I n the stately London home of his aunt, Lady Brandon, the well-known artist Basil Hallward meets Dorian Gray. Dorian is a cultured, wealthy, and impossibly beautiful young man who immediately captures Basil’s artistic imagination. Dorian sits for several portraits, and Basil often depicts him as an ancient Greek hero or a mythological figure.. Lord Henry, a famous wit who enjoys scandalizing his friends by celebrating youth, beauty, and the selfish pursuit of pleasure, disagrees, claims that the portrait is Basil’s masterpiece. Dorian arrives at the studio, and Basil reluctantly introduces him to Lord Henry, who he fears will have a damaging influence on the impressionable, young Dorian. Basil’s fears are well founded; Dorian curses his portrait, which he believes will one day remind him of the beauty he will have lost. In a fit of distress, he pledges his soul if only the painting could bear the burden of age and infamy, allowing him to stay forever young.
Over the next few weeks, Lord Henry’s influence over Dorian grows stronger. The youth becomes a disciple of the “new Hedonism” and proposes to live a life dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. He falls in love with Sibyl Vane, a young actress who performs in a theater in London’s slums. He adores her acting; she, in turn, refers to him as “Prince Charming” and refuses to heed the warnings of her brother, James Vane, that Dorian is no good for her. Overcome by her emotions for Dorian, Sibyl decides that she can no longer act, wondering how she can pretend to love on the stage now that she has experienced the real thing. Unfortunately this is a story of Love and Death because Dorian’s pursuit of pleasurable things leads to his emotional detachment from humanity. He depends upon those things to maintain an interested in life. So for as long as Dorian simply enjoys Sibyl’s art he loves her because she is beautiful to observe, but once he is given the opportunity to speak with the beautiful girl and gets to know her, he associates his love with her acting, thereby giving the art of performance a purpose besides entertainment. For this reason, when Sibyl decides to exchange her acting for Dorian’s love, he rejects her, saying, “Without your art you are nothing.” Dorian gives Sibyl’s acting, her art, the purpose of maintaining his love for her, and when she abandons it, Dorian cruelly abandons her. Sibyl becomes a victim of art, and commits suicide by swallowing prussic acid. After doing so, he returns home to notice that his face in Basil’s portrait of him has changed: it is uglier. He resolves to make amends with Sibyl the next day. The following afternoon, however, Lord Henry brings news that Sibyl has committed suicide. At Lord Henry’s urging, Dorian decides to consider her death a sort of artistic triumph—she personified tragedy—and to put the matter behind him. Actually the whole novel is characterized by the presence of the two impulses of Love and Death since Lord Henry gives Dorian a book that describes chapters in which are pictured the awful and beautiful forms of those whom vice and blood and weariness had made monstrous or mad. Ezzelin, whose melancholy could be cured only by the spectacle of death, and who had a passion for red blood, as other men have for red wine. Sigismondo Malatesta, the lover of Isotta and the lord of Rimini, whose effigy was burned at Rome as the enemy of God and man, who strangled Polyssena with a napkin, and gave poison to Ginevra d’Este in a cup of emerald, and in honour of a shameful passion built a pagan church for Christian worship; Charles VI, who had so wildly adored his brother’s wife that a leper had warned him of the insanity that was coming on him, and who, when his brain had sickened and grown strange, could only be soothed by Saracen cards painted with the images of love and death and madness; and, in his trimmed jerkin and jewelled cap and acanthuslike curls, Grifonetto Baglioni, who slew Astorre with his bride. So, after reading this book, Dorian lives a life devoted to new experiences and sensations with no regard for conventional standards of morality or the consequences of his actions. Eighteen years pass. Dorian’s reputation suffers in circles of polite London society. The figure in the painting, however, grows increasingly hideous. On a dark, foggy night, Basil Hallward arrives at Dorian’s home . The two argue, and Dorian eventually kills Basil in a fit of rage. But His murder of Basil marks the beginning of his end: although in the past he has been able to sweep infamies from his mind, he cannot shake the thought that he has killed his friend
The night after the murder, Dorian makes his way to an opium den, where he encounters James Vane, who attempts to avenge Sibyl’s death. Dorian escapes and he resolves to amend his life but , in a fury, Dorian picks up the knife he used to stab Basil Hallward and attempts to destroy the painting. There is a crash, and his servants enter to find the portrait, unharmed, showing Dorian Gray as a beautiful young man. On the floor lies the body of their master—an old man, horribly wrinkled and disfigured, with a knife plunged into his heart.
Thus, the novel ends showing the ugly, real fate that Dorian finally meets as a result of his actions
Dorian resolves to live his life as a pleasure-seeker with no regard for conventional morality. His relationship with Sibyl Vane tests his commitment to this philosophy: his love of the young actress nearly leads him to dispense with Lord Henry’s teachings, but his love proves to be as shallow as he is. When he breaks Sibyl’s heart and drives her to suicide, Dorian notices the first change in his portrait. When Dorian decides to view Sibyl’s death as the achievement of an artistic ideal rather than a needless tragedy for which he is responsible, he starts down the steep and slippery slope of his own demise.
. When Dorian first discovers, quite by chance, the beautiful actress Sibyl Vane, he returns to the theatre nightly just to watch her stunning performances, and she never disappoints him. For as long as Dorian simply enjoys Sibyl’s art he loves her because she is beautiful to observe, but once he is given the opportunity to speak with Sibyl and get to know her, Dorian associates his love with her acting, thereby giving the art of performance a purpose besides entertainment. When Sibyl decides to exchange her acting for Dorian’s love, Dorian rejects her, saying, “Without your art you are nothing.” (Wilde, pg 74). Dorian gives Sibyl’s acting, her art, the purpose of maintaining his love for her, and when she disregarding her art as a thing without purpose, abandons it, Dorian callously abandons her (Gates, ‘Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray’). Sibyl becomes a victim of art, and commits suicide by swallowing prussic acid: her death is an example of the terrible consequences that the aesthetes believed could occur as a result of saddling art with responsibility. Later in the novel, years after Sibyl Vane’s death, Dorian accuses Lord Henry of “poisoning” him with the unnamed yellow book that Henry lent to Dorian when they were young.
His murder of Basil marks the beginning of his end: although in the past he has been able to sweep infamies from his mind, he cannot shake the thought that he has killed his friend