For the next eighteen years, Dorian sinks more deeply into a furtive and dissolute life experimenting with every imaginable vice. Rumors abound concerning his relationships. Why do they end fatally—in suicide? Then one night, before leaving for Paris on another escapade, Dorian is confronted by Basil, his artist-friend. Dorian shows him the portrait. Basil is startled by his own creation which has become disfigured as though from within. He sees in it not Dorian’s beauty but a moral leprosy eating away at its own flesh.
Basil speaks of the rumors. Hadn’t Dorian heard? He admonishes him to prayer. He pleads with him to repent. Pointing to the picture, he blurts out: ‘So this is what you’ve become; this is what you’ve done with your life! Come to your senses!’
‘It’s too late; it has destroyed me. It’s no use!’ replies Dorian in a panic. Then in a fit of rage, he stabs Basil with a knife.
On examining the picture, he sees that it is dripping blood. The symbiotic relationship between him and the picture defies belief.
To cap off Basil’s murder, Dorian blackmails his chemist-friend Alan into destroying Basil’s body by nitric acid so that it will completely disappear. Shortly afterward, Alan commits suicide. Dorian goes to the picture, its eyes, bulging out of their sockets, staring in shock.
Next, Dorian hunts down Sibyl’s brother James who has accused him of causing his sister’s suicide years before. Dorian shoots him in a dark alley and returns home.
Gladys, an attractive young noblewoman, loves him unconditionally and has expressed her desire to marry him. She proposes. His response is a mere velleity, and he remains cold and aloof. Though she is puzzled by his behavior, her love for him remains steadfast. Unwilling to break her heart, Dorian accepts her marriage proposal. After all, he still cuts a handsome figure. And she doesn’t know . . . .
Finally . . .
At this point, the picture reeks with depravity. Bloodshot eyes, large red facial blotches, loose skin, swollen lips, parched and blood-curdled—the horror is too much for him. He is on the verge of suicidal remorse and despair, the sin of Judas! “I cannot change; I’m too far gone,” he cries out.
Taking the knife that killed Basil, Dorian drives it into the picture. But something extraordinary happens. He is thrown to the ground, the one who has been stabbed. As he succumbs to death, uttering, “Forgive me, I have sinned, through my fault, through my fault,” his face assumes all the horror of the picture. The wages of sin are now made visible on his face. But amazingly, the picture reverts to its pristine beauty just as Basil had painted it.
The last words Dorian utters are from Omar Khayyam, the medieval Persian polymath:
(Column continues below)
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“And by and by, my soul returned to me
And answered, I myself am heaven and hell.”