Short summary - The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

On a sunny summer day, the talented painter Basil Hallward receives in his workshop an old friend of Lord Henry Wotton, an epicurean esthete, «The Prince of Paradox», as one of the characters defines it. The latter easily recognizes the traits of Oscar Wilde that are well-known to contemporaries; the author of the novel «gives» to him the prevailing number of his illustrious aphorisms. Captured by a new concept, Hallward enthusiastically works on a portrait of an unusually beautiful young man whom he recently met. Tom is twenty years old; his name is Dorian Gray.

Soon the model also appears, listening with interest to the paradoxical judgments of the weary hedonist; the young beauty of Dorian, who captivated Basil, does not leave Lord Henry indifferent. But the portrait is finished; those present admire his perfection. Dorian, who loves gold and loves everything beautiful and likes himself, dreams out loud: «If the portrait changed, but I could always remain as I am!» The touched Basil gives the portrait to the young man.

Ignoring Basil’s sluggish resistance, Dorian accepts the invitation of Lord Henry and, with the active participation of the latter, plunges into social life; attends dinner parties, spends evenings at the opera. Meanwhile, having visited his uncle, Lord Farmer, Lord Henry finds out about the dramatic circumstances of Dorian's origin: raised by a wealthy guardian, he painfully survived the early death of his mother, contrary to family traditions, who fell in love and linked his fate with an unknown infantry officer (at the instigation of an influential father-in-law that would soon killed in a duel).

Dorian himself, meanwhile, falls in love with aspiring actress Sybil Wayne - «a girl of about seventeen, with a face as tender as a flower, with a head of a Greek woman entwined with dark braids. Eyes - blue lakes of passion, lips - rose petals »; with amazing spirituality she plays the best roles of Shakespeare’s repertoire on the poor stage of a beggarly theatrical in the East Indus. In turn, Sybil, eking out a half-starved existence with his mother and brother, sixteen-year-old James, preparing to sail as a sailor to Australia, Dorian seems to be an embodied miracle - "The Beautiful Prince", descended from sky-high heights. Her lover is not aware that in her life there is also a secret carefully guarded from prying eyes: both Sibylla and James are illegitimate children, the fruits of a love union, which at one time bound their mother - a "tortured, withered woman,"

Having found a vibrant embodiment of beauty and talent in Sybil, the naive idealist Dorian triumphantly informs Basil and Lord Henry of his engagement. The future of their ward is alarming in both; however, both of them willingly accept the invitation to the performance, where the chosen one of Dorian should play the role of Juliet. However, absorbed in the bright hopes of her real beloved happiness with her beloved, Sybila this evening reluctantly, as if by compulsion (after all, «playing in love is profanity!» She believes) pronounces the role’s words, seeing for the first time without embellishment the misery of the scenery, the falseness of the stage partners and poverty of enterprises. There is a loud failure, provoking the skeptical mockery of Lord Henry, the restrained sympathy of the good man Basil and the total collapse of Dorian's castles in the air, desperate tossing Sybil: «You killed my love!»

Having become convinced of her beautiful souls, mixed up with faith in the indissolubility of art and reality, Dorian spends a sleepless night wandering around deserted London. Sybil, however, his cruel recognition is beyond his power; the next morning, preparing to send her a letter of reconciliation, he learns that the girl committed suicide that very evening. Here, patron friends react to the tragic news in their own way: Basil advises Dorian to strengthen his spirit, and Lord Henry «not to shed tears in vain about Sybil Wayne». Seeking to console the young man, he invites him to the opera, promising to introduce Lady Gwendolen to his charming sister. To Basil's bewilderment, Dorian accepts the invitation. And only a portrait presented to him recently by an artist becomes a merciless mirror of a spiritual metamorphosis brewing in him: on the flawless face of a young Greek god a hard wrinkle is indicated. Concerned, Dorian takes the portrait out of sight.

And again, his helpful friend Mephistopheles, Lord Henry, helps him drown out the disturbing pricks of conscience. On the advice of the latter, he goes headlong into reading a strange book by a new-fangled French author - a psychological study of a man who decided to experience all the extremes of being. Enchanted by it for a long time («it seemed that the heavy smell of smoking rose from its pages and stupefied the brain»), Dorian over the next twenty years - in the story of the novel they fit into one chapter - «falls in love with her beauty more and more and observes with great interest her decomposition souls. " As if alcoholized in his perfect shell, he seeks solace in the lavish rites and rituals of other religions, in music, in collecting antiques and precious stones, in narcotic potions offered in dens with unkind fame. Drawn by hedonistic temptations, falling in love over and over again, but not able to love, he does not disdain dubious relationships and suspicious acquaintances. The fame of the soulless seducer of young minds is assigned to him.

Recalling the fate of his fleeting elects and daughters, broken by his whims, Doriana is trying to enlighten Basil Hallward, who had long since cut off all communications with him, but was about to visit before leaving for Paris. But in vain: in response to justified reproaches, he laughedly offers the painter to behold the original face of his former idol, captured on the same portrait of Hollywood, gathering dust in a dark corner. To the astonished Basil, the terrifying face of the voluptuous old man is revealed. However, the spectacle is beyond the power of Dorian: believing the creator of the portrait to be responsible for his moral behavior, he plunges a dagger into the neck of a friend of his young days in an attack of uncontrolled rage. And then, calling for the help of one of his former comrades-in-arms for feasts and feasts, the chemist Alan Campbell, blackmailing him with a certain shameful secret known only to both of them,

Tormented by belated remorse, he again seeks oblivion in drugs. And he almost dies when some drunken sailor recognizes him in a suspicious brothel at the very bottom of London: this is James Wayne, who too late to know about his sister’s fateful fate and vowed to revenge her offender at all costs.


However, fate for the time being keeps him from physical death. But - not from the all-seeing eye of Hollywood's portrait. «This portrait is like a conscience. Yes, conscience. And we must destroy him, »concludes Dorian, who survived all the temptations of the world, even more devastated and lonely than before, vainly envious of the purity of an innocent village girl, and the selflessness of his accomplice, involuntarily Alan Campbell, who found the strength to commit suicide, and even ... to the spiritual aristocracy of his friend, the tempter, Lord Henry, who seems alien to any moral obstacles, but who incomprehensibly believes that "all crime is vulgar."

Late at night, alone with himself in a luxurious London mansion, Dorian pounced on his portrait with a knife, trying to destroy and destroy him. The servants who rose to the scream discover in the room the dead body of an old man in a tailcoat. And a timeless portrait in its radiant grandeur.

Thus ends the novel parable about a man for whom «at other times Evil was only one of the means of realizing what he considered the beauty of life».