The Picture of Dorian Gray, Key Quotes

Quotes linked to key themes of the novel

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The Purpose of Art

  • Preface: the artist is “the creator of beautiful things”
  • All art is quite useless”: Pater “Art for arts sake.” – Utilitarianism: Bentham “What is the use of it?” 
  • Henry on Dorian:“Brainless, beautiful creature”
  • Preface: No artist desires to reveal anything”,
  • Henry: “We live in an age when we treat art as if it were meant to be autobiography”
  • Basil: destruction of the painting would bemurder”
  • Henry:“a method of procuring extraordinary sensations”
  • Henry:“Art had soul, but that man had not.”
  • Henry on Dorian:“Life has been your art.”(Art is useless)
  • Scots Observer: “It is false art – for the hero is the devil.”
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Youth and Beauty

  • Henry: “real beauty ends were intellectual expression begins”; “The ugly and stupid have it best in this world. […] If they know nothing of victory, they are spared the knowledge of defeat”, “genius lasts longer than beauty”, chooses friends for their “good looks”
  • Henry:“Youth! There is nothing like it.”, “There is nothing in the world but youth.”
  • Henry to Dorian: “You will become sallow and hollow-cheeked and dull eyed. You will suffer horribly.
  • Dorian is a “brainless, beautiful creature”
  • Dorian has: “all the candour of youth”; “youth’s passionate purity”; “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27)
  • Dorian: “Youth had spoiled him”, “unripe time”, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole and lose his own soul?” (Hamlet 4.7)
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Society's Facade/Social Satire & the English Class

  • Basil's Studio:“Persian saddle bags”
  • Henry's House:“painters of Tokio” 
  • Henry: “All crime in vulgar, just as all vulgarity is a crime.” (D could not have killed B due to his beauty)
  • Peck & Coyle: Prologue establishes “his decadent novel to invert Victorian morality”
  • Henry: “The terror of society”, “There is no society of any kind in the colonies.”, “[the masses believe that] drunkenness, stupidity, and immorality should be their own special property”
  • Lord Fermor: would be called selfish, but is “considered generous by society as he fed the people who amused him”
  • Dinner Parties
  • Henry: “There are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these cannot be admitted into decent society.”
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  • “Truth is rarely pure and never simple.
  • Preface: “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
  • Foucault: “For any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.” - Henry: “In art, as in politics, les grandperes ont toujours tort.”
  • Henry: “We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us.
  • B is the figure of morality: Faust’s good angel
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Homoerotic Relationship

  • Kosofsky Sedgewick: “Male-male desire is routed through triangular relations involving a woman”
  • Bosie: “The love that dare not speak its name.”
  • 1885 Labouchere Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act
  • Basil: “I am afraid that I have shown the secret of my soul […] 
  • Henry:We live in age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography.”
  • [W’s trial: “I have never allowed any personality to dominate my art. It is a work of fiction.”]
  • Dorian on Basil : “such love as Michelangelo had known, and Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself” 
  • Dorian is to Basil “what the face of Antinous was to late Greek Scuplture” - Hadrian
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  • Basil: “grown to love secrecy”
  • Dorian is “horribly thoughtless” and “take[s] a real delight in giving me pain” whilst being “wonderfully handsome” – foreshadowing
  • Henry: “a life of deception [is] absolutely necessary”, “Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.”
  • Henry: “The things one feels absolutely certain are never true.”
  • Dorian: “[He] for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life.”, “he would often adopt certain modes of thought that he knew to be really alien to his nature [… to] satisfy his intellectual curiosity”
  • Dorian on Sibyl’s death: “Harry, Harry, it is terrible” – “How extraordinarily dramatic life is!”
  • Painting: “the most magical mirrors” revealing “his own soul”: a “touch of cruelty in the mouth”, “the soul is a terrible reality”
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  • Henry on Cigarettes: “the perfect type of pleasure. It is exquisite and leaves on unsatisfied”
  • Henry: “I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”, 
  • Henry:“One could never pay a price too high for any sensation.”, 
  • Henry:“Be always searching for new sensations.”, 
  • Henry:“inordinate passion for pleasure”
  • Henry to Dorian: "A new Hedonism - that is what our century wants.”
  • St. James’s Gazette: “New Voluptuousness.”
  • DG as a morality tale: D embraces Hedonism and an hedonistic lifestyle and it destroys him
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  • Immortality is in the eye of the beholder: “Those who go beneath do so at their peril” – “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors”
  • Painting: “The full length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty.” 
  • Painting: “The face appeared to him to be a little changed.” 
  • Painting: “There was a touch of cruelty in his mouth” 
  • Painting: “Beautiful marred face and cruel eyes” 
  • Painting: “as though the canvas sweated blood”
  • Painting: “the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite”
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  • Basil on Dorian: “some subtle influence passed from him to me”
  • Henry: “To influence is to give him one’s soul”; 
  • Henry:“There is no such thing as good influence. All influence is immoral”; 
  • Henry:“There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it.”
  • Basil to Dorian: “You have a wonderful influence. Let it be for good, not for evil.”
  • Basil: “I’ve always been my own master, at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray.”
  • YB: “Dorian Gray could not free himself from the influence of this book. Or […that] he never sought to free himself from it.”
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The Role of Women

  • Victoria: tries “to look picturesque” but only succeeds in “being untidy”
  • Lady Brandon: “a peacock in everything but beauty”, “tried to found a salon, and only succeeded in opening a restaurant”
  • Lady Narborough: “very clever woman […] remarkable for her ugliness”
  • Henry: “Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but say it charmingly.”, “How fond women are of doing such dangerous things.”
  • Sibyl: “eyes gar were violet wells of passion” (D: eyes “deepened into amethyst”), “trampled flower”, “caged bird”, “represents all the heroines of romance”, “I shudder at the thought of being free.”, “I am half-sick of shadows.”
  • Mrs Vane: “a faded, tired looking woman”, “thin-lipped wisdom” – “melodramatic words made life more vivid”, the “scene” has “theatrical picturesqueness”
  • Dorian: “Sphinxes without secrets.”
  • Julian Hawthorne: “They are only mentioned and they never appear to speak for themselves.”
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This helped for my AS mocks revision! Thanks! 

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