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Basil Hallword


Summary


Lord Henry Wotton is visiting his friend Basil Hallward, a famous artist, who is almost finished with a new portrait featuring a beautiful young man. Henry believes that the painting is Basil’s best piece of work and urges his friend to exhibit it. Basil refuses saying that there is too much of himself in the piece. He explains to a disbelieving Henry that the Dorian Gray, the subject of the piece, has had a profound effect on him. Basil does his best work when Dorian is around and he is not happy unless Dorian is in his presence. Henry demands an introduction, but Basil does not want his new friend to be tainted by his old one.

Commentary


Although Basil calls his affections for Dorian a “curious artistic idolatry,” he describes all the symptoms of love. Victorian England considered The Picture of Dorian Gray to be quite scandalous for many reasons, one of which was the homoerotic undertones. In this first chapter, the homoeroticism is not just an undertone. Henry spends quite a lot of time admiring Dorian’s beauty, even going so far as to proclaim that he is more beautiful than the garden’s flowers. Basil is obviously consumed with love for Dorian, which is probably the primary reason that he does not what Henry to meet the object of his affection. This first chapter is an ode to male beauty, a love letter to Wilde’s real life Dorian
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