The Picture of Dorian Gray | Study Guide

Oscar Wilde

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Chapter 14

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 14 of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Picture of Dorian Gray | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Dorian sleeps so peacefully his servant has trouble waking him the next morning. The events of the previous night slowly seep back into his brain, along with his loathing for Basil. He decides that if he thinks about the event too much he'll go crazy, so Dorian dresses carefully, reads his mail, and sends a message to Alan Campbell. While he waits for a response, Dorian reads poetry by the French poet Gautier. He loses himself in the beauty of the poems and in the memories of travel they evoke. Eventually though, Dorian begins to worry that Campbell is out of town. This leads to his reflecting on Campbell and their relationship. Campbell was a scientist with a strong interest in music who had gotten involved in the arts and society scene with Dorian. For 18 months they were inseparable. Then they stopped associating with each other, and no outsider knew why. Campbell became morose afterward, lost interest in music, and took a greater interest in biology.

Dorian becomes agitated waiting for Campbell to arrive and, when Campbell appears, it's obvious he doesn't want to be there. He views Dorian with contempt. When Dorian tells him he needs his help to get rid of a dead body, Campbell refuses. Dorian tells him it was suicide, and Campbell assumes Dorian drove the dead man to it. Dorian switches his story and admits it was murder. Campbell is horrified but still refuses to help. At last Dorian writes something on a piece of paper and shows it to Campbell. When Campbell reads it, he becomes physically ill. Dorian follows this by saying he's written a letter that he will mail if Campbell doesn't help him. The implication is that the letter contains information that will ruin Campbell. Eventually, Campbell agrees to dispose of the body. He says he'll need to go fetch some supplies. Dorian refuses to let him leave and has Campbell write a list of supplies that his servant will fetch. After the servant delivers the supplies Dorian then sends him on an additional errand to keep him out of the house while Campbell is doing his "experiment" (getting rid of the body). When Dorian and Campbell go upstairs, Dorian says he can't go in the room with the dead body again. Campbell goes in alone and works for hours to get rid of it. Eventually he's done. As he leaves he asks that the two of them never see each other again.

Analysis

It is telling that Dorian takes refuge in reading Gautier while he's waiting for Campbell. Théophile Gautier was an influential 19th-century French writer. Much of his work is considered romantic, but he was also quite influential in the symbolist and decadent movements. He had been a painter and was an influential critic in several fields. Like Wilde, Gautier rejected the idea that art should teach moral lessons and the artist should focus on perfecting the form. Also like Wilde, he adapted supernatural concepts for his artistic purposes.

While there is no overt homosexual activity in the novel, this is one of the chapters where it is very strongly implied. There are other activities that two men might have done together, like putting on a theater production, but few if any legitimate activities that would let Dorian blackmail Campbell into helping him afterward. There are also few other things Wilde would have felt compelled to keep secret or only imply to the reader, as he does here by having Dorian pass a note to Campbell and by not allowing the reader to see what is written on it.

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