The Picture of Dorian Gray Revision Notes

The Picture of Dorian Gray revision notes.  Includes:

  • Chapter by Chapter analysis
  • Key character analysis
  • Quotes
  • Key Themes
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  • Created by: Morag
  • Created on: 29-04-13 13:01
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Dorian Gray Revision
Major Characters
Dorian Gray
o `once in boyish mockery of narcissus, he had kissed, or feigned to kiss, those painted
o `He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty.'
`I am what I am'- blasphemous, biblical allusion to the words of God. Similar to Iago in Othello
`I am not what I am'. Villain
At the opening of the novel, Dorian Gray exists as something of an ideal: he is the archetype
of male youth and beauty. He longs to be as youthful and lovely as the masterpiece that Basil
has painted of him, and he wishes that the portrait could age in his stead. His vulnerability and
insecurity in these moments make him excellent clay for Lord Henry's willing hands.
Dorian soon leaves Basil's studio for Lord Henry's parlour, where he adopts the tenets of
"the new Hedonism" and 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.
seems to lack a conscience, but the desire to repent that he eventually feels illustrates that
he is indeed human. Despite the beautiful things with which he surrounds himself, he is unable
to distract himself from the dissipation of his soul.
Lord Henry Wotton
Immoral, reckless
o `I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world'
o His influence is `bad'
o Says there is no such thing as good influence, criticises people who fall under it and
yet enjoys influencing Dorian- `there was something terribly enthralling in the
exercise of influence.'
o `he would be a wonderful study.'- doesn't treat Dorian as an equal, more like a
o `I am not surprised that the world says that you are extremely wicked'
o `I don't agree with a single word you have said, and, what is more Harry, I feel sure
you don't either.' ­ not necessarily bad, merely wants to be perceived that way
o `you are much better than you pretend to be'
o Dorian calls him `prince paradox'
Lord Henry is a man possessed of "wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories." He is a
charming talker, a famous wit, and a brilliant intellect.
Lord Henry is a relatively static character--he does not undergo a significant change in the
course of the narrative. Because he does not change while Dorian and Basil clearly do, his
philosophy seems amusing and enticing in the first half of the book, but improbable and
shallow in the second. Lord Henry muses in Chapter Nineteen, for instance, that there are no
immoral books; he claims that "[t]he books that the world calls immoral are books that show
the world its own shame." But since the decadent book that Lord Henry lends Dorian
facilitates Dorian's downfall, it is difficult to accept what Lord Henry says as true.

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Although Lord Henry is a self-proclaimed hedonist who advocates the equal pursuit of both
moral and immoral experience, he lives a rather staid life. He participates in polite London
society and attends parties and the theatre, but he does not indulge in sordid behaviour.
His claim that Dorian could never commit a murder because "[c]rime belongs exclusively to
the lower orders" demonstrates the limitations of his understanding of the human soul.…read more

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She describes herself as `only his wife'- belittling herself or is she self-aware/acknowledging
social norms regarding her status?
She had `a perfect mania for going to church'
She `tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy'
Wagner's music is `so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing
what one says.…read more

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Basil Hallward is the voice of morality within the novel
o `But surely, if one lives merely for one's self, harry, one pays a terrible price for
doing so?... I should fancy in remorse, in suffering, in... well, in the consciousness of
`Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.…read more

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A cigarette is the perfect type of perfect pleasure. It is exquisite and it leaves one
unsatisfied.…read more

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We must look out for a suitable match for him. I shall go through Debrett'- like a
catalogue of the British aristocracy.
o `a man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her'- Lord Henry
o Dorian deliberately uses the French word `hautbois' rather than `oboe'-
demonstrates his education and class
o `Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich.…read more

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When The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in Lippincott's Monthly
Magazine in 1890, it was decried as immoral. In revising the text the following year, Wilde
included a preface, which serves as a useful explanation of his philosophy of art.…read more

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Fin de siècle
French for `end of the century'.
Used to describe the degeneration and hope that are brought about by the turn of a century.…read more

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Sybil is Dorian's exact working-class counterpart. Youth and beauty are simultaneously assets
she markets and qualities she must struggle to preserve in order to continue working.
The aristocratic world is unaffected by the destruction of those who support it- Dorian Gray
continues his life following the deaths of Basil and Sybil
Queer theory
It is meaningless to classify people on the basis of any shared characteristic and label them
`women', `men' or `homosexual'.…read more

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Dorian persuades Basil to allow LORD HENRY to stay while he sits for his portrait
Lord Henry influences Dorian- sets up the whole novel
o `If one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every
feeling, expression to every though, reality to every dream ­ I believe that all the
world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of
medievalism {*the movement towards Christianity}, and return to the Hellenic…read more


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