Dorian Gray: The Ending

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Dorian Gray: The Ending

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feb 10, 2014, 12:02 pm

Spoilers, ahoy!

Although the narration states Dorian's intent in destroying the painting, and thereby freeing himself, is it likely he truly decided to stab himself instead? What is the significance of his jewels being the only identifiable thing about his body? Could they not have distinguished him based on other parts of his dress (suit, etc.)?

feb 10, 2014, 12:49 pm

Technical question first: are we supposed to use spoiler font from this point on or is the spoiler in the OP sufficient warning to keep away those who haven't finished?

feb 10, 2014, 12:53 pm

>2 LolaWalser: Good question. We're definitely not going to rigidly enforce spoiler tags, but I think they're a nice as a courtesy to other members, in general. However, given this particular thread, and the spoiler tag above, I'd say you're free to respond without using that feature.

feb 10, 2014, 1:13 pm


In answer to the OP, Dorian definitely stabbed the canvas, but as the painting WAS the real him, he in effect committed suicide.

As to what happened to his body and clothes; I suppose some lightning putrefaction/liquefaction took place, destroying everything but the relatively "eternal" precious stone and metal. A purely horror touch. :)

feb 11, 2014, 5:21 pm

I always assumed stating that the rings were the only means of identifying him was a sort of reflection on what lasts and who he had become. He had become so consumed with the youth and greed, those rings were a sort of symbol of that collection. Gems don't age, etc. Therefore, saying that the rings were the only means of identification felt to me a symbolic thing. Of course it's also true that jewelry is usually the first thing people notice when they can't figure out who a body is, if you don't know, look for the jewelry because that is usually more helpful in identification than clothing, it's typically more sentimental than the clothes, easier to put an item with the person who owned it that way.

feb 11, 2014, 9:11 pm

I do like the irony of the ageless gem being the only means of identifying him, a man who has become so corrupt, all while those around his admired his beauty, as to be unidentifiable. Particularly after Dorian's various passions, including the "study of jewels", was enumerated in Chapter Nine (with its connections to the aesthetic movement). I once had a passing fancy that Dorian's end was a commentary on aestheticism, or perhaps just others misinterpretation of the movement.

feb 11, 2014, 9:27 pm

I once had a passing fancy that Dorian's end was a commentary on aestheticism.

Interesting thought.

feb 11, 2014, 10:05 pm

#6, #7

Wilde was critical of aestheticism, Ellmann gives a good discussion of this, explaining the conflicting attractions of Ruskin and Pater, socialist humanism and amoral pursuit of beauty. I'd say that's definitely a possible reading, musecure.

Wilde could see that he was being offered not only two very different doctrines but two very different vocabularies. Though both Ruskin and Pater favored beauty, for Ruskin it had to be allied with good. For Pater it might have ever so slight a touch of evil--he rather liked the Borgias, for example. Ruskin spoke of faith; Pater spoke of mysticism, as if for him religion became bearable only when it overflowed into excess. Ruskin appealed to conscience, Pater to imagination. Ruskin invoked disciplined restraint, Pater allowed for a pleasant drift. What Ruskin loathed as vice, Pater caressed as wantoness.
--(Four Dubliners, Richard Ellmann)

feb 12, 2014, 5:14 pm

The ending is purely supernatural and definitely horror I would agree.

feb 12, 2014, 9:31 pm

8> Fascinating. you can really see this tension in Wild'es work. I think his children's stories are more Ruskin (especially The Selfish Giant), while DG is obviously much more Pater.

feb 12, 2014, 9:42 pm


Oh, yes. It's been observed that Pater's Studies in the history of the Renaissance is the first step to understanding DG. Wilde had it almost by heart.

feb 13, 2014, 11:58 am

>11 LolaWalser: Great points--It has been a year or two since I've read Pater: I found his prose rich and intricate. He encouraged prose over poetry, no? A friend told me that he would write one sentence per single sheet of paper, so that he would have ample space to carefully and extensively perfect it. Both Ruskin and Pater do make great poles of influence when reading--Wilde must have been reading particularly the rising conclusion of the study you mention:

"Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us,—for that moment only."

feb 13, 2014, 12:30 pm


That's a tremendously interesting thought, I've looked into Pater's book here and there and every page resonates with DG now; you found a particularly apt example. The pathos of evanescence (Faust's heartbreaking "verweile doch, du bist so schön"... stay, linger, you are so beautiful...) pushing one onto pernicious quests to eternalize the moment.

feb 13, 2014, 9:30 pm

….. which was Basil's initial impetus for making the portrait.

feb 14, 2014, 11:09 am


Hmmm, yes, in a way--but more as a side-effect of painting, if you see what I mean? To Basil, it's not the moment that matters, but Dorian, and to him the portrait is important not because it records Dorian's youth, but his own feelings. It is an expression of Basil's love, in the gesture (why he wanted to paint him) and in fact (what appeared on the canvas). This is why he twice decides not to exhibit it. He thinks that that--the shameful expression of his love--is the reason Dorian hides the portrait (and Dorian encourages him to think that).

He also wants to paint Dorian again. Basil wants to capture love, not a moment of time.

feb 19, 2014, 12:03 am

What if Basil had painted a second portrait of Dorian? What do you think would have happened then? Would Dorian's debauchery have been reflected in the second painting or would it have remained a painting of the original Dorian?

feb 19, 2014, 7:23 am

It would have depended on what Basil put into that second portrait, perhaps?

feb 19, 2014, 10:01 am

Interesting question, I think the answer depends on how we understand what happened to Dorian. I like to think that after he had "transferred" his soul to the portrait, there was, in a sense, nothing left to paint. He had become a soulless husk of a person. In the place of a human face there was now a mask.

Surely Basil would have noticed. And, remember, from this point on Dorian begins to lead a double life, so secrecy is important.

Redigerat: feb 23, 2014, 10:53 pm

I like your answer. I wonder if Basil realized there was nothing left to paint and that is why he didn't belabor the point. As you wrote Basil would have noticed, so he sensed "something was up." Dorian keeps the secret from Basil up to a certain point, and yet it is Basil to whom he finally reveals the secret. Then he compounds the secrecy by killing Basil and having that murder secretly covered up.