The Picture of Dorian Gray: Character Profiles

Alan Campbell: Alan Campbell is a former friend of Dorians. He is a brilliant man, having excelled as a scientist at Cambridge University, and is now known for his study of chemistry. He met Dorian through their mutual interest in music. The two men were close friends for eighteen months. But the friendship ended suddenly, for reasons that are not explained. Dorian summons Campbell to his house to dispose of the body of Basil Hallward, a task which Campbell initially refuses to do. He appears to dislike his former friend. But he is persuaded to do Dorians bidding when Dorian blackmails him, threatening to reveal some secrets from his past. Campbell later commits suicide by shooting himself.
Lord Fermor: Lord Fermor is Henry Wottons uncle. He is an old bachelor who long ago “set himself to the serious study of the great aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing.” He tells Henry about Dorians family history.
Dorian Gray: Dorian Gray is a young man of about twenty when the novel begins. He is exceptionally good-looking, and both Basil Hallward and Lord Henry are attracted to his innocent beauty. Henry admires his “finely-curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair.” Dorian is the grandson of Lord Kelso. His mother, Lady Margaret Devereux, was extremely beautiful and could have married anyone she wanted, but instead married a penniless soldier-Dorians father-who was soon killed in a duel. Margaret died soon after. Dorian was well-provided for, and inherits more money when he comes of age. Basil describes Dorian as possessing “a simple and beautiful nature,” and indeed he is an agreeable and charming man, but he also can be thoughtless. Basil says that sometimes Dorian takes pleasure in hurting his feelings. Dorian also has a great capacity for vanity, which is fueled by Basils uncritical adoration as well as the portrait that Basil paints of him. Dorian is so struck by his own beauty in the picture that he makes his fateful wish that he should forever remain young and that aging should be reflected only in the portrait. His desire to retain his youth is partly a result of Lord Henrys dominant influence on him. Henry persuades him that youth and beauty are the most valuable things in life. As a result of Henrys influence, Dorian decides to pursue a hedonistic lifestyle, always seeking out new sensations and dedicating himself to beauty and art. But in his pursuit of pleasure, Dorian also commits numerous unnamed sins, and many of his friends turn against him or are ruined by their contact with him. Eventually he murders Basil when his old friend confronts him about the rumors that are circulating about his degenerate behavior.
Basil Hallward: Basil Hallward is a well-known artist whose life is turned upside down when he meets Dorian. He is so taken by Dorians beauty that he virtually falls in love with him. Dorian then serves as his artistic model, which enables Basil to produce work of a higher order than he has managed before. He simply adores Dorian, who gives him a vision of an entirely new school of art “that is to have in it all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the perfection of the spirit that is Greek.” His devotion to Dorian leads him to jealousy when Dorian falls in love with Sibyl Vane. But after the death of Sibyl, Basil is shocked by the callous attitude displayed by his young friend. The two men then quarrel over Basils desire to exhibit his painting of Dorian. Dorian refuses even to show him the picture. Basil then confesses to Dorian the feelings he had about him when they first met: “I was dominated, soul, brain, and power by you. You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream.” Over the years, Basil and Dorian drift apart, but when they meet by chance, Basil demands to know the truth about the rumors that are circulating about Dorian. Dorian invites him to look at the picture, and Basil is horrified. He tries to get Dorian to pray with him, but Dorian, in a rush of hatred for his former friend, stabs him to death.
Adrian Singleton: Adrian Singleton is a former friend of Dorians. He is one of the young men who have been ruined by their contact with Dorian. None of Adrians friends will speak to him any more. Dorian encounters him again in the opium den, where Adrian indulges his opium addiction.
Duchess of Monmouth: The Duchess of Monmouth is a young woman married to an older man. She is secretly in love with Dorian and flirts with him.
James Vane: James Vane is Sibyls sixteen-year-old brother who is about to depart from London to make his fortune in Australia. He is very protective of his sister, and vows to kill Dorian if he should wrong her. When many years later he sees Dorian in an opium den, he recognizes him from the nickname Prince Charming, which Sibyl gave him. He follows him out to the street, and is about to kill him, but Dorian convinces him that he has got the wrong man and is released. Vane eventually tracks Dorian down again, intending to kill him, but he is accidentally shot and killed when he intrudes on a hunting party.
Mrs. Vane: Mrs. Vane is the widowed mother of Sibyl and James. She is also an actress, and plays Lady Capulet in the production in which Sibyl plays Juliet. Mrs. Vane and her family are poor because she was never able to marry the father of her children, and he died without making provision for them. She thinks Sibyl is too young to fall in love, but she does not entirely rule out a marriage between them because she thinks Dorian may be rich.
Sibyl Vane: Sibyl Vane is a seventeen-year-old actress who plays leading roles in Shakespeare productions at a small theater in one of the rougher parts of London. Dorian falls in love with her because of her ability to bring great art to life. He describes her as shy and gentle. “There is something of a child about her,” he says. Dorian and Sibyl become engaged, and when Henry and Basil come to watch her perform, Henry is impressed by her beauty. But when Sibyl falls in love with Dorian, she loses interest in her acting. She thinks real love is more important than the love that is presented in plays. But this makes Dorian lose all interest in her and he declares that he does not want to see her again. Devastated, Sibyl commits suicide by drinking acid.
Lord Henry Wotton : Lord Henry Wotton is an aristocrat who is about thirty years old when the novel begins. He is married to Victoria and is a friend of Basil Hallward. Lord Henry is brilliant, witty and cynical. He delights in entertaining people with epigrams that use paradox to undermine conventional morality, and he frequently expresses misogynist views. His wife eventually leaves him for another man.
Henry is a cultivated, refined man who is at home in all the arts. He also represents what he calls the new Hedonism. He worships beauty and art, and advocates indulgence in all sensual experiences in order to fully taste what life has to offer. But he also advocates maintaining a detached attitude, in which one is a spectator of ones own life. He is a talker rather than a doer, and both Basil and his Aunt Agatha believe that he does not really mean what he says.
When he meets Dorian he is immediately drawn to the young mans physical beauty and innocence. He sets out to dominate him, to persuade him to live his life the way Henry prescribes. He looks on this as a psychological experiment, and is pleased when Dorian does indeed fall under his influence.
Henrys detachment from the realities of life (as opposed to the aesthetic delight offered by art and beautiful objects) means that he lacks genuine human sympathies. He fails to console Dorian after Sibyls death, which he likens to something out of a Jacobean play. His influence on Dorian turns out to be a negative one, and leads Dorian down a path that leads to his destruction.
Victoria Wotton : Victoria Wotton is Henrys wife. Their marriage is not a close one, and they live largely separate lives. Victoria “was usually in love with somebody, and, as her passion was never returned, she had kept all her illusions.” Victoria later leaves Henry for another man.