The Picture of Dorian Gray


Oscar Wilde said that, in the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), three of the characters were reflections of himself:

Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps.[7]
The characters of the story are
  • Dorian Gray — a handsome, narcissistic young man enthralled by Lord Henry's "new" hedonism. He indulges in every pleasure (moral and immoral) which life eventually leads to death.
  • Basil Hallward — a deeply moral man, the painter of the portrait, and infatuated with Dorian, whose patronage realises his potential as an artist. The picture of Dorian Gray is Basil's masterpiece.
  • Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton — an imperious aristocrat and a decadent dandy who espouses a philosophy of self-indulgent hedonism. Initially Basil's friend, he neglects him for Dorian's beauty. The character of witty Lord Harry is a critique of Victorian culture at the Fin de siècle — of Britain at the end of the 19th century. Lord Harry's libertine world view corrupts Dorian, who then successfully emulates him. To the aristocrat Harry, the observant artist Basil says, "You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing."
  • Sibyl Vane — a talented actress and singer, she is the poor, beautiful girl with whom Dorian falls in love. Her love for Dorian ruins her acting ability, because she no longer finds pleasure in portraying fictional love as she is now experiencing real love in her life. She kills herself on learning that Dorian no longer loves her; at that, Lord Henry likens her to Ophelia, in Hamlet.
  • James Vane — Sibyl's brother, a sailor who leaves for Australia. He is very protective of his sister, especially as their mother cares only for Dorian's money. Believing that Dorian means to harm Sybil, James hesitates to leave, and promises vengeance upon Dorian if any harm befalls her. After Sibyl's suicide, James becomes obsessed with killing Dorian, and stalks him, but a hunter accidentally kills James. The brother's pursuit of vengeance upon the lover (Dorian Gray), for the death of the sister (Sybil) parallels that of Laertes vengeance against Prince Hamlet.
  • Alan Campbell — chemist and one-time friend of Dorian who ended their friendship when Dorian's libertine reputation devalued such a friendship. Dorian blackmails Alan into destroying the body of the murdered Basil Hallward; Campbell later shoots himself dead.
  • Lord Fermor — Lord Henry's uncle, who tells his nephew, Lord Henry Wotton, about the family lineage of Dorian Gray.
  • Victoria, Lady Wotton — Lord Henry's wife, whom he treats disdainfully; she divorces him.

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