The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9 & 10


The next day, Basil visits Dorian and is shocked to learn that he has been to the opera, given the circumstances. He is also aghast at the fact that Dorian seems altogether unmoved by Sibyl's suicide. Dorian defends himself by telling Basil that "She passed again into the sphere of art. There is something of the martyr about her." He accuses Basil of being selfish, since his anger stems from the fact that he was not the one who consoled him, and tells the artist to "teach me to forget what has happened, or to see it from a proper artistic point of view."

Dorian does, however, admit to being strongly influenced by Lord Henry. He also admits that he knows Basil to be a much better man than Henry. When the painter hears this, his old affection for Dorian wins him over. He inquires whether Dorian has been summoned by the police. Dorian is annoyed by this thought, but assures Basil that no one involved even knows his name. He asks Basil to make him a drawing of Sibyl, but Basil asks Dorian to instead come pose for him again - a request that is quickly denied.

Basil then notices that his painting is covered. When he asks to see his work, Dorian threatens never to speak to him again if he tries to lift the covering screen. He is determined never to share the secret of the painting with anyone. Basil says that he wants to exhibit the work, since he considers it his masterpiece, but Dorian states that that is also out of the question. The painter asks if Dorian has seen anything strange in the picture to disturb him so much. Thinking that Basil may already know about the picture's enchantment, Dorian says that he has, but asks his friend to explain himself. Basil confesses his idolatry of Dorian, and says that he was struck by how much of it had come across in the painting. Dorian is disappointed and unmoved by the painter's affection. He again states that he will never again sit for another portrait. Basil cries out that Dorian's refusal will "spoil my life as an artist" and leaves. Dorian, growing ever more paranoid and determined to conceal his secret, decides to hide the painting more thoroughly.

Dorian acquires the key to his attic from his housekeeper. Victor informs him that the men he has requested have arrived to help transport the painting, and Dorian sends his servant off to Lord Henry with a request for reading material. Mr Hubbard, a renowned frame-maker, and his assistants carry the portrait up to the attic without removing the cover, as per Dorian's instructions. Dorian wonders about the possibility of ever displaying the work, since it is Basil's masterpiece, but knows that even though "It might escape the hideousness of sin, the hideousness of age was in store for it." It would have to be hidden from sight forever so that "No eye but his would ever see his shame."

Once Mr Hubbard leaves, Dorian returns to his library to find a note from Lord Henry, along with a newspaper clipping and an old, yellow book. A red mark on the newspaper brings Dorian's attention to a small article informing him that the inquest into Sibyl's death has ruled it a certain suicide. He is free of suspicion. He begins reading the novel sent by Henry, a book about a young Parisian "who spent his life trying to realize...all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own." He is so engrossed with the novel and its "metaphors as monstrous as orchids, and as subtle in color" that he is several hours late for his engagement with Lord Henry.


Dorian defends himself for failing to mourn Sibyl's death with a Lord Henry-ism: "A man who is master of himself can end sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure." The irony of claiming to be master of one's self by voicing the views of another escapes the young man, but serves to portray him as a deeply misguided soul. In Basil's confession to Dorian, he echoes several sentiments from the preface, saying that "what art should be [is] unconscious, ideal, and remote...Art is always more abstract than we fancy. Form and colour tell us of form and conceals the artist far more completely than it ever reveals him." These sentiments, although they are presented by Wilde as truths in the preface, are disheartening revelations for the painter. Basil had been hoping that the picture would show Dorian the truth about his affections, but when Dorian hears Basil's confession, he practically scoffs at it, and states aloud that he wonders if he will ever know such feelings of adoration. The answer (which Dorian himself is unaware of) is, of course, that he already adores himself in a nearly identical fashion. Later, when faced with further evidence of his own degradation, Dorian will blame himself for not accepting Basil's "pure, Uranian" love. This sentiment is one of the many homosexual references that remains in the novel after Wilde's revision of the Lippincott version. Wilde is said to have espoused the notion that love between two men was inherently purer and nobler than heterosexual love, and this sentiment appears briefly in Dorian's thoughts.

Concealing the picture is a clear symbolic gesture for Dorian's denial of his own shame. Since the painting is destined to display "the hideous corruption of his soul" while his face will remain young and innocent, Dorian believes that he can effectively live without the hindrance of a conscience so long as no one sees the painting. The downside of Dorian's obsession with his appearance, however, has already begun to show. He becomes suspicious of his housekeeper and of Victor, his servant, feeling sure that they will try to look at the picture. This paranoia can be seen as a principal stage in the protagonist's degrdation, an indication that the deterioration of Dorian's soul is well underway.

The attic where Dorian hides the painting was "a playroom when he was a child" and "a study when he grew somewhat older." The room is already a vault hiding his past, and it will now hide the degradation of his conscience, as well. This room becomes a symbol of the purity of youth and concern for morality that Dorian consciously rejects. Instead of skeletons in his closet, Dorian has a painting in his attic.

Some critics have interpreted the hidden painting as a metaphor for sexuality - Dorian keeps his shame and guilt about his homosexual tendencies "in the closet", as it were. While such a reading is compelling, it also over-simplifies Dorian's dilemma, while inadvertently assuming that Wilde would himself condemn homosexual tendencies. Dishonesty, betrayal, and murder all cause the portrait to wither, age, and grow more hideous. To assume that homosexual actions also deface the portrait is to present such actions as similarly offensive or reprehensible - a notion with which the author would have certainly disagreed.