Years have passed and Dorian is approaching his thirty-eighth birthday. Walking home from an evening at Henry’s, he sees Basil Hallward in the street. Dorian pretends he hasn’t seen Basil, but Basil soon catches up with him and tells him that he has been awaiting his return all evening. He wants to say goodbye. He’s due to go to Paris that evening, where he intends to spend six months in the creation of a new masterpiece.
The large time leap and Dorian’s avoidance of Basil in the dark make clear the extreme changes that have come to Dorian Gray. His avoidance of Basil suggests guilt and shame. Meanwhile, Basil is still working, and moving on—his old masterpiece was the portrait of Dorian.
Dorian reluctantly invites Basil in, if he promises not to talk about serious things. Despite Dorian’s request, Basil insists that they talk of a serious matter. Dorian sulks. He doesn’t want to hear about the scandals connected with him. Basil assures him that he should be very interested in his own reputation, because it has become so horribly stained. Basil at first refuses to believe that what he has heard is true, but the evidence is overwhelming against Dorian. He goes on to list the charges against him, friends and admirers that have been left heartbroken and ruined by Dorian’s influence.
Dorian’s avoidance of serious things shows his habitual avoidance of reality and substance. Just as he himself is all surface, he wants to keep conversation at the level of the surface. The fact that Basil, who was so passionate towards Dorian is acting like a concerned father figure now, illuminates how his influence has changed from innocence and charm to something destructive.
Dorian scolds Basil. It is quite the reverse, he claims. It is their own scandalous ways that makes his old friends avoid him. Basil goes on. He accuses Dorian of damaging even his close alliance, Lord Henry’s sister. He implores Dorian to use his wonderful charms for good instead. The list of his foul deeds is unending, and Basil says in order to really know Dorian now, he would have to have a glimpse at his soul. At this, Dorian pales. He suddenly decides to reveal his secret to Basil.
Dorian’s appearance, though physically unchanged, has finally given way. It does not seem to match the hideous reputation that has spread around the city. Though shallow measurements like reputation and the appearance of innocence have meant everything until now, the reality of the soul beneath leaks through. Dorian's sudden decision seems to indicate a need for release, or maybe a hope that what he sees in the portrait every day is worse than the reality. He wants, suddenly, for someone to truly see him, not just the unchanging beautiful surface he must always wear.