Eng 230 Paper

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Feminism in The Importance of Being Earnest
English 230
Ball State University
Christian Flatt

The Importance of Being Earnest is a comic play written and enacted for the first time by Oscar Wilde in 1985. The play is greatly influenced by the patriarchal society of the time that valued men more than women. Almost the entire play is focused around the social roles and how men and women interact. Oscar Wilde presents the women in the play in a paradoxical away, making them powerless by society’s norms but strong in their character and influence. The Importance of Being Earnest “satirizes Victorianism,” (Satiric Strategy in the importance of being earnest) in comedic manor and suggests that society should change. Victorianism is defined by The Free Dictionary as “Relating to or displaying the standards or ideals of morality regarded as characteristics of the time of Queen Victoria”, this time period would be around the latter two thirds of the 19th century. This is of significance because the play is mocking the values and morals of the current society which have a direct effect on how women were treated and supposed to act. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde often switches the roles of the males and females. From the first page we see Lane introduced who is a male house servant, a job that is usually considered to be more feminine. It was possible for males to be house servants back then but it’s the first peculiar gender difference from the beginning of the play. In the first act of the play Algernon tells Jack not to eat the cucumber sandwiches because they are specifically for his Aunt Bracknell. We see right away how Algernon has specifically had a food planned out because his Aunt likes it. This is something that you usually do for someone you love or respect. From the way Algernon talks about “Bunburying” to get away, and his general disgust for love and marriage I would say he does this out of respect or fear of his Aunt. This right here gets the audience to believe that Aunt Bracknell is an important character. Lady Bracknell makes a visit during the first scene and we can tell by the language that she uses off the bat that she has some power over Algernon. “Lady Bracknell: Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well. Algernon: I’m feeling very well Aunt Augusta. Lady Bracknell: Thats not quite the same thing, in fact the two things rarely ever go together.” (pg.303) Right here we can see that Lady Bracknell, not only has some power over Algernon but seems to be pretty insightful and smart. The audience see’s what kind of person Algernon is from the beginning when he introduces Bunburying, and how he does it for pleasure. This makes me wonder if Lady Bracknell expects something and really knows it’s a front. The second scene in which we really see Lady Bracknell omit her dominance is when Jack proposes to Gwednolen. Lady Bracknell quickly tells her daughter that they are not engaged and to go sit in the carriage. This scene reminds me of a little kid getting in trouble and being told to go sit in the car while the mom finishes up whatever important business she is doing. That is precisely what is going on here. We see Lady Bracknell treating everyone else in the play so far as little kids, and showing her power and superiority over them. When Lady Bracknell does not consent of Gwedolen and Jacks marriage we see a little bit of the customs of society come into play. Women usually had to have consent from their parents during this time period and often didn’t choose who they married. Parents would make the choice and it often had something to do with gaining money or status, somewhat of an exchange. As we move on in this scene we can see more examples of lady Bracknell’s power and dominance. Once Gwednolen has gone off to the carriage Lady Bracknell say’s “You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing. [looks in her