illustration of the upper-right corner of Dorian Gray's picture

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

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"Anybody Can Be Good In The Country"

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Context: The relationship between young Dorian Gray and his older friend Lord Henry Wotton resembles that of Faust and his tempter Mephistopheles. Through the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian lives for some years a life that on the surface is filled with sensation and pleasure but that at the same time is destroying his soul. His pleasures bring pain, suffering, and even death to others. At his country home Dorian is hunting one day with a friend who accidentally shoots and kills a man. When Dorian discovers that the dead man is James Vane, who had been pursuing him because he had caused the suicide of Vane's sister eighteen years earlier, he is at first pleased and relieved to be safe from Vane's revenge. Afterward, however, he determines to give up his evil ways, and Lord Henry mocks him:

. . . "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."

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