How are the female characters in The Importance of Being Earnest presented and in what ways do they conform to the Victorian ideal of passive women.
Victorian England made a clear division between gender roles of men and women. The life of a conventional Victorian woman was focused on marriage and family in which her upbringing was based on this. Young girls were brought up to perfectly innocent and sexually ignorant. The typical Victorian woman was seen to be weak and passive, she was taught to be obedient to authority and to keep her opinion to herself or not to have an opinion at all. Within the home, a Victorian woman took charge of the household and the education of the children however at the same time she was to provide a place of
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Gwendolen is obedient to her mother as she does utter “yes mamma” however she secretly blows kisses to Jack behind her mother’s back, which indicate she does not take her mother’s opinion seriously. Furthermore, when her mother forbids her to marry Jack, Gwendolen returns to Jack to tell him “although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry someone else, and marry often, nothing she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you”. Even though Gwendolen seems like a typical Victorian woman who obeys her mother, she is in fact perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She secretly opposes her mother’s opinion and besides that, she also manipulates Jack in his engagement. Gwendolen is very un-typical in her behaviour towards Jack Worthing. In her conversations with Jack, she has the upper hand and guides him into the direction she wants to take. She gives him advice about love and almost forces him to propose to her. Normally, when a proposition was made, a woman only had the power of refusal, but Gwendolen tells Jack beforehand she is willing to accept him. When he does ask her, she asks: “Mr Worthing, what have you got to say to me?” When Gwendolen finds out Jack is not really called Ernest, she is upset at first but is eager to confront him about his lie. While doing so, she literally puts the words in his mouth: “Mr Worthing, what