Dorian Gray Influence Quotes

"To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self," he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers. "Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life – that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, Individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality."
"But, surely, if one lives merely for one’s self, Harry, one pays a terrible price for doing so?" suggested the painter.
"Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays. I should fancy that the real tragedy of the poor is that they can afford nothing but self-denial. Beautiful sins, like beautiful things, are the privilege of the rich."

– Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 6. Lord Henry makes this response when asked by Basil and Dorian what did he mean by good. Henry preaches the gospel of individualism, dismisses self-denial as something for the poor, rejects modern morality and says that beautiful sins are the privilege of the wealthy. He continues his efforts to weave his corruptive web of influence over Dorian, who just before this criticized Henry’s "poisonous" theories. The very moral Basil suggests that a person will pay a terrible price for living a completely selfish life.

Yet it was watching him, with its beautiful marred face and its cruel smile. Its bright hair gleamed in the early sunlight. Its blue eyes met his own. A sense of infinite pity, not for himself, but for the painted image of himself, came over him. It had altered already, and would alter more. Its gold would wither into grey. Its red and white roses would die. For every sin that he committed, a stain would fleck and wreck its fairness. But he would not sin. The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience. He would resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry any more – would not, at any rate, listen to those subtle poisonous theories that in Basil Hallward’s garden had first stirred within him the passion for impossible things. He would go back to Sibyl Vane, make her amends, marry her, try to love her again. Yes, it was his duty to do so. She must have suffered more than he had. Poor child! He had been selfish and cruel to her. The fascination that she had exercised over him would return. They would be happy together. His life with her would be beautiful and pure.

– Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 7. Dorian looks at his portrait, its beautiful face altered and marred with a look of cruelty. This passage represents Dorian’s loss of innocence and beginning of the moral deterioration of his soul. Sibyl has killed herself because of his brutal rejection of her, though he is not yet aware of her demise. This is another turning point in the story, as Dorian is filled with remorse about his cruelty and selfishness to her. He vows to be pure, reject sin, marry Sibyl and love her again. But this change in Dorian’s character turns out to be superficial. The influence of Lord Henry’s theories, which Dorian promises to resist in reaction to the ugliness of the portrait, will prove too much.

To become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life. I know you are surprised at my talking to you like this. You have not realized how I have developed. I was a schoolboy when you knew me. I am a man now. I have new passions, new thoughts, new ideas. I am different, but you must not like me less. I am changed, but you must always be my friend. Of course, I am very fond of Harry. But I know that you are better than he is. You are not stronger – you are too much afraid of life – but you are better. And how happy we used to be together! Don’t leave me, Basil, and don’t quarrel with me. I am what I am. There is nothing more to be said.

– Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 9. Dorian wishes to be the spectator of his own life and review his experiences and impressions like you assess a work of art. He admits to Basil that he is a changed man. But is it for the better? We think not. He speaks of indulging his "new passions, new thoughts, new ideas" brought about under the influence of self-proclaimed hedonist and unremitting pleasure seeker Lord Henry. In the new Dorian there are few signs of guilt or self-awareness or a conscience at work. He will be a spectator of his own sins as he watches them manifest themselves in the changing face of Basil’s portrait of him. Appealing to Basil to always remain his friend, he compares him with Lord Henry and tells him that he is too afraid of life. This is rather ironic, as Dorian will kill his friend Basil with a knife of Chapter 20.
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