The Picture of Dorian Gray
How we cite our quotes:
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. (7.33)
At this important turning point, Dorian consciously decides that he will try and halt the downward slide of his soul. He realizes belatedly the value of his prior innocence, and of Sibyl's, and vows to attempt to return to that state.
The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died. To you at least she was always a dream, a phantom that flitted through Shakespeare's plays and left them lovelier for its presence, a reed through which Shakespeare's music sounded richer and more full of joy. The moment she touched actual life, she marred it, and it marred her, and so she passed away. Mourn for Ophelia, if you like. Put ashes on your head because Cordelia was strangled. Cry out against Heaven because the daughter of Brabantio died. But don't waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are." (8.17)
Sibyl's innocence is so complete it renders her life a kind of unreal experience. Here, Lord Henry tries to convince Dorian that because she was so inexperienced and ill-equipped for the world, Sibyl in fact never lived at all. This logic seems more than a bit dodgy to us.
Every moment of his lonely childhood came back to him as he looked round. He recalled the stainless purity of his boyish life, and it seemed horrible to him that it was here the fatal portrait was to be hidden away. How little he had thought, in those dead days, of all that was in store for him! (10.12)
The idea that the rotten portrait should dwell among the trappings of Dorian's destroyed innocence disturbs him. We feel a tinge of regret, or something like it, emanating from our protagonist.