Matriarchal Figures in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Persuasion by Jane Austen

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Matriarchal Figures in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Persuasion by Jane Austen

‘A dominant female member of the family’[1] is often described as a matriarch. Lady Bracknell in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and
Lady Russell in ‘Persuasion’ fulfill this role therefore can be described as matriarchs, and as such they play vital roles. They affect the lives of Gwendolen and Anne, by imposing their beliefs on them. Although Lady Russell is not related to any of the characters in
‘Persuasion’, after Anne’s mother died Lady Russell took on the role of her mother. Lady Russell has some control over Anne, as Anne ‘had always loved and relied on’ her and cannot believe she would ‘be continually advising her in
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Lady Bracknell ensures that Lord Bracknell ‘will have to dine upstairs’, and her remark ‘fortunately he is accustomed to that’ suggests he is insignificant and is only needed at her social events when there needs to be an even number to dinner.

The roles of men and women were an important issue in the Victorian
Era; the traditional view was that men were dominant, assertive and economically independent, and women were passive and dependent.
Novelist George Gissing described the late nineteenth century as a period of “sexual anarchy” because of the formal agitation by women for wider rights’[2]. From the mid-nineteenth century the role of men and women had caused abundant debates in newspapers, known as the
‘separate spheres debate’. It was given its name after the main debate issue; that a woman’s proper sphere was in the home, and a man’s proper sphere was in public. The Victorians would have found
Lady Bracknell’s comments about Lord Bracknell dining upstairs comical as she reverses the usual order. By placing Lady Bracknell in the public world and Lord Bracknell at home, a contemporary society would consider him to be effeminate. Wilde throughout the play shows women being powerfully superior to

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