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Free Study Guide-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde-Free BookNotes
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CHAPTER 16

Summary

It is raining and cold as Dorian rides to the outskirts of the city. The ride is extraordinarily long. He hears over and over again Lord Henryís saying that one can cure the soul by means of the sense and can cure the sense by means of the soul. He heard Lord Henry say that on the first day he met him. He has repeated it often over the years. Tonight it is all he can think of to calm himself through the long drive. The roads get worse and worse. People chase the cab and have to be whipped away by the driver. Finally, they arrive and Dorian gets out.

He goes into a building and passes through several dirty and poor rooms. He passes through a bar where a sailor is slumped over a table and two prostitutes are jeering at a crazy old man. He smells the odor of opium and feels relieved. However, when he goes into the opium den, he is unhappily surprised to see Adrian Darlington. Adrian tells him he has no friends any more and doesnít need them as long as he has opium. Dorian doesnít want to be in the same place with the young man about whom Basil Hallway had just spoken the night before. He buys Adrian a drink and is bothered by a prostitute. He tells her not to speak to him and gives her money to leave him alone. He tells Adrian to call on him if he ever needs anything and then he leaves. As he is leaving, one of the prostitutes calls out to him "There goes the devilís bargain." He curses her and she says, "Prince Charming is what you like to be called, ainít it?" As she says this the sailor who has been asleep jumps up and runs after Dorian.

Outside, Dorian is wishing he hadnít run into Adrian Singleton and cursing fate. He hurries along when he is suddenly grabbed from behind and shoved against the wall. A gun is shoved into his face. Dorian calls out and the man tells him to be quiet. The man tells him to make his peace with God before he dies. He says he is James Vane, brother of Sibyl Vane, who killed herself after Dorian ruined her. He plans to leave for India that night and will kill Dorian before he goes. Dorian suddenly thinks of a way out. He asks James when his sister died. James tells him it was eighteen years ago. Dorian tells James to look at his face under the light. James drags him to the street light and looks at him. He sees a face that is too young to have been a young lover eighteen years ago. He releases Dorian feelings shocked that he might have killed the wrong man.


After Dorian is gone, the prostitute comes out of the darkness and tells James he should have killed the man. She says he has made a bargain with the devil to remain looking young. She says the same man had ruined her eighteen years ago and left her to become a prostitute. He is nearly forty years old now. She swears she is telling the truth. He runs away from her but sees no trace of Dorian Gray.

Notes

The resolution of the plot begins to form here, as Dorian happens to meet up with James Vane, Sibyl Vaneís brother. It is the first time the reader has been taken directly to one of the places only hinted at before. The gossip about Dorian Gray is that he spends time in the most disreputable of places. Here, we see Dorian going to an opium den. Once he arrives, he is unhappily met by Adrian Singleton, the same young man about whom Basil Hallward had been questioning him. Basil had heard from Adrianís father that Dorian ruined him and left him to his own devices. Here, only one day after Dorian killed Basil, he sees the evidence of what Basil said. Adrian Singleton is an opium addict, cut off from all his friends. it is clear that Dorian feels the weight of guilt about Adrian because he tells the younger man to call him for any help he needs and he leaves the place to find another.

The twist of fate that brings Dorian Gray and James Vane together at first seems much too contrived for the novel. A prostitute calls him Prince Charming, waking James out of his stupor to run after Dorian and threaten to kill him. However, after James releases Dorian, thinking him too young to have been his sisterís young lover eighteen years before, the prostitute who called him the name tells James that Dorian has been coming to the place for eighteen years and that he is responsible for her present sorry state. Thus, Oscar Wilde makes the bizarre happenstance that James would connect Dorian Gray to his sisterís Prince Charming seem plausible.

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