, even unto death.
Chapter 13 isn't boring. Nope, not boring at all. I could have used a little boring, because the horror finally jumped out at me. Disgusting, bloody horror. Poor Basil, you never should have looked at the picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian couldn't handle anyone knowing just how vile he had become and all of it displayed in the portrait. A knife, a plunge and it's all over for Basil.
The only thing that seems to bother Dorian is how to get rid of Basil's body. A quick blackmailing of a former friend solves that problem. Funny how most people around Dorian fall into the category of "former friend."
Dorian is accosted in an opium den by James Vane, Sybil Vane's brother. Dorian convinces him that since he doesn't look a day over twenty and eighteen years have passed, he can't be Sybil's former lover. But then James finds out that Dorian has been visiting the opium den all those years and his face has never changed. Perhaps we haven't seen the last of James after all.
There is much expository text in these chapters. Wilde seems intent on explaining Dorian's philosophy and detailing his acquisitions. One might call this boring if one was in an antagonistic frame of mind, because IT'S BORING
Dorian meets Sybil Vane, a brilliant actress. Sybil is sweet and almost childlike in her love of Dorian. She could be his road back to humanity, if he would let her. Will he? Of course not!
Dorian exhibits Sybil to his friends by taking them to see her perform, which she does badly. Embarrassed, Dorian casts Sybil off.
Dorian takes a peak at his portrait. Frightened by what he sees he pours out his sorrow to Sybil in a lengthy letter, begging her forgiveness. Too late. Sybil is dead. The ever-helpful Lord Henry appears to comfort Dorian. By the time Henry is finished, Dorian has stomped on what was left of his humanity and ground it to dust.
"The post on her left was occupied by Mr. Erskine of Treadley, an old gentleman of considerable charm and culture, who had fallen, however, into bad habits of silence, having, as he explained once to Lady Agatha, said everything that he had to say before he was thirty."
Only Chapter 2 and I already want to smack Dorian!
The major players ~ Basil, the artist; Lord Henry; Dorian Gray.
Basil has painted Dorian's picture. Basil is so in love with Dorian (he is equating Dorian with his artistic abilities) that he doesn't want Henry to meet Dorian. Too late. Here comes Dorian.
Henry convinces Dorian that youth is all. Dorian becomes severely depressed (within a couple of minutes? Seriously, Dorian?) that he weeps and says he will sell his soul if his portrait could age instead of him. Wimpy much?