The Picture of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde Summary and Analysis Chapter 14

Summary

The next morning, Dorian wakes from a long and untroubled sleep, but the events of the previous night begin to bother him. Basil is still in the attic room, sitting dead in the sunlight. Dorian feels that he must take action reasonably soon.

At breakfast, he looks at the morning mail. He writes two letters, sticking one in his pocket and directing Francis, his newly hired servant, to deliver the other to Mr. Campbell.

As he waits to hear from Mr. Campbell, Dorian seeks distraction. He sketches, but every drawing he does reminds him of Basil. Finally, he pulls a book at random from the shelf. It is Théophile Gautier's Emaux et Camées, a book of poems that inspired other French Aesthetes, including Charles Baudelaire. Especially touched by a poem about Venice, he is momentarily transported from the horrible situation he finds himself in.

As he thinks about Venice, he suddenly recalls that Basil was with him during his last visit there; although he tries to read other poems, his attempts to distract himself fail and he is drawn back to the reality of the murder. He grows increasingly more nervous and wonders what he will do if he cannot find Alan Campbell. Campbell is a passionate scientist, very knowledgeable, and has his own laboratory. The man had been a close friend of Dorian's five years before, but their friendship ended abruptly.

Time passes so slowly that it seems to stop. In a typically self-centered moment, Dorian imagines a "hideous future" for himself. Finally, the servant announces Campbell's arrival.

Campbell clearly feels bitterly hostile toward Dorian. He is there only because Dorian's letter mentioned a "matter of life and death."

Dorian confirms the graveness of the situation and confides that there is a corpse in the attic room, dead now ten hours. Campbell interrupts, saying that he does not want to hear more about the matter.

Dorian first claims that the body is that of a suicide but finally admits to having committed murder. He blames the victim for shaping his life, although perhaps unwittingly. He pleads with Campbell to help, reasoning that because Campbell often works with corpses, he will know how to destroy a body. The job will be no worse than many that Campbell has performed on corpses at the morgue.

When Campbell still refuses to help, Dorian writes a few words on a piece of paper and gives the secret message to Campbell. As the scientist reads the brief note, he turns white and falls back in his chair. Dorian expresses pity for Campbell's situation but announces that he has already written a letter regarding the secret. He threatens to send the letter unless Campbell cooperates. Campbell makes one last, lame effort to avoid helping Dorian. He says that he cannot do the job. When Dorian reminds him that he has no choice, Campbell finally gives in; he writes a list of the required equipment, and Francis is dispatched to Campbell's laboratory to pick up the supplies.

Upstairs, Dorian discovers that he forgot to cover the portrait when he left the room the previous night. There is a "loathsome red dew . . . wet and glistening" on one of the hands in the picture. Momentarily, the portrait seems more real and horrible to Dorian than Basil's corpse. Dorian hastily covers the portrait, and Campbell brings in his equipment.

The job takes the full five hours that Campbell has predicted. Dorian is waiting downstairs in the library when Campbell enters, pale but calm, well after seven that evening. The scientist curtly states that he has done what he was asked to do and hopes never to see Dorian again. He then leaves.

When Dorian enters the attic room, he detects a horrible smell. However, there is no sign of Basil Howard.

Analysis

Throughout the novel, Wilde only hints at the nature of Dorian's secret life, leaving the reader to wonder what sins Dorian commits. Wilde surely could have been more specific about Dorian's secretive passions, but he deliberately keeps the issue vague so that readers must define sin for themselves. In this way, Wilde draws readers closer to the story.

In a similar way, Wilde doesn't say what secret Dorian holds over Campbell. Most likely, it is something that the scientist did years ago while under Dorian's influence. In any case, Dorian is fully aware that blackmailing Campbell into helping him is dreadful, but he doesn't hesitate for a moment to do so. In fact, he scolds Campbell for not wanting to help him at first, and he even seems to take pleasure in forcing Campbell to comply eventually. Dorian has become dominated by the evil of his secrets, and he in turn seeks to dominate and control those around him. At this point in the story, Dorian shows that he has surpassed his mentor — Lord Henry — in his power to manipulate.

The interlude concerning Gautier's poetry works within the context of this novel. The poem is translated:

On a colorful scale,

andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;Her breast dripping with pearls,
The Venus of the Adriatic
Draws her pink and white body out of the water.

andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;The domes, on the azure of the waves
Following the pure contour of the phrase,
Swell like rounded breasts
Lifted by a sigh of love.

andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;andnbsp;The skiff lands and drops me off,
Casting its rope to the pillar,
In front of a pink façade
On the marble of a staircase.

The beautiful poem about Venice contrasts with the horror of Dorian's situation and briefly carries him away to a happier, more beautiful time and place. The recollection that Basil had been with him, however, startles Dorian back to reality. The idle pleasures that Dorian uses to amuse himself can't erase, or even distract him from, the evil that he has committed. Strangely, the passions that drove him to the mad act of murder no longer hold any pleasure for him.

Note that Dorian defends Lord Henry but is quite willing to blame Basil for the loss of his soul. While Basil created the portrait, he was never part of the pact and never tried to manipulate Dorian toward a life of self-serving debauchery and vanity. Dorian, of course, is not about to put the responsibility where it belongs — on himself. In fact, by the end of the chapter, Dorian has emotionally and psychologically divorced himself from Basil entirely, referring to him as "the thing that had been sitting at the table." It appears that Dorian has begun to lose touch with even his self-centered version of reality.

Glossary

drugged with poppies a reference to opium, which is prepared from dried juice of unripe pods of the opium poppy.

gilt covered with gold or something resembling gold.

trellis a support frame.

du supplice encore mal lavée French, "not (yet) cleansed from torment."

doigts de faune French, "fingers of the faun."

faun in Roman mythology, a royal deity having the body of a man but the horns, ears, tail, and sometimes the legs of a goat.

Lido an island off Venice.

Tintoret Tintoretto; original name, Jacopo Robusti (1518–94), Italian painter.

Nile the longest river in Africa, running from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean.

sphinx a figure with the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.

monstre charmant French, "charming monster."

Rubinstein Anton Rubinstein (1829–94), Russian concert pianist, composer, and educator.

ague chills, or shivering.

nitric acid a fuming, corrosive liquid.

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