The Picture of Dorian Gray Important Characters

Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray is a young handsome man, who is naïve to the ways of the world. He meets Basil Hallward at a dinner party and the two men strike up a close friendship, which morphs for Basil into much more, as Dorian becomes Basil's muse. Dorian is happy with the arrangement and with his friendship with Basil, until the day he meets Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry exposes Dorian to a new perspective on life and the world around him. He becomes the leading influence in Dorian's life.

The day Dorian and Lord Henry meet is also the day Basil finishes a portrait of Dorian. Dorian is struck by something Lord Henry told him in a private moment, which is his youth will not last and one day he will become a haggard old man. As Dorian looks at the painting and contemplates this thought, he makes a wish. He wishes the painting would take on his aging and the results of his sins, while he remains youthful, handsome and innocent looking.

As the years go on Dorian's wish comes true, while all those around him show the signs of living, Dorian remains young and untouched by life. He commits terrible crimes such as the murder of Basil, blackmail, and the ruin of many lives, but he does not feel the shame and remorse most people feel for such acts. He does, however, live with the fear of having his secret found out. He is haunted, by the possibility the picture could be used as evidence to prove he killed Basil. In the end, he can no longer live with the fear, and the need to act as a good person prevails. He hopes by living a good life the picture will reflect his goodness. Instead the picture reveals a man who has blood dripping from his hands onto his feet. He decides the only way to rid himself of the possibility of being tried for murder, would be to destroy the painting. He stabs the painting, but only succeeds in destroying himself, as the painting regains its former glory, transferring its decay and ugliness to Dorian Gray. He is found dead on the floor by the painting, looking like the old man he is.

Lord Henry Wotton

Lord Henry is the friend of Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray. He has the greatest influence on Dorian Gray, as he fills his head with the idea that pleasure and beauty are the most important aspects of life. Dorian takes his teachings to heart and lives his life to serve only his desires. He doesn't care too much about other people's opinions of him. Lord Henry is using Dorian for an experiment to see how a naïve person will react to being suddenly thrust into a life of pure pleasure. He is also responsible for giving Dorian a book, which changes Dorian's life. The book is about a young man who studies how life was lived in previous centuries. Dorian feels it explains his life before he has lived it.

Lord Henry exposes Dorian to people and experiences he would not have had an opportunity to pursue otherwise. He, as much as Dorian, is responsible for the manner in which Dorian lives his life. Lord Henry is also, in a way, responsible for the ending of Dorian's engagement to Sibyl Vane, because of his disapproval of her acting ability. Dorian was embarrassed and enraged by the lack of talent she displayed in front of Lord Henry. Lord Henry is a man who tried to make Dorian into a person like himself. He is responsible for Dorian's wish to remain young forever, because he is the person who pointed out to Dorian, his youth would eventually vanish. Before Dorian meets Lord Henry he had never contemplated this eventuality. Lord Henry Wotton is a man of wealth, who uses Dorian to see if his theories on life are correct. He wants to try and change how a man lives his life.

Basil Hallward

Basil is a painter of some talent who, upon meeting Dorian Gray, becomes a great painter. He is motivated by Dorian's friendship to complete some of his greatest works of art. The pinnacle of his artistic endeavors is the portrait he paints of Dorian. He is struck by Dorian's beauty and naiveté, how untouched he is by the outside world.

Dorian is introduced to Lord Henry by Basil and the two become friends. As Dorian and Lord Henry's friendship grows, Basil is cast aside by Dorian. This hurts Basil tremendously, because he thought Dorian's friendship would be one that would last forever. A result of the alienation, between himself and Dorian, is the deterioration of his work. Lord Henry notes the last great work of art Basil produced was the picture of Dorian.

Basil tries to stay friendly with Dorian, even though Dorian prefers to be with Lord Henry. He in an attempt to help his friend, tells him of the scurrilous rumors being passed about the social circle they frequent. Dorian does not want to hear these rumors, but Basil is insistent he listen to him. In an effort to shut him up, Dorian shows Basil the picture, which repulses Basil. He implores Dorian to pray for forgiveness, but instead Dorian is filled with hatred and rage against Basil. He kills Basil and has to enlist a former friend to help him cover up the murder. Dorian is haunted by the prospect of being tried for his crime.

Basil is a lonely man who thought he had found a friend for life, only to have him ripped away by Lord Henry. He tries to help Dorian, but his efforts lead to his death at Dorian's hand. It is Basil's murder which haunts Dorian for the rest of his life.

Sibyl Vane

Sibyl Vane is an actress in a small theater, which caters to the general public. She is beautiful, young, and very talented which are the reasons Dorian falls in love with her. She calls him her Prince Charming to her mother and brother, in fact, they never learn of his real name until many years later. Sibyl is swept off her feet by Dorian, who to her is the most handsome and charming man she has ever met. She is thrilled after he proposes marriage to her and quickly accepts.

She thinks her days as an actress are over, because Dorian will take care of her needs. That is why on the night Dorian brings Lord Henry and Basil to the theater to see her preform, she puts on a wooden performance. She is stunned to find Dorian in a rage after the play is over. She tells him all she wants out of life is to be his wife. He is not in love with Sibyl the person, but Sibyl the actress, which is why he terminates their relationship.

Sibyl cannot bear to be apart from Dorian, so she swallows poison and ends her life, as she does not know the next day Dorian decides to marry her anyway. She is an impulsive person, who acts without thinking through the possible solutions to a situation.

James Vane

James Vane is Sibyl's younger brother, who feels responsible and protective towards his sister. He at the age of sixteen is sailing to Australia to find his fortune. Before he leaves, he and his sister talk about her relationship with her Prince Charming. He does not trust Dorian's intentions towards his sister, so he wants her to break off the relationship. She refuses to, explaining to James how Dorian is the man of her dreams. James leaves her with a warning, which is he will kill this Prince Charming if he hurts her. Sibyl does not take the warning seriously, but she should have, because years later James tracks down Dorian. He intends to kill him, instead he is accidently shot and killed during a hunt by one of Dorian's friends.

James Vane is a young man who is out to avenge the suicide of his sister. He intends to kill the man he holds responsible for her death, Dorian Gray. Unfortunately, he instead is killed, but the incident does shake Dorian up enough to make him want to change how he lives his life.

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