When Dorian Gray is at the opium den, a woman approaches and calls him "Prince Charming", prompting the pursuit and then confrontation with James Vane.

After being deceived into letting Dorian escape, James talks to that woman again, who reveals Dorian's ageless spell and claims "it's been nigh eighteen years" since he made her become... whatever she was at the moment (an addict?).

Now, in order for her to know his old nickname, she had to be around Sybil Vane somehow. At the same time, having been around him long enough to learn about his eternal youth (and the rumors about his dealings with the devil), she should have been able to identify him by name. Yet, she doesn't tell it to James in their brief encounter, even though she wanted him to pay for her stay at the den (and he refused) and could have leveraged that information.

I can't think of any female character that could fill in her shoes. James' mother surely would be able to identify him, but he wouldn't second-guess her. It was to be expected she would have told him about the ageless spell.

Who is her? How does she remember his face so vividly after 18 years but be unaware of his name? What's her connection to Sybil Vane? And what did he do to "make her" what she had become?

1 Answer 1


This is one of those plot devices with no explanation. They're usually not plot-critical, and the author can use them to develop follow-up plots (sequels) in the future.

It's hinted that the woman is Sybil Vane - that's why she both knows Dorain's pet name and also says "it's been nigh eighteen years" since he made her become [whatever]. But Sybil Vane is dead, and moreover the woman disappears shortly afterwards (+James Vane cannot find her).

So there're effectively two possibilities:

  • The woman is Sybil Vane, who did not actually die 18 years ago. Not a realistic option, since if she didn't die, her brother ought to know.
  • The woman is some avatar sent by Sybil Vane from the afterlife to guide her brother.

I'd say the second option is more likely, but again, it's an intentionally-unexplained plot device.

  • I would love the first possibility for many reasons, mostly, for such a fantastic plot twist! But it is not realistic at all: she was found dead by her own mother. It would take a family plot to fake her death, and I don't believe they would be on-board with effectively ruining James' life to sustain that lie. And the second option is deeply sad: she guided him to his tragic death. I wish Wilde would have picked a male character for the role of re-introducing James to the story... there were a few feasible options. Thank you for the insight, it made me a lot more appreciative of the story.
    – Ramon Melo
    Nov 10, 2022 at 16:51

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