The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Preface–Chapter Two
We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the
mind, and poisons us.
Important Quotations Explained
Summary: The Preface
The Preface is a series of epigrams, or concise, witty sayings, that express the major
points of Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic philosophy. In short, the epigrams praise beauty and
repudiate the notion that art serves a moral purpose.
Summary: Chapter One
The novel begins in the elegantly appointed London home of Basil Hallward, a well-
known artist. Basil discusses his latest portrait with his friend, the clever and
scandalously amoral Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry admires the painting, the subject of
which is a gorgeous, golden-haired young man. Believing it to be Basil’s finest work, he
insists that the painter exhibit it. Basil, however, refuses, claiming that he cannot show
the work in public because he has put too much of himself into it. When Lord Henry
presses him for a more satisfying reason, Basil reluctantly describes how he met his
young subject, whose name is Dorian Gray, at a party. He admits that, upon seeing
Dorian for the first time, he was terrified; indeed, he was overcome by the feeling that his
life was “on the verge of a terrible crisis.” Dorian has become, however, an object of
fascination and obsession for Basil, who sees the young man every day and declares him
to be his sole inspiration. Basil admits that he cannot bring himself to exhibit the portrait
because the piece betrays the “curious artistic idolatry” that Dorian inspires in him.
Lord Henry, astonished by this declaration, remembers where he heard the name Dorian
Gray before: his aunt, Lady Agatha, mentioned that the young man promised to help her
with charity work in the slums of London. At that moment, the butler announces that
Dorian Gray has arrived, and Lord Henry insists on meeting him. Basil reluctantly agrees
but begs his friend not to try to influence the young man. According to Basil, Dorian has
a “simple and a beautiful nature” that could easily be spoiled by Lord Henry’s cynicism.
Summary: Chapter Two