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Free Study Guide-The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde-Free BookNotes
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

Oscar Wilde plots The Picture of Dorian Gray on a model of descent.

Dorian Gray begins at the height of his beauty and innocence. Basil Hallward is also at the height of his artistry at the opening of the novel. The novel is the inexorable downward slide of the protagonist, however secret that downward slide is. When Basil Hallward recognizes the depths to which Dorian Gray has sunk, he attempts to pull him out of it and is killed for the attempt. When Dorian Gray attempts to bring himself back into moral rectitude, he fails.


The secondary plot structure of the novel is the triangular relationship among Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward and Lord Henry. In the first few chapters f the novel, Wilde sets up the triangle. Basil Hallward is enraptured with Dorian Gray’s beauty. Dorian Gray doesn’t yet recognize the power this gives him. He doesn’t even recognize the power of his beauty. Then comes Lord Henry, the man who brings Dorian Gray into self-consciousness and pulls him away from the influence of Basil Hallward. Basil Hallward dies trying to bring Dorian Gray back under his influence. The novel ends with Dorian making a last, pitiful attempt to convince Lord Henry to release him from his influence.

When Dorian Gray attempts to destroy the portrait, he is trying to destroy the link between art and morality, the link which Lord Henry has forever denied. The attempt kills him. Oscar Wilde suggests that there is a vital link after all between the beautiful and the good.

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