I couldn't accurately understand what is the meaning of the following sentence.

"Oh, brothers! I don't care for brothers. My elder brother won't die, and my younger brothers seem never to do anything else." - Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gutenberg Edition

Especially, "my younger bothers seem never to do anything else". What is it that is implicit here "anything other than ???". I see that it conveys some contempt but I am not sure if that just means "They don't do anything useful". Also, due to (maybe) cultural difference(I am Korean), what is the meaning behind "My elder brother won't die"? does it implicitly mean that I want him to be dead? (It seems too harsh remark from the context)

To see the context of the above sentences, you may click the link on the sentence.


Harry is being deliberately dismissive towards his family. The line "my younger brothers seem never to do anything else" refers back to "my elder brother won't die". So that part means something along the lines of: "my younger brothers seem never to do anything other than die", which is kind of deliberately nonsensical since it's a joke.

He's speaking flippantly of his younger brothers' deaths, and on top of that he's implying that his elder brother should be dead. You are correct that this is harsh. Hallward reacts negatively to Harry's statement, and Harry replies by admitting he wasn't serious, but he also goes off on another sarcastic rant, which Hallward reacts negatively to again. My perception is that these sarcastic comments are a major part of Harry's character.

  • "my younger brothers seem never to do anything other than die". Does it mean that they died? – msk Apr 20 '19 at 4:39
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    Yes. Though not necessarily all of them. For example, he could still say this line even if for example, two of his three younger brothers had died. It's hard to tell how literally to take this line, since the character is not being entirely serious. But I think it's safe to assume that at one point he had multiple younger brothers and some of them have died. – sky Apr 20 '19 at 4:46

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