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Free Study Guide-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde-Free BookNotes
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CHAPTER 20

Summary

The night is beautiful. Dorian walks home from Lord Henry feeling good about himself. He passes some y young men who whisper his name. He no longer feels the thrill he used to feel when he is spoken of with such reverence by young men. He wonders if Lord Henry is right, that he can never change. He wishes he had never prayed that the portrait bear the burden of his age. He knows that his downfall has come because he has never had to live with the consequences of his actions.

He gets home and looks in a mirror. He feels sickened by the idea that youth spoiled his soul. He throws down the mirror smashing it on the floor. He tries not to think of the past. Nothing can change it. He knows Alan Campbell died without telling anyone of Dorianís secret. He doesnít even feel too badly about the death of Basil. He doesnít forgive Basil for painting the portrait that ruined his life. He just wants to live a new life.

He thinks of Hetty Merton and he wonders if the portrait upstairs has changed because of his good deed toward her. He gets the lamp and rushes up the stairs, hopeful that the portrait will have already begun to change back to beauty. When he gets there, he is horrified to see that the portrait looks even worse. Now the image has an arrogant sneer on its face. More blood has appeared on its hands and even on its feet.

Dorian wonders what he should do. He wonders if he will have to confess the murder before he will be free of the guilt of it. He doesnít want to confess because he doesnít want to be put in jail. He wonders if the murder will follow him all his life. Finally he decides to destroy the portrait. He finds the knife he used to kill Basil. He rushes to the portrait and stabs at it.


Downstairs on the street below, two men are passing by when they hear a loud scream. They rush for a policeman who knocks on the door, but no one comes. The men ask the policeman whose house it is. When they hear it is Dorian Grayís, they sneer and walk away. Inside, the servants rush up to the room from whence the sound came. They try the door but itís locked. Two of them go around by way of the roof to get in through the window. When they get inside, they find Dorian Gray stabbed in the heart and above him a glorious portrait of him hanging on the wall. The man stabbed on the floor is wrinkled and ugly. They donít even recognize him until they see the rings on his fingers.

Notes

The novel ends with the conflation of the art and the subject. Dorian stabs the portrait, trying to destroy it, and the effect is that he kills himself. The mystery of the novel is kept in tact. The reader never knows if the portrait magically transformed itself, or if it was a figment of Dorianís--and later, Basilís imagination. When people who are not at all attached to the portrait see it in the end, they see nothing more than the beautiful portrait of Dorian Gray as young man.

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