The Death of Dorian Gray (Spoilers!)
So, here we are. I finally finished The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray. This has nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing-I actually love this story-but everything to do with my battles with mental health and lack of motivation. I hope to improve my consistency this year, but I think it'll have to be more prompts versus book reviews/analyses. I need to figure out a good schedule once or twice a week, but that's a post for another day. Today, we're finishing Dorian Gray, and it definitely took a turn that I wasn't necessarily expecting as someone who's never read the story before or seen many of the media adaptations of it. Let's wrap this up!
Chapter 10 starts on the eve of Dorian's 32nd birthday, and Basil shows up after what seems to be a lengthy amount of time. He tells Dorian that he is heading to Paris for six months but wants to talk to Dorian about the scandalous rumors he's been hearing about him. Basil pleads with Dorian to prove they aren't true, but Dorian has become so cynical and bitter that he wants to prove the opposite by showing Basil the portrait upstairs. Chapter 11 starts the journey up to the attic, with Basil thinking that Dorian has gone mad. Dorian rips off the curtain from the painting, which horrifies Basil. He doesn't believe it could be the same work, but he recognizes his brushstrokes and techniques, which convinces him of its authenticity. He chastises Dorian for being even more horrible than the rumors portrayed him to be, and he pleads with Dorian to pray with him, to save himself, but Dorian is overcome by hatred. He blames Basil for the horror the portrait has caused him, and, in a fit of rage, he stabs Basil to death. After a time, he calmly goes back downstairs, locking Basil's body in the attic with the portrait. He quickly goes out and back in, giving himself an alibi to his servant that he was out the whole time Basil was there.
Chapter 12 begins with Dorian's servant waking him from a dead sleep, after which Dorian asks him to send for Alan Campbell. While he waits on a reply, Dorian tries to distract himself from the body in the attic, but everything comes around to remind him of Basil. Eventually, Mr. Campbell, who was once a friend to Dorian but no longer, arrives. He explains his reluctance and how he had only come due to the apparent urgency Dorian had described. Dorian explains Basil's body in the attic, at first describing his death as a suicide, then admitting to murdering him. Mr. Campbell repeatedly asks Dorian to leave him out of his business, refusing to help Dorian get rid of the body when asked. After multiple refusals, Dorian writes something on a piece of paper (presumedly some sort of blackmail) and gives it to Mr. Campbell. It scares him so much that he agrees to help Dorian. He gets rid of the body and leaves, praying he'll never see Dorian again.
Chapter 13, the final chapter, opens at Lord Henry's house, where he and Dorian are discussing Dorian's apparent rehabilitation. Dorian is determined to become better, and he explains that he has already taken steps to do so by refusing to propose to a girl he met in the country. Lord Henry finds a way to play devil's advocate with Dorian and points out that he may have done more harm than good by breaking the girl's heart. Dorian refuses to see this side of things, and the topic shifts to Basil's disappearance. It is also revealed that Lord Henry's wife left him at some point and that Alan Campbell committed suicide. Dorian brings up the idea that Basil was murdered, but Lord Henry essentially says that Basil was not interesting or outgoing enough to have been murdered. As Dorian gets up to leave, Lord Henry remarks on his unchanging appearance and personality, asking that he never change, at least with him. This thought haunts Dorian as he goes home, and he walks up to the attic to see the decrepit state of the portrait. He has filled with rage again, and this time he directs it toward the painting. He picks up a knife and stabs the painting in an effort to rid himself of it. The point of view changes to people on the street and in Dorian's house, having heard a scream. His servants find the painting in the attic, seemingly untouched and back to its original state. They also find a mangled and aged body, who they later determine is Dorian Gray.
Alright, so this was an ending that I didn't see coming. That could be my naivete of having not read the story before, but while I could imagine Dorian dying by the end of the story, I did not expect him to murder Basil. The horror elements of this novella have been subtle, to say the least, where the only suspense has come from the portrait and others' (mostly Dorian's) reaction to it as time goes on. The twisting of Dorian's personality was also interesting, as there were some parts of him that remained unchanged, namely his selfishness and narcissism, which eventually led to his downfall. He blames Basil for his misery, at first mocking the "romance" in it, which hearkens back to when the portrait was first painted and Basil's infatuation with Dorian (p. 188). Then he becomes enraged when Basil suggests praying for him and his sins, which leads to the murder of a once-trusted friend of Dorian's. Dorian's ability to leave himself blameless for his transgressions is reminiscent of his blame for Lord Henry for teaching him about the wonders and tragedy of youth (which, one could argue, may have led to the madness of the portrait to begin with).
Another interesting bit of this ending that I like is the subversion of expectations hitting you with a sort of 1-2 punch at the end. First, Wilde frames Dorian's murder of Basil in a fit of rage, and then, he stages the apparent "murder" of the portrait in a similar way, with the result being vastly different in Dorian's death. The shift in point of view kind of gives away the ending before it is revealed, but whether or not Wilde wanted it to be a surprise is up to interpretation. I find the lack of suspense (not a bad thing, just an observation) to be fascinating considering how often this story is portrayed as a thriller or a horror. I see the elements that put that way of thinking into the zeitgeist of pop culture, but it's also interesting to see how straightforward the actual novella seems to be.
One of my favorite characters in this story (besides Dorian, who I love but also have some gripes with) was Lord Henry, who is always playing the devil's advocate throughout this entire story, so much so that when Dorian has become more cynical and similar to him by the end of the story, Lord Henry tends to point out the more emotional side of things, such as how much he misses his wife (p.210). Before, he seemed to be very indifferent toward her, as though his marriage was an obligation and nothing more, which could very likely have been the case. This trait means that Lord Henry never quite aligns with Dorian on anything, which I like a lot about him. Dorian is never given anyone who fully validates his feelings about any one topic, save for Basil toward the beginning of the story, and even that doesn't last for very long, despite Basil's infatuation with him.
To sum up my feelings about this story, I will say this. I'm glad that I read it because it is a greatly written story about vanity and one's true self. If I could go back, however, I would probably have read the whole thing first before making any judgments about it. This makes the most sense in hindsight, and I will probably apply this to any future posts I do about specific books. I haven't quite worked out a proper system for it yet, but as I said before, I would like to focus more on prompts as the content of my posts for now, just to get my writing practice in a more practical way.
If you stuck around this long to see the ending of my series on Dorian Gray, I commend you, as I know it took much longer than I thought it would. I hope to post more frequently this year, even if it's just on my days off each week. I hope you did enjoy this post and my thoughts on the story, as I loved getting to experience this story for the first time. I'll be back next week with a tentative plan for prompts going forward, so until then, I hope everyone had a great holiday, and happy 2023!