illustration of the upper-right corner of Dorian Gray's picture

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde
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What is the plot of the The Picture of Dorian Gray?

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The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young man, Dorian Gray, who becomes obsessed with his physical beauty; believing that his beauty is all that is important, he sinks to a state of moral decay. The novel is set in Victorian England, and when the story begins,...

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The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a young man, Dorian Gray, who becomes obsessed with his physical beauty; believing that his beauty is all that is important, he sinks to a state of moral decay. The novel is set in Victorian England, and when the story begins, Dorian is having his portrait painted by an artist named Basil Hallward. Basil Hallward is both enchanted and inspired by Dorian’s beauty. Lord Wooten, who is observing the portrait painting, proclaims that beauty and self-pleasure are the most important pursuits in life. Dorian takes his advice to heart.

Dorian, hoping to preserve his beauty, makes a wish for the portrait to age in his place. Dorian sinks into a life of debauchery and self-indulgence, and the painting becomes deformed and grotesque, as it is a reflection of Dorian’s hedonistic life and deeds. During the course of the story, Dorian meets a young actress named Sybil Vane, who falls in love with him. He asks her to marry him and later rejects her after a poor performance. Sibyl commits suicide by poisoning herself. Dorian, resolute in his pursuit of beauty, spends the next twenty years pleasing solely himself. He sinks into a life of sin and self-indulgence.

Basil Hallward, the artist, visits Dorian after many years, and Dorian shows Hallward the painting. The image of Dorian has become frighteningly deformed and grotesque, as it reflects the worst of Dorian’s deeds. Basil begs Dorian to rectify his ways and to ask the Lord for salvation. However, Dorian kills Basil instead. This leads to a chain of events and a series of deaths. These events reflect the decline of Dorian’s moral character and lead to his ultimate destruction. When Dorian finally rejects evil and vows to change his ways, the image of portrait continues to decline and becomes more and more grotesque. Dorian confesses to his sins and takes a knife to his portrait. However, when the authorities arrive on the scene, they find that Dorian has stabbed himself. They find his portrait lying next to him, restored to its original state.

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