The Picture of Dorian Gray
Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"I love Sibyl Vane. I want to place her on a pedestal of gold and to see the world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An irrevocable vow. You mock at it for that. Ah! don't mock. It is an irrevocable vow that I want to take. Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good. When I am with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch of Sibyl Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong, fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories." (6.8)
Interestingly, Dorian seems to recognize that he's at a turning point here – he's willing to put Lord Henry's "poisonous" theories behind him and live a good life with Sibyl.
"Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about," he answered in his slow melodious voice. "But I am afraid I cannot claim my theory as my own. It belongs to Nature, not to me. Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When we are happy, we are always good, but when we are good, we are not always happy."
"Ah! but what do you mean by good?" cried Basil Hallward.
"Yes," echoed Dorian, leaning back in his chair and looking at Lord Henry over the heavy clusters of purple-lipped irises that stood in the centre of the table, "what do you mean by good, Harry?"
"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." (6.8)
Basically, Lord Henry seems to think that if you can afford to be sinfully self-indulgent, you should go ahead and do it. His vision of good and evil is a rather cloudy one – to him, the real conflict is between the self and the society that surrounds it. See also "Morality and Ethics" for more on Henry's views.
"Then the curtain rises, and you will see the girl to whom I am going to give all my life, to whom I have given everything that is good in me." (7.2)
Hmm…so, if Dorian has given everything good in him to Sibyl, does it all perish when she does?