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

PROTAGONIST

Dorian Gray, a man who is jolted out of oblivion at the beginning of the novel and made aware of the idea that his youth and beauty are his greatest gifts and that they will soon vanish with age.

ANTAGONIST

Lord Henry Wotton, the bored aristocrat who tells Dorian Gray that he is extraordinarily beautiful. He decides to dominate Dorian and proceeds to strip him of all his conventional illusions. He succeeds in making Dorian live his life for art and forget moral responsibility.

A secondary antagonist is age. Dorian Gray runs from the ugliness of age throughout his life. He runs from it, but he is also fascinated with it, obsessively coming back again and again to look at the signs of age in the portrait.


CLIMAX

The climax follows Sibyl Vane’s horrible performance on stage when Dorian Gray tells her he has fallen out of love with her because she has made something ugly. Here, Dorian rejects love for the ideal of beauty. The next morning, he changes his mind and writes an impassioned letter of apology, but too late; Sibyl has committed suicide.

OUTCOME

Dorian Gray becomes mired in the immorality of his existence. He places no limit on his search for pleasure. He ruins people’s lives without qualm. His portrait shows the ugliness of his sins, but his own body doesn’t. His attempts at reform fail. He even kills a messenger of reform--Basil Hallward. Finally, he kills himself as he attempts to "kill" the portrait. He dies the ugly, old man and the portrait returns to the vision of his beautiful youth.

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