A Rewrite of the Ending (Chapter XX) of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

A Rewrite of the Ending (Chapter XX) of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

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A Rewrite of the Ending (Chapter XX) of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray


It was a lovely night, so warm that Dorian threw his coat over his arm, and did not even put his silk scarf round his throat. A sealed envelope fell out of his coat pocket. It was from Basil’s Gladstone bag that Dorian had rummaged through before throwing into the fire. In his recent preoccupation, Dorian had forgotten all about the envelope. He now stooped to pick up the fallen envelope and broke open its seal.

Out fell a small watercolour portrait. An angelic face stared back at Dorian and it was of himself. Oh Basil! Why? The portrait was painted with love, Dorian could see that. His eyes glistened in the moonlight. What had he done to his good friend? Distractedly, Dorian put the portrait and the envelope back into his coat pocket, lit a cigarette, and hurried toward home.

Two young men in evening dress passed him. He heard one of them whisper to the other, “That is Dorian Gray.” He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed out, or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own name now. Suddenly, one of the young men called out to him: “Mr. Gray.” Dorian spun around.

The one who had called out to him now said, “Tell us, Mr. Gray, what is your secret?”

Dorian cried, “What secret?”

“Your secret to eternal youth. It is witchcraft, the villagers say.”

It was the first time that anyone had directly questioned his appearance and Dorian did not know what to answer. Biting his lower lip, Dorian faintly replied, “How inquiring you young men are! What good is eternal youth?”

“What good?” cried the young men. “Wild adoration from charming ladies and great admiration from seekers of truth and beauty!”

“Do not speak of what you know not!”

“You have bewitched all the women in this town, Mr. Gray. And they have suffered for it. What is your secret?”

“Are you saying that you wish for your young women to suffer?” Dorian’s eyes flashed with regret and anger. With that, he turned around and walked quickly home. Behind him, he heard the two young men yell. He thought he caught the words “Basil” and “murder.” With a shiver, Dorian stepped into his home and found his servant waiting up for him.

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He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library, and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said to him.

Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood – his rose-white boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it. He knew he had tarnished himself but, at the same time, he knew he had changed. Only a little, but he had changed nevertheless. There must be hope for him!

Dorian again took the watercolour portrait out of his coat pocket. He examined it closely. It was indeed an angelic face, unlike the hideous portrait upstairs.

Dorian, from the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me. I was dominated, soul, brain, and power by you.

Half-buried memories of portrait-sitting for Basil resurfaced. He should have listened to Basil’s kind advice. But why had Basil introduced him to Harry? Had he never met Harry! He is Mephistopheles and Dorian had naïvely believed everything he told him. Can one turn back Time? Time was neither able to steal youth nor beauty from him – can he make Time return his innocence and purity?

Harry’s philosophies of beauty and aestheticism were all wrong! Dorian knew he had been shallow for believing that Beauty is everything. But how could he have been wrong? He had consumed book after book, lusted after knowledge. Could knowledge not solve all his problems? If Harry was Mephistopheles, then he must be Faustus. Oh, Faustus! Would he end up with a fate like him, dragged into the world of Hades by the devils when his time is up?

Shakily, Dorian wandered over to the table where the curiously-carved mirror that Lord Henry had given to him long ago stood. He peered into its glass through watery eyes. Beauty! It had made him in love with himself, corrupted him, and destroyed his soul. What good is Beauty? Only inward beauty might save him now. Hetty Merton, she was beautiful. He mustn’t corrupt her like Harry had corrupted him. Would there be other men who would corrupt her – men like the two young ones he met earlier tonight?

Dorian sighed. All seemed so utterly hopeless for him and for the world. The world was too harsh for him. It was better not to think of what could not be altered. He could no longer live in decadence, in a carpe diem way. He no longer felt like a Greek god. With a cry, he dashed the mirror upon the ground and the shattered pieces of glass blinked at him. Narcissist, murderer, they seemed to say.

Yes, he was a murderer. Basil’s death was his fault. Basil had loved him – loved him unconditionally.

Pray, Dorian, pray.

No. He did not believe in God. He had felt that he was a god himself.

We are both punished.

Oh Basil, how selfless he was! Dorian could not imagine himself becoming as selfless as his friend. He thought of Alan Campbell who had raped him when Dorian was a young boy. Alan deserved to die. But Basil, Basil… such an innocent soul! Sibyl’s death, too, was undeserved. Maybe it would have been better if Jim Vane had ended his miserable life. Would the portrait upstairs reflect his unhappiness and feelings of repentance?

Stumbling up the stairs, Dorian crept into the room where the grotesque portrait was kept. Drawing the purple hanging aside, Dorian gasped.

The portrait was no longer of Dorian. It was of Basil.

Angry crimson paint, still wet, dripped from the side of Basil’s head, coursing down his neck and onto his shirt. His eyes were wide with horror, regret, and disbelief. His knuckles were white from clenching the armrests of the painted chair and it looked as though he was about to rise. Silence poured forth from Basil’s gaping mouth, but Dorian could almost hear the sound of his choking.

Trembling, Dorian backed away from the portrait and fumbled for the door handle. It was stuck and he could not turn it, tried as he might.

“Basil?” cried Dorian. “Basil? Is it you?”

A drop of paint splattered from the canvas onto the floor.

Dorian jumped.

“Alan has already disposed of you! Why are you back to haunt me? I am trying to start a new life, truly!” Shakily, Dorian retrieved the watercolour painting from his pocket. The face in the painting smiled innocently back at him. He was a good man. He was going to start a new life.

What did Basil want from him? Dorian was repentant. At least he felt that he was. There was nothing he could do now that Basil’s body was dissolved. He could not give his friend a proper burial any more.

But was there life after death? Was there a heaven or hell?

Hell.

It was then that Dorian remembered Mephistopheles.

Was his time running out?

Dorian steadied his voice and spoke quietly to Basil’s portrait: “Yes, yes. You are right, my friend. It is not too late to ask God for forgiveness. But first, there is something that I must do.”

Resolutely, Dorian tried for the doorknob again. This time, it turned. He stepped out and locked the door behind him.

Dorian slipped outside. It was past midnight and the moon was full. His strides were brisk and purposeful.

“Dorian! Is that you?”

Dorian nodded at the dark shadow that was emerging from White’s.

“Why, Dorian, you look… haggard! Old, even,” Lord Henry peered curiously into Dorian’s darkened face. “Come, come, Dorian. You must meet young Lord Poole. He was so disappointed when I told him you wouldn’t be coming to the club, but here you are!”

Dorian shook his head, “No, Harry. I wish to talk with you.”

“Why? Whatever is the matter, my dear fellow?”

“Let us go over to my house.”

Dorian and Lord Henry walked in silence. From time to time, Lord Henry tried to engage Dorian in some merry conversation, but Dorian was quiet.

Inside his house, Dorian lighted a lamp and turned to Lord Henry, “Come upstairs, Harry. You must see that art that I have wrought.”

“Art?” Lord Henry’s eyebrows went up, “Of all times to show me art, Dorian! But I must say you know what true Beauty is.”

“Yes, yes, indeed,” murmured Dorian, unlocking the door to the portrait.

Holding the lamp up to the portrait of Basil, Dorian smiled at Lord Henry, who first looked at the wrinkles on Dorian’s face with puzzlement, and then reluctantly turned to examine the portrait.

“My dear boy, how strange and morbid you are! But let us go downstairs and speak of merrier things.”

“That is all you have to say, Harry?”

“Certainly. What more is there to say? It is Art, as you say. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.”

Lord Henry started downstairs. Before leaving the room, Dorian took one last glance at the portrait.

He blinked in astonishment.

The portrait has changed again. This time, it was a hideous figure that looked from Dorian to Basil, and from Basil to Dorian, and from Dorian to Basil again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. He was forever bound to his artist.

Hurrying towards the staircase, Dorian tripped and fell.

Lord Henry, hearing the noise behind him, looked up in surprise. He moved aside too late, however: Dorian fell on him and together they tumbled down the steep stairs. The lamp flew out of Lord Henry’s grip and Dorian’s house was engulfed in flames amidst the servants’ cries of terror.
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