The Importance Of Being Earnest Feminist Analysis

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In the play The Importance of Being Earnest, the female characters Cecily and Gwendolyn conform to the stereotypical role of the Victorian women's dream of marriage. They both have fantasies of what a perfect husband should be. Cecily and Gwendolyn will not marry unless the man's name is Earnest. Gwendolen tells Jack that “...my ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Earnest” (262). Cecily and Gwendolyn are fixated on the name Earnest because they believe that a man named Earnest will be able to live up to society’s expectation of an honorable man. According to Walter E. Houghton, author of The Victorian Frame of Mind, “To be earnest morally is to recognize that human existence is not a short interval between birth and death...but …show more content…
In the book Gender at Work in Victorian Culture, author Martin Danahay explains “The Victorian period showed a most extreme form of gender segregation, with strict separate spheres for men and women (2). From reading Wilde’s works among others I agree with Danahay, the Victorian period They are treated as the lesser sex, whose primary goal in life is to be married and produce children. According to author Richard D. Altick, “A woman was inferior to a man in all ways except the unique one that counted most: her femininity” (54). Jack implies that woman are too fragile to handle the truth, “My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined, girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!” (268). He treats women as if they require protecting from society. Both Gwendolen and Cecily are obsessed with romance and the idea of marriage, typical of woman in the Victorian era. Jack has control over Cecily because he is her guardian. His dominance over her is expected, because he is her guardian as well as a male. Cecily’s grandfather also has power over her even in death because his will states that he choose her legal coming-of-age at thirty-five. She must be granted permission to be engaged from her uncle Jack until she is of age. The role Jack plays in her life decisions is expected and stereotypical of the Victorian era. The men in The Importance of Being Earnest treat Cecily and Gwendolen as fragile young women who cannot make their own

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