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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde. Detailed Deconstruction Chapters 1-3. plot. Lord Henry visiting Basil Hallward’s studio, sees the artist’s painting of Dorian Gray Basil refuses to sell a work that contains so much of himself

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

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  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde

  2. Detailed Deconstruction Chapters 1-3 plot

  3. Lord Henry visiting Basil Hallward’s studio, sees the artist’s painting of Dorian Gray Basil refuses to sell a work that contains so much of himself He is reluctant to let Lord Henry meet Dorian, but Dorian arrives at the studio Basil wants Lord Henry to leave, but Dorian persuades him to stay while he sits for the portrait Lord Henry talks to Dorian about the pursuit of pleasure and tells him that his youth and beauty are precious

  4. Looking at the finished picture, Dorian wishes it could grow old in his place, saying that he would give his soul for that Dorian chooses to go to the theatre with Lord Henry rather than dine with Basil Lord Henry learns about Dorian’s wayward mother and his brutal grandfather He attends a dinner where Dorian is present, and shows off his wit Dorian leaves with Lord Henry, though he has promised to visit Basil

  5. setting

  6. The novel is set in London and we are introduced first to Basil’s studio which is described as extravagantly beautiful. The ‘divan of Persian saddlebags’ conveys Eastern oriental furnishings, associated imaginatively with a place of drugs and erotic pleasures at the time. This use of setting foregrounds the purpose of Basil’s art – to achieve pleasure. The inside of Basil’s studio is juxtaposed against the garden. The descriptive focus shifts from studio as a place of art and garden as a place of nature. This accentuates the theme of artifice versus nature and allows Wilde to comment in a subtle way on the social hypocrisy of Victorian times In chapter three the setting shifts to Lord Henry’s Uncle’s home and then to Aunt Agatha’s home for a dinner. We get a sense of the wealthy privileged social class through a description of setting

  7. themes

  8. In the first three chapters we are introduced to major themes of: LONDON in Victorian times. We are introduced to the rigid class system of the day which Wilde will comment on through the narrative as the story progresses DUPLICITY or the idea of the double or the idea that we have another ‘self’, that we are not a single identity with clear boundaries ART, ILLUSION AND REALITY are introduced to us via Basil’s studio, the painting, Dorian’s fervent wishes that he can live an illusory life, references to the theatre as a place where illusion is celebrated, the story of Dorian’s background as juxtaposed against the illusion of a charmed existence

  9. character

  10. The major characters introduced in the first three chapters are Basil, Lord Henry and Dorian. Basil is introduced as the artist. We will learn that at this point he is at the peak of his career. He is possessive of Dorian and does not want to ‘share’ him with Lord Henry. Pathos is created through Basil, who Dorian will ‘discard’ in favour of Lord Henry’s company Lord Henry appears detached. This is juxtaposed against the earnestness of Basil. Basil appears to try too hard, Lord Henry not at all.

  11. Dorian is not introduced to us until Chapter 2 and by that time we have heard enough about him to be curious. Our first glimpse of him shows him with his back turned, as if, like Basil, the author is reluctant to let the reader meet him. This adds to the mystique of Dorian. Dorian appears sulky as the prospect of posing for Basil. He is enlivened by Lord Henry’s witty conversation and we are given a sense that he seeks pleasure and shuns boring routine. Dorian and Lord Henry are aristocratic and can be compared to Basil who will be marginalised by the other two. In chapter 3 we are given details of Dorian’s background – his beautiful mother, his penniless father, the cruel Kelso who killed Dorian’s father in a love duel and raised Dorian. This information intensifies Dorian as a mysterious, romantic character

  12. style

  13. The opening description of Basil’s studio is sensuously descriptive. The description foregrounds the interplay between art and nature, illusion and reality. The studio and the garden are juxtaposed, one richly decadently furnished, the other heavily scented, lush with flora The characters are conveyed through the use of dialogue. We come to understand their social standing and their relationships through what is said and how they say it Wilde writes as omniscient narrator, creating distance between author and reader In Chapter 3 Wilde satirises the social class system with the ambassador’s notion that he is entitled to his post

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