Chapters 1 -3 by Karolina
“The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” – Author’s Preface – The picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Sir Henry Wotton
In a London home, two friends meet. Sir Henry Wotton, a man with old money, and his artist friend, Basil Hallward (Whose garden and home thy are currently in), sit and talk of a particular picture that has caught Henry’s eye, the newest addition in Basil’s repertoire. He encourages his friend to send the painting to the Grosvenor, so it can be admired by all – but Basil does not seem to like this idea. He states that he has placed far too much of himself in the painting to allow it to be on display, which he is ridiculed by Henry for, as the fair haired subject looks nothing like the dark haired artist. Henry bullies Basil into telling him about his subject, a young man built like an Adonis. Basil reluctantly tells Henry of meeting Dorian Gray at a socialite’s get together (Lady Brandon’s) and how completely he was drawn to him. They speak of society and society values on beauty and art. However, when Henry expresses a desire to meet his friend’s muse, especially since he had heard of Dorian through his own aunt, Basil flat out refuses. Unluckily for Basil, Dorian is waiting for him inside the house. Before the two friends enter – Basil begs Henry not to influence the boy, stating that Dorian is the one person who gives his art the charm it possesses, and that he is trusting Henry not to take that from him. The two men enter the house to greet Dorian.
Sir Henry Wotton : “Oh, brothers! I don’t care for brothers. My elder brother won’t die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else.”
Basil Hallward [on Dorian Gray, and how many times he sees him] “Every day. I couldn’t be happy if I didn’t see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me.”
Sir Henry Wotton [on Hallward’s feelings for Gray] “Perhaps you will tire sooner than he will. It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that genius lasts longer than beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves.
In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well-informed man–that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value. I think you will tire first, all the same.”
Sir Henry Wotton
Dorian is sitting by Basil’s piano when the two men join him. He half begs, half demands Basil to lend him the sheet notes on the piano, before he realises that Basil has company. They start to speak of Dorian’s connection to Henry’s Aunt. Dorian appears to be very young and naive, and awestruck with the type of person Henry is – so different to Basil. As Basil sets up the supplies for painting and encourages Dorian to get ready for a sitting (something Dorian childishly pouts at), Dorian and Henry begin to build a fast camaraderie, Henry enticing and intriguing Dorian with his thoughts on the world. Basil futilely tries to get Henry to leave, but Dorian demands he stay; arguing that Basil does not speak as he works, and is boring. Dorian even goes so far as to threaten to leave if Henry does, so, Basil warily capitulates. Henry then waxes lyrical on the importance of beauty, candidly telling Dorian that he is lucky to have it, and that when he is old and wrinkled and grey he will regret it if he does not take advantage of it now, as beauty dies. Dorian seems enraptured by Sir Henry’s words. Basil is finally ready to paint, so Henry watches the artist add the finishing touches to his masterpiece. He finally shows it to his two friends, and while Henry showers him with praise and tells Basil that he must have the painting; Dorian becomes angry and upset over the fact that the painting will be beautiful and youthful forever, while he will be forced to age, and bursts into tears. Basil, upset by his reaction, and blaming Henry for it, tells them that he will destroy the painting, just to have peace between his two best friends. This distresses Dorian more, as he claims to be in love with it – and tells Basil that he would never forgive him if he gave the portrait to Henry. Basil admits that the picture was always Dorian’s.
Henry invites Basil and Dorian to go to the theatre with him. Basil declines, while Dorian readily accepts. Basil tries to deter him, but again, Dorian seems drawn to Henry, so sticks to his resolve. Dorian does promise to visit Basil the next day, though. Basil sadly tells them that he will stay with the ‘real Dorian’ (the painting; which Dorian is immensely flattered at the comparison) and asks Henry to keep his promise – reminding Henry that Basil trusts him. Henry flippantly tells Basil that Henry doesn’t even trust himself – and Dorian and Henry leave, as Basil worries over what just happened.
Dorian Gray: “I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose? Every moment that passes takes something from me and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now! Why did you paint it? It will mock me some day–mock me horribly!”
Sir Henry Wotton
Lord Fermor (Henry’s Uncle George)
Henry’s Aunt Agatha
Secondary Characters ( Mr Erskine, Sir Thomas Burdon, the the Duchess of Harley, Mrs. Vandeleur,)
This chapter focuses solely on a fact finding mission by Henry, to discover more about Dorian Gray, who is fast becoming a point of interest, not only for Basil, but for Henry as well. He finds out form his uncle about Dorian’s beautiful mother (Lady Margaret Devereaux) and her tragic past, and how Dorian grew up essentially orphaned and alone. He muses on Basil’s fascination with Dorian, and much to his concealed delight, discovers the object of his thoughts when he stops in at his Aunt’s. As Henry converses and debates with the other guests at his Aunt’s place, he notices that Dorian’s concentration is solely on Henry. Dorian seems enraptured by him and his words – just as he had been at Basil’s. As Henry goes to leave, Dorian implores him to allow Dorian to accompany him, stating that he likes listening to him speak. Henry reminds Dorian that he had promised to stop in at Basil’s, but Dorian would rather be with Henry. Henry agrees.
Lord Henry Wotton [on Dorian Gray] So that was the story of Dorian Gray’s parentage. Crudely as it had been told to him, it had yet stirred him by its suggestion of a strange, almost modern romance. A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then
a child born in pain. The mother snatched away by death, the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and loveless man. Yes; it was an interesting background. It posed the lad, made him more perfect, as it were. Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.
Lord Henry Wotton [On Basil Hallward] And Basil? From a psychological point of view, how interesting he was! The new manner in art, the fresh mode of looking at life, suggested so strangely by the merely visible presence of one who was unconscious of it all; the silent spirit that dwelt in dim woodland, and walked unseen in open field, suddenly showing herself, Dryad like and not afraid, because in his soul who sought for her there had been wakened that wonderful vision to which alone are wonderful things revealed; the mere shapes and patterns of things becoming, as it were, refined, and gaining a kind of symbolical value, as though they were themselves patterns of some other and more perfect form whose shadow they made real: how strange it all was! He remembered something like it in history. Was it not Plato, that artist in thought, who had first analyzed it? Was it not Buonarotti who had carved it in the coloured marbles of a sonnet-sequence? But in our own century it was strange.
Sir Henry Wotton to Dorian “Ah! I have talked quite enough for to-day,” said Lord Henry, smiling. “All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me, if you care to.”
1. What do you think of the characters so far? What have these chapters told you of their personalities?
2. How do you feel about the portrayal of the society Oscar Wilde is depicting?
3. the change in Dorian’s demeanor after meeting Henry is almost instantaneous. Why do you think that happens? How do you think it bodes for the rest of the story?
4. What do you think Oscar Wilde wished to portray about Sir Henry’s character in chapter 3?