Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian...

Table of Contents
Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian
Gray by Oscar Wilde
About the Book

Introducing the Author

Overall Summary

II. Discussion & Analysis
Chapter-by-Chapter

III. Key Information
Character List

Key Terms & Definitions

Major Themes & Symbols

Interesting Related Facts

IV. References
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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Table of Contents

Source Citation

Additional Reading

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I.

Quicklet on The
Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde

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About the Book

What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

If you could drink, smoke, and eat as much as you wanted and see no change in your
appearance, would you indulge? If you could cheat, steal, and even murder without any
consequences, would you do it? What would you sacrifice for eternal youth and beauty? Is
your soul too much of a price to pay?

With The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde weaves a tale of love, betrayal, murder, and
revenge that delves into all these questions and more. When Dorian sees a portrait of
himself and becomes aware of his own intense youth and beauty, he proclaims that he
would give anything to preserve his looks and let the portrait grow old instead. This
simple wish uttered in a moment of passion changes his life forever. As the portrait grows
old over time and bears the marks of Dorian’s bad habits and cruelty, his innocent and
youthful face never changes. As he sets out on a mission to experience every type of
pleasure that the world has to offer, he discovers that he can get away with anything.
Even murder.

Via Flickr

The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. When it was first released, its
homoerotic undertones and harsh criticism of strict Victorian morality made it wildly

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controversial. The novel was even used as evidence against Wilde when he was tried for
“gross indecency.” Today it is considered classic literature and often read in high school
and college English classes. The book’s themes, as well as the author himself, continue
to intrigue readers. Wilde challenges people to look at the way they live their lives and
question their happiness. Are they freely pursuing happiness or constricting their personal
growth by repressing their desires?

Although written over 100 years ago, the story’s intrigue still holds up and even manages
to deliver quite a few shocking moments. As Dorian plunges into the grimy underworld of
Victorian London, he does things that many people would condemn in public while
secretly wishing that they could do the same. Perhaps this is why The Picture of Dorian
Gray has been adapted into numerous movies. There is nothing sweeter than forbidden
fruit.

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Introducing the Author

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage
to commit.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland on October 16, 1854 to
Jane Francesca Elgee and William Wilde. Oscar began his schooling at the Portora Royal
School in Enniskillen from 1864 to 1871 where he stood out for his drawing prowess and
his success in studying the classics. After being awarded the Royal School Scholarship,
Oscar went on to attend Trinity College in Dublin, excelling in the study of the classics and
earning three of the college’s highest honors – a Foundation Scholarship, the Berkeley
Gold Medal for Greek, and a Demyship Scholarship to Magdalen College in Oxford.

While at Oxford, Oscar met Walter Pater with whom he founded the Aesthetic Movement,
which espoused “art for art’s sake.” He also continued to excel academically and
artistically, winning the Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna in 1878.

Upon graduation in 1878, Oscar settled in London and published his first collection of
poetry, Poems, in 1881. The following year he traveled to the United States and Canada
to lecture on aestheticism.

In 1884, Oscar married an intelligent and outspoken woman named Constance Mary
Lloyd with whom he had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. To support his new family, Oscar
worked for the Woman’s World magazine and the Pall Mall Gazette. He then experienced
the most successful years of his life. Between 1888 and 1895, Oscar Wilde produced two
collections of children’s stories, his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and a
succession of successful plays — Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance,
An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Oscar met Lord Alfred Douglas “Bosie” in 1891 and they quickly became inseparable
lovers, even openly living together. In April 1895, Oscar sued Bosie’s father, the Marquis
of Queensberry, for accusing him of homosexuality. Nothing came of the case, but it led
to Oscar’s arrest for “gross indecency.” He served a sentence of two years of hard labor
at Reading Gaol near London.

Oscar never fully recovered from his time spent in jail. Constance took the children to

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Switzerland and officially changed their names to Holland. He moved to Paris and wrote
under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmouth. Unfortunately, Oscar could never successfully
find his artistic voice again.

After a deathbed baptism into the Roman Catholic Church, Oscar Wilde died of meningitis
on November 30, 1900. At his side was his longtime friend and lover, Robert Baldwin
“Robbie” Ross.

Via Fotopedia

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Overall Summary

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.
This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated.
For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly
written. That is all.

Via Flickr

When Basil Hallward meets Dorian Gray at a party hosted by Lady Brandon, he feels as if
fate had brought them together. He knew that his life had changed forever. Basil, a
prominent artist, convinces Dorian to sit for him as a model. He produces quite a few
portraits of the beautiful young man with the golden curls and innocent face, but it isn’t
until Basil paints a life size portrait of Dorian that his masterpiece is realized.

When Lord Henry Wotton visits Basil and sees the portrait, he recognizes both the beauty
of the work and the model. He demands to meet Dorian Gray, something that Basil does
not want him to do. Dorian is innocent and Basil fears that Henry’s influence will corrupt
the young man. But just as Henry is getting ready to leave, the butler announces Dorian’s

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arrival.

As Basil finishes up the portrait, Henry transfixes Dorian by telling him that life should be
experienced to the fullest, which means pursuing pleasure at all costs. He tells Dorian
that youth and beauty are fleeting and that he should fill his life with as much pleasure as
possible before he descends into old age and loses his beauty. Influenced by Henry’s
words about the impermanence of his youthful beauty and overcome by Basil’s stunning
portrait, Dorian proclaims that he would give his soul to remain forever just as he is at
that moment. He wishes that the painting would age instead of him.

Taking Henry’s advice to heart, Dorian wanders into a dingy playhall one night and falls
madly in love with Sibyl Vane, a beautiful and talented young actress. After weeks of
watching her perform all of Shakespeare’s heroines, he proposes marriage. Ecstatic, he
enlists Henry and Basil to come see his new love. When she performs horribly, Dorian is
heartbroken. After the show he goes to see Sibyl, who claims that she acted so poorly
because she now knows real love. Dorian was only ever attracted to her talent, so he tells
her that she killed his love and will never see her again.

That night Dorian returns home to discover that Basil’s portrait has changed. The once
angelic expression now has a hint of cruelty around the mouth. He realizes that his wish
has come true and that the painting will show the marks of sin and age, while his
appearance remains the same. He vows to make amends to Sibyl the next day and
attempt to reverse the transformation.

Henry visits Dorian the next day and tells him that it is too late to make amends. Sibyl
killed herself after the show the night before. Dorian is shocked, but Henry convinces him
that Sibyl’s death was romantic and not something to fret about. Dorian decides not to
think on the death anymore.

During the years that follow, pursues every type of pleasure possible without any thought
to morality. He indulges in opium, ruins young women, and lures young men into a similar
lifestyle. Though his face remains that of an innocent youth, his portrait becomes
hideous.

One night just before Dorian is about to turn 38, Basil visits on his way to the train station.
He is one his way to Paris for a six month trip, but he first wanted to warn Dorian about
the horrible rumors circulating about him. Instead of telling Basil that the rumors are all
false, Dorian shows his old friend the transformed painting. Basil is horrified and tells
Dorian to pray for forgiveness, but Dorian is instead consumed with a sudden rage and
stabs Basil to death.

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Dorian quickly and easily covers up Basil’s murder without any signs of guilt. He believes
his worries are over until he runs into James Vane, Sibyl’s brother, in an opium den.
James has vowed to revenge his sister’s death and believes that he has found the culprit
when a prostitute refers to Dorian as Prince Charming, Sibyl’s nickname for him. Dorian
convinces James that he has the wrong man since Sibyl’s suitor would be much older than
he. After Dorian has gotten away, James realizes his mistake and begins hunting down
the man who wronged his sister.

Before James can make his move, however, he is accidentally shot by one of the guests
hunting in the park near Dorian’s country estate. Dorian feels that he has been saved and
vows to live a more virtuous life. After attempting to do a good deed, he runs back to his
portrait to see if there has been any change for the better. He finds that his face now has
the mark of hypocrisy and realizes that it is too late. He decides to continue his amoral
life, but first takes a knife to the painting in order to destroy the evidence of his corrupted
soul.

When Dorian’s servants hear a scream from upstairs, they break down the door to their
master’s old schoolroom. Hanging on the wall is Basil’s beautiful portrait, and underneath
lies a gruesome-looking man with a knife in his chest.

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Discussion & Analysis

II.

Discussion & Analysis

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Chapter-by-Chapter

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the
soul.

Chapter One

Summary

Lord Henry Wotton is visiting his friend Basil Hallward, a famous artist, who is almost
finished with a new portrait featuring a beautiful young man. Henry believes that the
painting is Basil’s best piece of work and urges his friend to exhibit it. Basil refuses saying
that there is too much of himself in the piece. He explains to a disbelieving Henry that the
Dorian Gray, the subject of the piece, has had a profound effect on him. Basil does his
best work when Dorian is around and he is not happy unless Dorian is in his presence.
Henry demands an introduction, but Basil does not want his new friend to be tainted by
his old one.

Commentary

Although Basil calls his affections for Dorian a “curious artistic idolatry,” he describes all
the symptoms of love. Victorian England considered The Picture of Dorian Gray to be
quite scandalous for many reasons, one of which was the homoerotic undertones. In this
first chapter, the homoeroticism is not just an undertone. Henry spends quite a lot of time
admiring Dorian’s beauty, even going so far as to proclaim that he is more beautiful than
the garden’s flowers. Basil is obviously consumed with love for Dorian, which is probably
the primary reason that he does not what Henry to meet the object of his affection. This
first chapter is an ode to male beauty, a love letter to Wilde’s real life Dorian.

Chapter Two

Summary

Just as Basil tells Henry that he can’t meet Dorian Gray, the butler announces the youth’s
arrival. Now Basil has no choice but to introduce the two men. Although Basil warns
Dorian that Henry is a bad influence, Dorian is immediately captivated by the charming
Henry who tells him that “the highest of all duties is the duty that one owes to one’s self.”

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While Basil puts the finishing touches on the portrait, Henry takes Dorian out to the
garden where he tells the young man that his youth and beauty are his greatest qualities
and that he should enjoy them to the fullest before they fade. When Basil calls the men
inside to view the finished painting, Dorian is so moved by his own beauty and disturbed
by Henry’s lecture that he proclaims that he would give his soul if only the picture would
age and he would remain young and beautiful for forever.

Commentary

To Henry, Dorian is an experiment. He tells Dorian everything that he does not because
he necessarily believes everything that he says, but simply because he wants to see the
youth’s reaction. At this point in the story, Dorian is a blank slate. Basil wants to keep him
that way, but Henry wants to awaken him and see what happens. And what happens is
that Dorian becomes aware for the first time that he is beautiful, and that with beauty
comes power — something he sells his soul to protect. Fifteen minutes with Henry and
Dorian has already changed.

Chapter Three

Summary

Henry is fascinated by Dorian Gray. He goes to his irascible uncle Lord Fermor to find out
more about the youth’s background. He learns that Dorian’s mother, Margaret Devereux,
was a beautiful noblewoman who married a common soldier for love. Though it is not
known for sure, everyone suspected that her father Lord Kelso had the soldier killed.
Margaret died soon thereafter, leaving Dorian to be raised by Lord Kelso.

After learning about Dorian’s family, Henry continues on to Lady’ Agatha’s for a lunch
where he shocks everyone at the table by saying that people should seek out pleasure
whether society thinks it is moral or immoral. Dorian, who is in attendance, is fascinated.

Commentary

Henry doesn’t seem to understand that he is playing with fire by telling Dorian to seek out
pleasure at whatever cost. As Basil fell in love with Dorian, Dorian seems to be falling in
love with Henry. Or perhaps Dorian is simply enamoured with the way of life that Henry
suggests. Whatever the strange and intense fascination that is transpiring between the
two, however, it is clearly toxic. Dorian believes everything that Henry says, even though
it doesn’t seem like Henry completely believes what comes out of his own mouth. One
thing is for sure, Henry certainly does not live the way that he tells Dorian to live.

Chapter Four

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Summary

Over a month later, Dorian visits Henry and tells him that he is madly in love with a
beautiful actress named Sibyl Vane. He discovered his love while wondering around
London’s slums. Intent on following Henry’s missive to “know everything about life,”
Dorian wandered into a tacky little playhouse that specializes in Shakespeare plays.
Romeo and Juliet was playing that night and it was terrible until the angelic Sibyl Vane
appeared on stage. He was transfixed and has gone every night to see Sibyl perform all
of Shakespeare’s heroines. When he finally met the young actress, she took to calling him
Prince Charming. Before Dorian rushes off to catch that night’s show, he makes Henry
promise to bring Basil so that both men can see Sibyl’s beauty and exquisite acting. Later
that night, Henry receives a telegram from Dorian stating that he is engaged to Sibyl
Vane.

Commentary

After the first three chapters that focused primarily on male beauty and relationships
between men, the sudden presence of Sibyl Vane is jarring. It is clear from the beginning
that she is doomed, that Dorian’s love for her is an illusion. He barely knows the girl; he is
in love with the characters she portrays on stage, with art. Just as Henry’s love for his
wife is a farce, so are all of the relationships between men and women in this book. The
only real, lasting love is between Dorian, Basil, and Henry. There is room for nothing else.

Chapter Five

Summary

Sibyl Vane is overcome with the joy of her first real love. Her mother, an aging actress, is
hopeful that this mystery “Prince Charming” has good intentions and will be a favorable
match for her daughter. Sibyl’s younger brother, James, is doubtful that his sister’s suitor
has good intentions. Unfortunately, he has just signed up to be a sailor on a ship to
Australia, so he has to trust his mother to watch over his sister. James warns Sibyl about
her suitor, but she just laughs him off. He claims that he will kill the man who harms her.
Before he leaves for Australia, James learns that his mother had both he and his sister
out of wedlock. He makes his mother promise that Sibyl won’t meet a similar fate.

Commentary

If there was any doubt that Sibyl and Dorian’s relationship is doomed, this chapter makes
it clear that things cannot end well for the little actress. James’s premonition that he is

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leaving his sister when she needs him most, along with the revelation of his mother’s
fate, foreshadows Sibyl’s future undoing. One must not forget that when Dorian’s mother
tried to marry beneath her station for love, it did not end well either. Whether death or
disgrace comes to Sibyl, it is not clear, but she will not survive this love affair unscathed.
Her blind joy just makes the situation all the more tragic.

Chapter Six

Summary

Henry, Basil, and Dorian are meeting for dinner before going to see Sibyl perform in
Romeo and Juliet, but Dorian is late. Henry tells Basil about their friend’s engagement.
Basil is shocked and expresses worry over Dorian marrying so far beneath him. Henry
believes that even though the romance probably won’t end well, everything will be fine
because it is all a part of Dorian’s growth. When Dorian arrives, he can barely contain his
excitement over Sibyl. They had kissed the night before and he could feel her fall in love
with him. He tells Henry that his beliefs about the virtues of selfishness are all wrong.

Commentary

Basil may claim that he doesn’t approve of the engagement because Sibyl is of a lower
class, but there is definitely a hint of jealousy in his reaction. Henry, on the other hand,
knows that his influence over Dorian is never really in jeopardy. He knows that Dorian’s
so-called love for Sibyl is too intense and has happened too quickly to last for very long.
Dorian claims that he no longer believes in the Henry’s theories concerning selfishness,
but his love for Sibyl is at its heart selfish. He wants to own Sibyl’s art, to be in possession
of all Shakespeare’s heroines. He loves Sibyl’s beauty and talent, much as he loves his
own, but he does not actually love her.

Chapter Seven

Summary

That night, Sibyl’s acting is terrible. Dorian is horrified and heartbroken at this unexpected
negative transformation. Basil and Henry leave during intermission, though they do say
that she is pretty despite being a terrible actress. When Dorian visits Sibyl backstage, she
explains that she was so terrible because now that she know what real love is, she cannot
pretend to be in love. Dorian tells her that he loved her for her art, that she has killed his
love with her bad performance. He tells her that he will never see her again and leaves
her heartbroken and crying in her dressing room.

When Dorian returns home that night he notices that his portrait has changed. The mouth

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has changed into a sneer. He realizes that his wish had come true and that the painting
would bear the marks of life. Suddenly shameful of his behavior towards Sibyl, he decides
to make amends to her the next day.

Commentary

This chapter proves that Dorian is, in fact, driven by selfishness and vanity. If he had
really loved Sibyl, he would have forgiven her the bad performance. In fact, it wouldn’t
have mattered at all. His harsh overreaction just proves that he did in fact only love the
illusion of Sybil and that he has become completely self-absorbed. If the painting hadn’t
changed, it never even would have occurred to him that he had been cruel to Sibyl. Even
his decision to make amends to her is driven by selfishness; he doesn’t want this event to
stain his conscious in such an ugly way.

Chapter Eight

Summary

When Dorian checks the painting the next morning in the light of day, the cruelness in the
expression is still there. He tries to think up some logical explanation, but comes up dry.
He decides to write a passionate love letter to Sibyl to make things right. Henry arrives
soon after with the news that Sibyl killed herself the night before. Dorian is stunned, but
Henry tells him not to feel guilty or depressed. By taking her own life Sibyl died artistically
and beautifully, the perfect end to a love affair. Dorian eventually buys into Henry’s
interpretation of events and decides to give himself completely to seeking out the
pleasures that life has to offer. After all, the painting will bear the marks of time and sin.
His own appearance will always be that of a beautiful young innocent.

Commentary

The decision that Dorian makes to embrace the hedonist’s life is a huge turning point. He
may have already unintentionally sold his soul for eternal youth, but he makes the
conscious decision to life of corruption and greed. He makes the decision to diminish the
tragedy of Sibyl’s death. Of course, he makes this decision with a lot of help from Henry.
Although Henry himself does not lead a life of sin, he seems to rejoice in the sinfulness of
others. He is beginning to resemble a Mephistopheles-like character.

Chapter Nine

Summary

Basil visits the day after Dorian receives news of Sibyl’s death. He is heartbroken for his

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young friend, assuming that he would find Dorian inconsolable. On the contrary, Dorian
has bought into everything that Henry has told him and feels fine about the whole thing.
Basil is horrified by Dorian’s heartlessness and blames the change in demeanor on
Henry’s influence. When Dorian refuses Basil to mention the girl’s death again, Basil
complies and then notices that the portrait he had painted of Dorian is now covered. He
asks about it and if he can borrow it to show in an exhibition. Dorian panics and says that
not only can Basil not exhibit the portrait, but he can never see it again. After a puzzled
Basil leaves, Dorian decides that he must hide the painting.

Commentary

Though Dorian and Henry find Basil boring and tiresome, he acts as the voice of reason.
When the other two men dismiss Sibyl’s death as a lovely romantic gesture, Basil sees the
tragedy. He sees that her death is not art, but a sordid suicide in a dingy playhouse
dressing room. And yet, Basil forgives Dorian for his heartlessness and places the blame
for the ugly transformation on Henry. As a result Dorian escapes being held accountable
for his cruelties by the law, his conscious, and his friends. By turning a blind eye to
Dorian’s behavior, Basil becomes an unwitting accomplice on his friend’s journey down
the path of unchecked hedonism.

Chapter Ten

Summary

Basil’s near discovery of the change in the portrait was a close call that Dorian does not
want to risk again. He calls the frame-maker to come with an assistant to move the
painting to his childhood school room. There he feels that his secret will be safe from
prying eyes and he alone will be free to observe the changes in his portrait. Much
relaxed, Dorian sits down to read a book that Henry sent him. It portrays a young Parisian
who devotes himself to the pursuit of all pleasures regardless of whether or not they are
considered moral. Dorian quickly becomes engrossed.

Commentary

Already the portrait is starting to drive Dorian a little mad. He is so paranoid that
someone will see the painting and his true colors that he must hide it away under lock
and key. He is obviously horrified by the change in the painting, but he also seems to be
intrigued by it. This is also the case with the book that Henry sends him. Dorian knows
that what Henry tells him, what the painting shows him, and the lifestyle that the book
urges him towards is wrong, but that seems to make him want to embrace unbridled
pleasure all the more.

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Chapter Eleven

Summary

Dorian becomes obsessed with the “poisonous book” given to him by Henry. As the years
pass, he pursues every type of pleasure without restraint. Soon people begin to whisper
about Dorian’s rumored sordid behavior. It seems that every good woman and innocent
youth that become entangled in Dorian’s intoxicatingly charming web soon find
themselves ruined soon afterward.

And yet, his unchanged look of innocent youth make it hard to believe the stories. Only
the painting is changed over time, growing monstrous with the effects of old age and sin.
Dorian watches the change with fascination and even a little bit of pride.

Commentary

The innocent youth that first appeared in Basil’s drawing room is completely gone now.
Dorian has embraced his pursuit of pleasure without any regard for other people. And
why should he? He knows that he will never be held accountable for his actions. His face
will never bear the marks of a life lived in the fast lane, and as long as he looks innocent
and continues to throw good parties, society will believe him to be nothing more than a
rich, charming playboy. He has gone so far down the road of immorality that he is
actually proud of how grotesque the painting has become. It seems to serve not as a
reminder of all the horrible things he has done, but of how he’s gotten away with each
and every one of them.

Chapter Twelve

Summary

On a foggy night right before his 38th birthday, Dorian runs into Basil on the street.
Although Dorian doesn’t really want to see his old friend, Basil insists that they return to
Dorian’s house to talk. Basil is leaving for a six-month trip to Paris that night and he needs
to warn Dorian about the horrible rumors circulating about him. He says that while he
doesn’t believe the rumors, especially after looking upon Dorian’s angelic face, he
wonders why so many of Dorian’s friends have fallen to ruin. Basil realizes that he doesn’t
really know his friend anymore and says that he wishes that he could see into his soul for
answers. Dorian invites Basil upstairs so that he may have his questions answered.

Commentary

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Poor Basil still clings to his romanticized vision of Dorian. He still believes that beauty on
the outside is a sign of beauty on the inside. His love and lust for Dorian has blinded him
to the ugliness of the man. Even though the truth of Dorian’s evilness is right in front of
his face, Basil can’t stand the truth. But Dorian wants him to see the truth. He wants to
hurt Basil in the worst way possible; he wants to break his heart. Dorian knows of Basil’s
love and he wants to crush that love by showing him what has become of the painting.

Chapter Thirteen

Summary

Dorian shows Basil the hideously transformed painting. At first the painter does not even
recognize his own work, but then he sees his signature in the corner. As he reveals the
truth behind the portrait’s transformation, Dorian is almost gleefully proud. Basil is
horrified and feels that this is the punishment for his blind love towards Dorian. He begs
his friend to pray for forgiveness, but Dorian suddenly feels a rush of anger and
repeatedly stabs Basil. Quickly, Dorian hides Basil’s belongings, locks the door of the
schoolroom, and goes outside to pretend that he has just returned home.

Commentary

It is clear that Dorian blames Basil for what has happened to him. After all, it was Basil
who painted the picture and Basil who made him aware of his own beauty, which set
everything in motion. Dorian is incapable of taking any responsibility for his own actions.
He has been able to engage in all sorts of cruelty, but feel none of the repercussions.
Even killing Basil, one of his good friends, seems to have no effect on him. He convinces
himself that his friend deserved what he got. Nevermind that it was Dorian who made the
wish for eternal youth and Dorian who succumbed to meanness.

Chapter Fourteen

Summary

Dorian wakes up the next morning and the events of the night before begin to sink in,
though he feels hatred instead of remorse. Why did Basil make him do that? Now he has
a huge mess to clean up. Dorian sends a letter to an old friend and chemist, Alan
Campbell, asking for his help. Campbell reluctantly comes and Dorian asks him to clean
up the body upstairs. When Campbell refuses, Dorian blackmails him into doing the job.
Six hours later, the body is gone and Dorian’s portrait has hands dripping with red paint.

Commentary

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Discussion & Analysis

Even in the light of day, Dorian shows no guilt over killing one of his oldest friends. All he
feels is hatred and fear of being found out. Dorian has become a true sociopath.
Blackmailing Alan Campbell into disposing of the body is just more proof of the
degenerate he has become. Poor Campbell seemed to know that whatever Dorian
wanted of him was going to be something awful, but he came anyway. Dorian seems to
have a real power over people, and he uses that power to quite literally get away with
murder.

Chapter Fifteen

Summary

That same evening, Dorian goes to a party at Lady Narborough’s house. He is charming,
but seems distracted. Lady Narborough, an older woman known for her goodness, has
taken quite a liking to Dorian. She chatters away and does not even notice the extent of
Dorian’s distraction. Henry is also in attendance and when he asks his friend about his
mood, Dorian says that he must return home. When he finally escapes to the privacy of
his own drawing room, he burns all of Basils belongings. Then he hires a coach to take
him to a seedy London district filled with opium dens.

Commentary

At first it seems like Dorian is finally feeling guilt over killing Basil, but it soon becomes
clear that his distraction at the party comes from fear of getting caught. The body is
gone, but the clean up is not quite complete. And yet, is Dorian ever really in any danger
of being found out? There is no body, Basil’s belongings are carefully hidden, and Dorian’s
beauty and charm seem to do a very good job of hiding his true nature. Basil’s murder
appears to have been the perfect crime. No one will even miss him for at least a few
months.

Chapter Sixteen

Summary

Dorian is determined to forget his sins, which he is sure are never to be forgiven. He goes
to an opium den where he finds one of the youths that he has supposedly corrupted. As
he goes to leave, a scorned prostitute calls him “Prince Charming,” which catches the
attention of a sailor sitting nearby. The sailor follows Dorian out into the street and holds
him at gunpoint. It is James Vane, who only knows his sister’s scoundrel suitor as “Prince
Charming.” Just as he is about to shoot Dorian in revenge for his sister’s death, Dorian
tells him that he is too young to be the culprit. James lets him go, but the prostitute from

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Discussion & Analysis

the opium den tells him that Dorian’s looks haven’t changed in years. James realizes his
mistake and promises to hunt down and kill Dorian.

Commentary

At last Wilde shows the reader how far Dorian has sunk into London’s grime. In just a few
pages, it becomes clear that Dorian is an opium addict, he has ruined young men’s lives,
and he has destroyed the women who have loved him. And for a moment it seems that
he is at last going to be held responsible for his actions. James Vane is a good person with
a troubled soul. His horror when he believes that he almost shot an innocent man is a
stark contrast to Dorian’s nonchalance at actually shooting an innocent man. A
showdown seems to be inevitable.

Chapter Seventeen

Summary

A week later, Dorian hosts a group of guests at his country estate in Selby. Among the
guests are Henry, the Duchess of Monmouth, and the Duchess’s husband. They talk of
beauty and love, and Henry shocks the crowd with his usual irreverent quips. Dorian, of
course, agrees wholeheartedly with Henry’s assertions.

When Dorian leaves to get the Duchess some flowers, Henry teases her about her
flirtations with their host. Their discussion is interrupted, however, when they hear Dorian
collapse in the next room. When he comes to, Dorian recalls with terror that his faint had
been precipitated by the vision of James Vane’s face in the conservatory window.

Commentary

Now that the extent of Dorian’s corruption is known, it is difficult to stand his flirtations
with the Duchess. While perhaps not a particularly good woman, the Duchess is a smart
woman. It seems strange that even she should fall prey to Dorian’s charms. But maybe
she is like all the rest, wanting to believe that beauty is synonymous with goodness. James
Vane’s appearance is welcome because he is the most likely character to save the
Duchess from ruin.

Chapter Eighteen

Summary

For an entire day, Dorian is haunted by the image of James Vane’s face in the window. he
cannot bring himself to even leave the house for three days. When he does finally
venture outdoors, he goes with a shooting party to the park. One of Dorian’s guests

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shoots at a hare and hits it, but he also hits a man who was hiding in the forest. Dorian is
upset because he considers this a bad omen, but Henry dismisses the whole thing as a
nuisance and nothing more. It is not until later in the day that Dorian discovers that the
man who was shot was James Vane. At last he feels completely safe.

Commentary

Henry had always seemed like a shallow and callous man, but it is not until his heartless
reaction to the unknown man’s death that it is clear just how disgusting a person he is
and probably always has been. What makes his meanness worse than Dorian’s is that he
is completely aware of it; in fact he has cultivated it. One could argue that he cultivated
Dorian’s lack of morals as well. And it seems that, for the moment at least, the “bad
guys” have won. James’s sudden death is extremely anti-climactic.

Chapter Nineteen

Summary

Several weeks later, Dorian visits Henry and tells him about his decision to be virtuous. He
claims to have started out by sparing a young innkeeper’s daughter. He had seduced the
innocent young girl, but at the last minute decided not to run away with her. Henry points
out that this was actually a selfish act because Dorian had only “spared” the girl so that
he could feel good about himself. The conversation then turns to Basil’s disappearance
and Alan Campbell’s suicide. No one really suspects foul play, so it appears that Dorian is
in the clear.

Commentary

Henry’s one redeeming character trait is that he is not afraid to speak the truth to
people. Dorian’s turn towards virtue is entirely a selfish act. He wants the picture to
become less horrible. And besides, he didn’t exactly spare the girl either. He made her
love him and then broke her heart. A broken heart, especially in one so young and
innocent, has the power to drastically change a life. Dorian, of course, wouldn’t recognize
this because he only cares about himself and his own pleasure. Once he got pleasure
from going to opium dens and ruining young ladies, not he gets pleasure out of
supposedly saving innocents. The irony that is completely lost on him is that he was
saving a girl from himself.

Chapter Twenty

Summary

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Dorian believes that the decision to live a good life from now on will have already
changed the portrait. When he looks upon it, however, it is even more hideous than
before. Now lines created by cruelty have been joined by the marks of hypocrisy. He
realizes that it is too late for change and decides to continue his evil ways. No one would
ever know unless they see the picture, so he decides to take a knife the painting and
destroy it. When Dorian plunges the knife into the canvas, his servants hear a cry of
anguish. They break into the schoolroom and find Dorian Gray’s beautiful portrait hanging
on the wall untouched. Underneath lies the body of a grotesque man with a knife in his
chest. It takes them awhile to realize that the hideous creature is their master.

Commentary

What Dorian never understood was that the painting was the real Dorian Gray. He always
viewed it as something separate from himself. It bore the marks of his age and
corruption so that he wouldn’t have to. He was so accustomed to a life without
accountability that he never questioned what the transforming painting actually meant.
The portrait was always the real Dorian Gray, while the flesh and blood man was the
illusion. Of course destroying the painting would destroy him. At long last Dorian Gray is
held accountable for his many misdeeds, and it is only fitting that it was Dorian’s hatred
of all things ugly that led to his demise.

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Discussion & Analysis

Via Flickr

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... Key Information

III.

Key Information

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Character List

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man who first becomes aware of his beauty and charm
after Basil Hallward paints his portrait. Upon seeing his likeness, Dorian makes a wish that
he could stay as lovely as he is in the picture and that the picture would instead grow old.
At first an innocent youth, Dorian is led by Lord Henry Wotton to live a life that embraces
every type of experience — good or bad. True to his wish, the picture grows old and
shows the marks of the terrible things that Dorian does, while Dorian himself remains
unchanged. By the end of the story, Dorian is a fully corrupted monster.

Lord Henry Wotton

Lord Henry Wotton is a witty and charming man who is irreverent of everything —
marriage, love, religion, friendship, philanthropy, and morals. Although he does not live a
debauched life, he encourages Dorian Gray to live one because he is interested in what
will happen. Henry is interested in life and the people he influences with his wit, but has
no real connection to either.

Basil Hallward

Basil Hallward is a good man and a great painter. He falls in love with Dorian Gray when
Dorian is still a young and innocent youth. Basil is horrified when he sees the transformed
painting and realizes that Dorian has become a monster. When Basil tells Dorian that he
must change his evil ways, Dorian kills him.

Sibyl Vane

Sibyl Vane is a young, romantic girl who falls madly in love with Dorian Gray. Although a
talented actress, she finds that she cannot act love once she has experienced it in real
life. She kills herself when Dorian spurns her affections.

James Vane

James Vane is Sibyl’s younger brother who leaves as a sailor on a ship bound for Australia

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the night that his sister dies. He is a serious man who vows to kill Sibyl’s unknown suitor if
he wrongs her in any way. James is accidentally shot to death while he is following Dorian
Gray.

Mrs. Vane

Mrs. Vane is the mother of Sibyl and James. She is an aging actress who performs even
when not on stage.

Alan Campbell

Alan Campbell was once a close friend of Dorian Gray’s, but they had a falling out.
Campbell is a scientist who loves music. Dorian blackmails him into disposing of Basil
Hallward’s body, but Campbell commits suicide soon after.

Lady Brandon

Lady Brandon is a silly woman who loves to play hostess. She introduced Dorian Gray and
Basil Hallward.

Lady Agatha

Lady Agatha is a well-known philanthropist and amateur musician who tries to involve
Dorian Gray in her charities.

Lord Fermor

Lord Fermor is Lord Henry Wotton’s irascible uncle. He tells Henry about Dorian Gray’s
family history.

Margaret Devereux

Margaret Devereux is Dorian Gray’s mother. She was a beautiful woman who married
beneath her station out of love. Her husband was killed soon into the marriage and she
died soon after him.

Lord Kelso

Lord Kelso is Dorian Gray’s grandfather and Margaret Devereux’s father. He was an
unkind person while he lived and treated both his daughter and his grandson poorly.

Mr. Isaacs

Mr. Isaacs is the Shakespeare-loving owner of the theatre in which Sibyl Vane and Mrs.
Vane worked.

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Victoria Wotton

Victoria Wotton is Henry Wotton’s wife. She is a rather plain, silly woman who loves both
religion and music. She has a penchant for pianist, and ends up running away with one.

Lady Gwendolen

Lady Gwendolen is Henry Wotton’s sister. She is charming with a spotless reputation until
she starts socializing with Dorian Gray.

Lady Narborough

Lady Narborough is a francophile who is quite fond of Dorian Gray. She is an older
woman who promises Dorian that she will find him a suitable wife.

Madame de Ferrol

Madame de Ferrol is a woman who dresses scandalously and has married four times. She
and Dorian Gray are quite close for awhile.

Duchess of Monmouth

The Duchess of Monmouth is a witty woman married to a boring man. She thinks she may
be in love with Dorian Gray.

Sir Geoffrey Clouston

Sir Geoffrey Clouston is the Duchess’s brother. He ends up accidentally shooting James
Vane while aiming for a hare.

Hetty Merton

Hetty Merton is the young, innocent farm girl that Dorian Gray seduces and then decides
not to tarnish. He leaves her heartbroken but still virtuous.

Victor

Victor is one of Dorian Gray’s servants. He is a quiet man who serves his master well,
although Dorian has suspicions that Victor is crafty and spying on him.

Mrs. Leaf

Mrs. Leaf is an older woman who is Dorian Gray’s housekeeper.

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Key Terms & Definitions

Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond
of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless
word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the
caprice lasts a little longer.

Brougham

A brougham is a 19th century horse-drawn carriage with four wheels that sits two
passengers in an enclosed body with a glazed front window and two doors. The driver sits
in an open-air box in front.

Bushrangers

Bushrangers were British convicts in Australia who had run away and learned to survive in
the bush. Soon “bushranger” came to refer to thieves who roamed the roads and robbed
travelers.

Dandyism

Dandyism refers to a way of life or culture in which appearance is extremely important.
Dandies are men who dress fashionably, have a highly refined way of speaking, make a
career out of leisurely activities, and do it all with an air of nonchalance. Although dandies
were usually middle class men, aristocrats were also dandies.

Dalmatic

A dalmatic is a liturgical vestment that looks like a long tunic with large sleeves.

Darwinismus Movement

The Darwinismus Movement was the move by German intellectuals to integrate Darwin’s
theory of evolution into mainstream society.

Decolletee

Decolletee refers to a low-cut dress that that leaves the neck, shoulders, and cleavage
showing.

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Drop-Scene

A drop-scene is a curtain with a picture or background painted on it. It is used in the
theatre as a backdrop behind the players to set the scene, or as a decorative curtain in
the front of the stage that is raised when the play begins.

English Blue Book

“English Blue Book” refers to an official compilation of information, which can be an
almanac, a collection of statistics, a list of government officials, or any other such list of
facts.

Hansom

A hansom is a 19th century cart with two wheels that can accommodate two passengers
and is drawn by one horse. The driver stands behind the passenger’s compartment.
Hansoms were known for their speed, safety, and maneuverability.

Prussic Acid

Prussic acid is a highly poisonous solution of water and hydrogen cyanide. It is often used
for fumigation.

Tory

Tory refers to a prominent British political party that supports traditionalist, conservative
views.

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Major Themes & Symbols

Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural
thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if
there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s
music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-
development. To realize one’s nature perfectly — that is what each of us is here for.
People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties,
the duty that one owes to oneself. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry,
and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out
of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of
morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion — these are the two things that
govern us.

It’s a Man’s World: Misogyny and Male Love in The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde is one of literature’s most fascinating and famous literary homosexuals. He
flaunted his romances with other men in a time when being openly gay was illegal. And,
in fact, Wilde suffered for his flamboyance with a two-year prison sentence. One of the
pieces of evidence in the trial against the author was The Picture of Dorian Gray. So
much of the beginning text focuses on male beauty. The first chapters are in fact
believed to have been a type of love letter to a real life Dorian Gray.

While Wilde seems to dismiss all relationships between men and women as passing
fancies, the relationships between the men are strong and long-lasting. Basil’s love for
Dorian is so intense that it consumes him entirely. Basil is so blinded by his love that he
refuses to see the change in Dorian by the end of the story. While the relationship
between Dorian and Henry is not as overtly romantic, they are clearly drawn to each
other. All three of the leading men may be deeply flawed, but they are each powerful and
well-developed characters.

The women, on the other hand, are portrayed as ridiculous creatures who are a
necessary nuisance in life. Sometimes a man can find some enjoyment in one, but not for
long. All of the ladies flitting around Dorian are pathetic. The older ladies that flirt
mercilessly with the handsome young man are parodies of themselves, while the young

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ladies are simply fools for allowing charm and beauty to lead them to ruin.

Even poor Sibyl Vane is more pathetic than romantic. She stepped from Shakespeare’s
fantasy world into Dorian’s. She never really loved him; she loved being in love. And
Dorian never loved Sibyl either. Though she was kind, he never loved her for the
personality he knew nothing of. Though she was beautiful, he never loved her for her
looks. He loved her for her art. His heart was broken when she threw away her art. Her
heart was broken because he destroyed her fantasy world. But while Sibyl’s broken heart
destroyed her, Dorian’s only made him stronger.

The Battle Between Goodness and Pleasure

Oscar Wilde was one of the most famous leaders and symbols of the Aesthetic Movement
in the late 1800s. He strongly believed that art should be done for art’s sake and that
people should live an uncensored life of pleasure. Wilde even opens The Picture of Dorian
Gray by declaring that no book is moral or immoral, but simply well-written or poorly
written.

Some critics believe that The Picture of Dorian Gray is an argument for a purely aesthetic
life. On the contrary, the text is much more nuanced than that. Dorian Gray’s life is
devoted purely to the pursuit of pleasure without paying any attention to morality or how
his actions affect others. His pleasures end up leading to his own destruction, which is not
exactly a great endorsement of aestheticism.

Henry acts as the book’s spokesperson for aestheticism, and while many of his ideas are
shocking even today, some of them do ring true. The Victorian era was known for its
over-the-top emphasis on morality and suppressing one’s passions. As a result, hypocrisy
was common. Henry challenges the other characters to be true to themselves and not
hide behind decorum. he follows this mantra completely, but he does not set out to ruin
others and he does not visit the opium dens. He practices aestheticism to a degree, but
knows not to descend into excess. The Picture of Dorian Gray is both a warning against
excess and repression.

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Interesting Related Facts

The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The
basis of optimism is sheer terror.

Over 100 year after his death, Oscar Wilde’s overly extravagant and devastatingly
tragic life still captures the imagination. So too does The Picture of Dorian Gray, a
story that has been adapted for the film in stage as recently as 2009. Here are some
interesting facts that shed some light on both the man and his novel.

Following the June 20, 1890 publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott’s in
Philadelphia and London, M.J. Ivers & Co published a “pirated” version of the story in
New York on June 22, 1890.

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray was based on John Gray, an incredibly handsome blond
poet that Wilde met in 1889. Biographers believe that The Picture of Dorian Gray was
“a form of courtship.”

Although some critics consider The Picture of Dorian Gray to be an advertisement for
the Aesthetic Movement of which Oscar Wilde was a leader, this belief is challenged by
a letter that Wilde wrote to the St. James’s Gazette stating: “…[Dorian Gray] is a story
with a moral. And the moral is this: All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its
own punishment.”

Oscar Wilde’s mother was a feminist, Irish revolutionary, and a successful poet that
published works under the pseudonym Speranza.

Oscar Wilde’s mother wanted a girl and often dressed the young Oscar in girls’
clothing.

In addition to being a prominent eye and ear surgeon, Oscar Wilde’s father was a
notorious philanderer who had three illegitimate children before he married Jane
Francesca Elegee.

Isola Emily Francesca, Oscar Wilde’s younger sister, died of a sudden fever when she
was 10 years old. Wilde was so devastated after her death that he carried a lock of

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her hair with him at all times.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was adapted into five silent films, including a 1918
Hungarian version entitled Az Elet kiralya.

Between 1945 and 2009, there have been eight sound film adaptations of The Picture
of Dorian Gray.

In 2007, Marvel Comics released a six-part illustrated adaptation of The Picture of
Dorian Gray.

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... References

IV.

References

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... References

Source Citation

CMG Worldwide, Oscar Wilde: Biography

The Oscar Wilde Society, Biography

The Victorian Web, Oscar Wilde: A Brief Biography

The Literature Network, Oscar Wilde: Biography

Bauman Rare Books, “Leave my book, I beg you, to the immortality that it deserves”:
First Edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Guardian, Falling out with Oscar

Boston University, The Conflict Between Aestheticism and Morality in Oscar Wilde’s
The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Poetry Foundation, Oscar Wilde: Biography

The Digital Fix, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Moria, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Marvel Comics, Marvel Illustrated: Picture of Dorian Gray

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Additional Reading

The Guardian, Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray Published

This article written by Alison Flood in 2011 announces the release of the
uncensored version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. She goes into detail about how the
book was censored even before it hit the shelves in 1891. Flood also gives the reasoning
behind the original censorship and critical response to the uncensored version.

The Telegraph, Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde by
Fanny Moyle:Review

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s review of Fanny Moyle’s Constance: The Tragic
and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde provides interesting insights not only into
Moyle’s book, but into the the life and marriage of the oft-forgotten Constance Wilde.

NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, Readers’ Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

This podcast features a discussion of the themes of art, hedonism, beauty, and pleasure.
Guests include VCU Associate Professor of English, Nicholas Frankel, GWU Director
of Creative Writing, Thomas Mallon, and former The New York Times reporter, Leslie
Maitland.

The New Yorker, A Deceptive Picture: How Oscar Wilde Painted Over “Dorian Gray”

Alex Ross’s article examines why Oscar Wilde felt that he had to “paint over”
the homoerotic descriptions in The Picture of Dorian Gray. He also discusses how
today’s lack of controversy surrounding homosexuality has changed perceptions of Wilde
and his novel.

The Victorian Web, Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray

This essay by Barbara T. Gates, Professor of English at the University of
Delaware, analyzes in the themes running throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray.
She specifically focuses on the multiple suicides that occur throughout the story.

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... References

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... About The Author
Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... About The Author

About The Author

Lacey Kohlmoos
Lacey is a writer, traveler and lover of the arts. After graduating from the
University of Virginia with a BA in Drama & the Studies of Women and
Gender, the only thing she knew for sure was that she wanted to travel.
So, she embarked on a 10 ½ month round-the-world trip. Lacey then traveled to Costa
Rica where she spent one year teaching elementary school English in a small mountain
town. Throughout her two years of travels, she has always kept a blog.

In 2009, Lacey earned her MA in International Development and began working for the
National Democratic Institute where she became the Citizen Participation Team’s primary
writer. After living and traveling in 26 different countries, she has settled down for awhile
in Leadville, CO where she spends her days skiing, hiking, taking pictures and writing.
Lacey loves writing about travel, gender issues, international development and the arts.

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Quicklet on The Picture of Dorian... About The Author

About the Publisher
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