With Basil gone, Dorian begins to get suspicious of his servant Victor, imagining him sneaking a glance at the covered portrait. He organizes for his housekeeper to bring him the key to the schoolroom at the top of the house. The housekeeper is confused - the room hasn’t been used for generations – but is not suspicious and obediently hands over the key and leaves.
A portrait is made to capture and imitate life. And when it captured Dorian's natural beauty, it was something he liked to see and liked others to see as well. But once it begins to reflect his soul—not what he looks like but what he is—Dorian seeks to hide it, from others and from himself.
Dorian finds a morbid Venetian embroidery to wrap the painting in. He considers that it may once have shrouded a corpse and now its task is much the same, yet unlike a corpse, his painting would go on living and showing him his rotten soul. He regrets for a moment not sharing the burden with Basil. He feels a sudden appreciation for the love that Basil showed him, a kind of pure, adoring love, like the best artists for their muses. But he mourns that it is too late for that love to save him.
The novel is full of surfaces and veils, masking corruption with a show of beauty. Here the embroidery, typical of Dorian’s rich collection of objects, shows us vividly how far the portrait has fallen from beauty to death. Though Dorian has been saved from aging, the sense of his own doom and mortality has grown.
As he covers the painting, Dorian’s pain at seeing the changed face is more intense than ever. It seems that the figure’s cruelty has again increased. He covers it quickly, just as the servant enters to tell him that the frame makers have arrived. Dorian gets rid of the servant by sending him away with a message for Lord Henry, and accepts his visitors, who are very glad to be doing business with the famously charming Dorian Gray.
The difference between Dorian’s public and private life has grown. His reputation is untouched, his charm and status ensuring princely treatment wherever he goes, but reputation is shown to be hollow – the surface of Basil’s painting, the surface of art itself, has become the true measure.
The master frame-maker tells Dorian that he couldn’t help coming over in person to show him the frame he has found, perfect for a religious subject. But Dorian instead only wants help moving the picture. Mr. Hubbard is glad to do the job, and with his helpers carries the covered painting to the top of the house. While they are occupied with the back-breaking task, Dorian inspects the schoolroom. It is unchanged from his childhood memories. It all comes back to him, the lonely, innocent hours he had spent in the room, how his grandfather had wanted to keep him at a distance because he looked so much like his mother.
It is interesting that Dorian takes the frame makers to the top of the house. Yes, he’s locking it away in an unused room, the furthest away from the eyes of visitors. But he’s also moving it to the scene of his sad childhood, the origin of both his looks and his discovery of cruelty. Just as the painting is being hidden, deeper and deeper within the house, Dorian seems to be getting closer to his original self.
These memories make Dorian long for his youthful soul and detest the relentless aging of the portrait. As he imagines further and further into the grim future of his image, he firmly resolves to conceal the picture, to lock the room and keep the key close to him. Mr. Hubbard brings the painting in and props it against the wall. Curious, he asks to take a look but Dorian feigns that it would not interest him and ushers him away.
Again, time is the enemy. Neither the past nor the future can give Dorian what he wants, so he takes absolute control over the painting, protecting it like a child. The key to the locked room allows him to feel ownership over his image, but we know that this can only be temporary and time cannot be stopped.
Dorian enjoys a moment of relief, knowing that the painting is shut away. But soon, he worries that the servant Victor has returned from his errand and has noticed the missing picture. He has begun to think of Victor as a spy. He distracts himself with the reading materials that Lord Henry has sent over. In the newspaper is an article about Sybil Vane’s inquest. The reminder of the horrible details angers Dorian. He is annoyed that Henry marked the article for him to see, and his suspicion of Victor flares up again.
The influence of the painting is so all-consuming that even its absence is a powerful object. Dorian’s narcissism turns everything into an attack against him. He sees Victor as a spy, and Henry’s interest in Sybil’s case as a cruel taunt. The painting has shown Dorian his own beauty and has singled him out as the hero. Just like viewers’ eyes on a painting, Dorian feels he is always being watched. Life is imitating Art now.
Dorian inspects the other package from Lord Henry, a book with a yellow cover. As soon as he starts reading the novel within, he is absorbed. It was strangely, richly written, without a plot, but following a young Parisien, who seems to embrace sin and virtue at once. The novel’s philosophy and imagery entrances Dorian’s senses and he finds himself reading for the rest of the day until he is late to meet Lord Henry at the club. He tells Henry that he was fascinated by the book, but perhaps not in a good way. Henry seems pleased at this reaction.
It is not just the picture that represents Dorian Gray – he finds his life represented in this story too, almost as if it was written for him. Again, even though the art of fiction promises a less superficial subject than a portrait, Dorian is taken in by the language and imagery of the story, and its lack of plot, signaling chaos, is an ominous sign of obsession with appearance.