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The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Preface–Chapter TwoWe are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us.(See Important Quotations Explained)Summary: The PrefaceThe 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 OneThe 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
Dorian Gray proves to be every bit as a handsome as his portrait. Basil introduces him to Lord Henry, and Dorian begs Lord Henry to stay and talk to him while he sits for Basil. Basil warns Dorian that Lord Henry is a bad influence, and Dorian seems intrigued by this idea. Lord Henry agrees to stay and, while Basil puts the finishing touches on the portrait, discusses his personal philosophy, which holds that “the highest of all duties [is] the duty that one owes to one’s self.” While Basil continues to work, Lord Henry escorts Dorian into the garden, where he praises Dorian’s youth and beauty and warns him how surely and quickly those qualities will fade. He urges Dorian to live life to its fullest, to spend his time “always searching for new sensations” rather than devoting himself to “common” or “vulgar” pastimes.