Dorian Gray, when given everlasting youth and beauty, destroys his life through sin. His reckless pleasure seeking causes him to isolate himself from everyone he cared about. Towards the end of the novel, Lord Henry is questioning Dorian’s way of life. He quotes Dorian a passage from the Bible. The quote“‘what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose’ his own soul?’ addresses Dorian’s abandonment of morals. This is ironic because Lord Henry is the Novel’s symbol of cynicism, and is the embodiment of immorality. Religion, he quips is “The fashionable substitute for belief’. Lord Henry, therefore, can be seen as the devil or bad consciousness of Dorian His question shocks Dorian, for Dorian fully realizes the consequences of his actions. Henry’s quoting of biblical scripture emphasizes his demonic position, because Henry does not care whether Dorian repents, and “even the devil can quote scripture”. Lord Henry’s quotation from the Bible (the “good” book) parallels his gift to Dorian of the evil “yellow book” which Dorian describes as “ poisoness”
Lord Henry’s quote is from the New Testament Mark 8:36. The quote, which would have been well known to the literate reader of 1890, is significant also in what it leaves out. The complete quote is: “For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life, for my sake and the gospels, he shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give, in exchange for his soul?” Dorian is terrified of death. Dorian in his attempt to “save his life” by preserving his youth and beauty loses both, and causes enormous suffering to those around him. We know too that what Dorian obtained “…in exchange for his soul” was the temporary suspension of his mortality.