Chapter 1 Summary:
The story begins in an art studio, in which Lord Henry Wotton admires the soon to be finished masterpiece by painter Basil Hallward, of a young man soon learnt to be a portrait of the beautiful Dorian Gray. Henry urges him to exhibit the painting at Grosvenor but Basil detests, insisting he has shown in it the secret of his own soul. Basil explains to Henry how he met Dorian Gray, at an upper class crush at Lady Brandon’s and fascinated by Dorian’s countenance ( like Nick to Gatsby ) they become friends. As with most gothic fiction, there is a romantic and somewhat homosexual undertone to the relationship between Basil and Dorian, with Dorian showing such fascination in Dorian’s beauty while Dorian doesn’t treat him the best. As they finish talking, Dorian arrives to the studio, and despite Basil’s urges not to, Henry wishes to meet him.
“In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward…”
“I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.” -Basil
Chapter 2 Summary:
Dorian arrives and meets Henry, then sits on a platform to pose for Basil’s painting so he can finish it. Soon after while Basil completes some touch ups, Henry tries to convince Dorian to appreciate his youth and beauty while he still can, explaining that once he ages, his face will become wrinkled and his figure deformed. Once the painting is now finished, Basil presents it to his two friends and while staring at his flawless counterpart Dorian begins to ruminate about what Henry had spoken about. Whilst Basil is giving the painting to him, he is envious that the painting will remain youthful while he grows old, wishing that it was the other way round. He selfishly claims that ‘youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.’ Dorian breaks down in tears and just as Basil is about to destroy the painting, Dorian detests, claiming that it’s a part of himself. Henry and Dorian eventually leave together to see a movie.
“Then had come Lord Henry Wotton with his strange panegyric on youth, his terrible warning of its brevity. That had stirred him at the time, and now, as he stood gazing at the shadow of his own loveliness, the full reality of the description flashed across him.”
“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture to always grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” -Dorian
“…walked over, cup in hand, to the picture. ‘I shall stay with the real Dorian,’…” -Basil
Chapter 3 Summary:
While chatting with his uncle, Lord Fermor, Henry learns of Dorian’s parentage. He learns that his mother was of upper class and she loved a poor peasant man much to Dorian’s grandfather Kelso’s disapproval. Kelso sends a Belgian brute to duel Dorian’s father at a club, after which his father dies. Soon after Dorian’s mother died within a year, leaving her son, an orphan with immense wealth inherited by both his grandfather and mother. After various debates occur during Aunt Agatha’s lunch party (guests include the Duchess of Harley, Sir Thomas Burdon (a politician), and Mr. Erskine (some kind of intellectual)), Henry and Dorian head to the park.
“She was an extraordinarily beautiful girl, Margaret Devereux; and made all the men frantic by running away with a penniless young fellow… poor chap was killed in a duel at Spa, a few months after the marriage… girl died too: died within a year. So she left a son…”
Chapter 4 Summary:
While at Henry’s house, Dorian and Henry discuss women and how Dorian has found the love of his life, an actress, Sibyl Vane.