The Deterioration of Dorian Gray: Ch. 6-9
Been gone again. Work has been busy and I've been tired and unmotivated. I'm working on getting better sleep and keeping my mental health in a good place. If you've stuck around for this long, thank you for being patient with me. I appreciate it more than you know. Now let's get back into it!
These next four chapters of Dorian Gray are dense, especially chapter nine, so let's go:
Chapter six picks up the morning (actually afternoon) after Dorian's breakup with Sybil. He lounges most of the day away, ignoring a letter sent to him by Henry. He does confirm the portrait changing was not a dream by checking it and seeing the same cruelty from the night before. Henry arrives in the evening, giving his condolences to Dorian about Sybil. Dorian, thinking Henry is talking about the breakup, tells Henry that he is actually going to apologize to Sybil and go through with marrying her. Henry tells Dorian that Sybil is actually dead, which he wrote to him in the letter. Dorian is not as distraught as he thinks he ought to be. He asks Henry if he is heartless, to which Henry replies that he has "done too many foolish things in [his] life to be entitled to give [himself] that name" (p. 130). Henry attempts to distract Dorian with an invitation to the opera, which Dorian declines at first, but eventually, he relents. Before he leaves, he takes one last look at the portrait, thinking for the first time about the benefits of this "curse."
Chapter seven parallels the sixth by having one of Dorian's friends visit, though this time it's Basil. Basil comes to console Dorian about the death of Sybil, but he finds Dorian acting somewhat nonchalant about the whole thing. He criticizes Dorian for this, and he also expressed his concern about the inquest into Sybil's death. Dorian is still unphased. Basil changes the subject and begs Dorian to sit for him again, but Dorian refuses, saying that he will never sit for any portrait again. Basil is disappointed, expressing how hurt he is by Dorian covering up his last portrait. He tries to take the covering off to look at it, but Dorian stops him, showing his growing paranoia for the first time. Dorian asks why Basil would want the portrait exhibited now when he was so adamant about keeping it hidden at first, and Basil reveals his obsession with and love for Dorian. Dorian doesn't understand Basil's confession and minimizes its meaning, which hurts Basil even more. Basil says goodbye to Dorian, and he leaves.
Chapter eight begins with Dorian making a plan to hide away the portrait in an old schoolroom at the top of the house, and he surveys the place before movers come in to bring it up. After they bring the portrait up to the attic, Dorian goes back downstairs and sees a note from Henry with a copy of the paper and a book. The paper has a blurb about the inquest into Sybil's death, and the book is Le Secret de Raoul, par Catulle Sarrazin, which is described as "a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian" (p. 156). He begins to read the book and is engrossed, making him late for a dinner invitation with Henry.
Chapter nine is something of a time jump chapter, detailing the events of the next twelve years in Dorian's life. He becomes a mysterious figure in society, embroiled in supposed scandal and talked about as if he were a legendary figure. He travels constantly, though his paranoia keeps him from being gone for long, leaving his trips early in order to check that no one has discovered the portrait in the attic. He also becomes obsessed with and collects various things, including religious memorabilia, jewels and text about jewels, tapestries, perfumes, and music. His fascination and obsession with aestheticism--not only looks, but perceptions--has overtaken his life, and it seems to stem from the book Henry gave to him. His obsession is so deep that he even regards the book as having "poisoned" him (178). He has become someone who does not resemble his former self.
Well, that was a lot to unpack, so let's hit on some of the most interesting things about this stretch of the book, at least for me. First off, I really enjoy the vast character development that happens with Dorian. He turns from his naive and carefree, youthful roots and becomes someone who "[looks] on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful" (p. 178). His perception of the world has completely changed since he discovered the changing in his portrait. He revels in the fact that the portrait ages and bears the toll of his sins on its face, while he stays young and popular. His popularity, however, comes from the mystery surrounding his long absences and the perception of the scandal surrounding him. This is a far cry from the whiny and vain boy at the beginning of the story, and I can't wait to see where the character goes throughout the rest of the novella.
Aestheticism has consistently been a heavy theme throughout this book, but it seems like Wilde turned up the dial even more for these chapters of the book, especially chapter nine as Dorian becomes more and more fascinated with beauty in all forms, though he does not make any connection with people beyond the surface. His fascination with music, jewels, tapestry, religious vestments, etc. all seems to stem from his wanting to either understand or acquire these representations of different facets of beauty in society. His obsession with the character of Raoul in the book Henry gives him someone to emulate. He wants to be like Raoul and have this fascinating and mysterious life, full of adventures and popularity. He likes that he has seemingly fulfilled his wish, but it also scares him. He calls it a "horrible fascination" and says he has been "poisoned by a book" (p. 178). He likes having people love and be fascinated by him, but there is also the fear of discovery and of criticism or hatred coming from those same people if they discover his secret in the attic.
As I said before, these chapters cover a lot of ground, especially in chapter nine, which is probably the most interesting part of Dorian's character arc. The story seems to both stop and jumps forward as it tells Dorian's story over the next twelve years, and it shows Dorian becoming very introspective during that time. At the beginning of the book, Dorian was very carefree, vain but not overly so, selfish but in the way youthful people often are. By the end of chapter nine, he is fully aware of how the portrait, the book, and his exploits have influenced him, and though it seems to scare him a bit, he has accepted the fact that he is willing to do whatever it takes to have the life he wants and to have complete control over it. I'm fascinated by this turn in his character since I was expecting more horror elements to show up in regards to the portrait. I like that this is the turn the story has taken, though, since it is more introspective and self-aware than I expected it to be. I'm excited to see how the story concludes in the next few chapters.
My next post may not be for a few weeks, though I will try to get it up in less than a month. I'm working a lot and still trying to regulate my sleep schedule, so my motivation has been lacking. Hopefully, I can keep up this streak of motivation into the next post, and then we can get onto another book!
Bye for now,