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Goodness Tainted Thoreau Quote Analysis

658 words - 3 pages

"There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.?
-Walden, Henry David Thoreau

There are two ways that this quotation might be interpreted, one way focuses on a person's goodness, or lack of, and the other concerns benign or malicious intentions.
The quotation could be interpreted to mean that it is a sadder thing for a 'good' person to decline into immorality than for a 'bad' person to do something wicked. This interpretation of the quote can be illustrated by the book The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray enters the story as an enchanting, vivacious, almost cherubic youth, comparable to the beautiful Greek god Adonis. As the story progresses, Dorian gets drawn into a habit of hedonism, financial waste, and self destruction, and this moral decline is paralleled by gradual distortion of his once beautiful portrait. At the end of the book, after Dorian had fallen so far as to commit murder, he is shocked to find that his image has become bloated and hideous, and in a fit of outrage, he stabs his portrait, therefore killing himself. All in all, Dorian?s descent into debauchery is very dramatic and very gruesome. In contrast, the unswervingly corrupt nature of Lord Henry Wotton, the devilish nobleman who influences Dorian, is not as exaggerated and does not have as gloomy an outcome. It can be understood that the tragedy of The Picture of Dorian Gray is that such a fair lad as Dorian could stoop so low, and the character of ?Harry?, corrupt as it is, is a constant and therefore does not invoke as much emotional response from the audience.
On a similar wavelength, the quotation could also be interpreted as meaning that good intent with bad outcome is more unpleasant, or ?foul?, than malicious intent altogether. This is like comparing the Hindenburg explosion to a kamikaze?s crash. During the 1930?s, the Zeppelin industry served as a peaceful...

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