The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into the garden. "I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues. You are an extraordinary fellow. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose."
"Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know," cried Lord Henry, laughing. (1.11-12)
Here's the difference between Basil and Henry, in a nutshell – Basil believes that people are innately (perhaps secretly) good, and that his friend's cynicism is just a front. Henry, on the other hand, is more suspicious – especially of people who pretend to be totally upfront all the time.
"I quite sympathize with the rage of the English democracy against what they call the vices of the upper orders. The masses feel that drunkenness, stupidity, and immorality should be their own special property, and that if any one of us makes an ass of himself, he is poaching on their preserves. When poor Southwark got into the divorce court, their indignation was quite magnificent. And yet I don't suppose that ten per cent of the proletariat live correctly." (1.18)
Lord Henry's half-serious, all-snobby comment on the difference in morality between the upper and lower classes demonstrates his overall belief: that morality and ethics are all arbitrary bunk.
"I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world." (1.19)
Here, we see that Lord Henry's interests simply lie in being an observer of the world, and of humanity. He prefers to experiment with real people, rather than simply with words.