The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"You have spoiled the romance of my life. How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art! Without your art, you are nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you would have borne my name. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face." (7.18)
It becomes clear that Dorian only valued Sybil as an aesthetic object. She was, to him, a living work of art, and, now that she can't act anymore, she's lost all of her value.
"Harry," cried Dorian Gray, coming over and sitting down beside him, "why is it that I cannot feel this tragedy as much as I want to? I don't think I am heartless. Do you?"
"You have done too many foolish things during the last fortnight to be entitled to give yourself that name, Dorian," answered Lord Henry with his sweet melancholy smile.
The lad frowned. "I don't like that explanation, Harry," he rejoined, "but I am glad you don't think I am heartless. I am nothing of the kind. I know I am not. And yet I must admit that this thing that has happened does not affect me as it should. It seems to me to be simply like a wonderful ending to a wonderful play. It has all the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy, a tragedy in which I took a great part, but by which I have not been wounded." (8.17)
Dorian continues to view life as Sibyl used to, as a kind of theatrical spectacle – he feels no emotional connection to the work of art, merely an interest and appreciation for it.
"My dear boy," said Lord Henry, smiling, "anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate."
"Culture and corruption," echoed Dorian. "I have known something of both. It seems terrible to me now that they should ever be found together." (19.2)
If "civilization" is truly what Lord Henry thinks it is, we're not sure we want it. He thinks that it springs either from "culture" or "corruption" – or from a combination of the two. The thing is, we have to wonder how separable these two things are.