I would give my soul from 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde (1891)
This passage is taken from chapter 2 of the novel. There are three characters, i.e., Lord Henry Watton, the painter Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray. The painter has just finished painting Dorian's portrait and Henry Watton is speaking to the young man.
Lord Henry is a typical dandy who has devoted his life to the search for beauty and pleasure and is now trying to convince Dorian that beauty matters more than anything else in life, it is a form of genius which makes you unique. It is a gift but it will leave Dorian soon. He implores Dorian to enjoy it while he can and he suggests that he should not give his life to 'the ignorant, the common and the vulgur'. According to Lord Henry Watton's words, Dorian could become the symbol of a new form of hedonism, that is the pursuit of pleasure as the greatest goal in life (see lines 24-25).
Lord Henry is very skilled at convincing people through the power of words. He succeeds in dominating Dorian and making him choose to live his life for art and forget moral responsibility. He uses a lot of words and expressions relating to youth, beauty and old age and they convey the idea that youth is beautiful and divine while old age stands for physical and mental decay. What only matters in life is being young and beautiful.
All characters belong to the upper middle class and Lord Henry's speech is eloquent and refined. He makes use of 'paradox', a statement which seems untrue and contradictory, but reveals a deeper truth. In lines 11 and 12, he says that 'the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible'. Although at first this statement sounds non-sensical, after second thought it may reveal some truth about Victorian people's hypocrisy.
The story is told by a third-person narrator who is unobtrusive,since he never intervenes in the narration and never addresses the reader directly. The point of view adopted is Lord Henry's in the first part and Dorian's in the second part of the extract.
The main theme of the text is the relationship between beauty and morality.