Social Status In the Importance of Being Earnest

Catherine Keable

What do the main characters think about the lower classes?

        The main characters in the novel The Importance of Being Earnest, have an old fashion look on the ideas of social structure. Lady Bracknell is the worst of the characters regarding social class. She believes that as an upper class member, she should have no contact with members of the lower class unless they are working for her. She does not believe that her daughter, or any relative to her, should marry a member of the class which might be lower then hers. The other characters do not feel the same way, as they are willing to marry any of the characters, male or female, before checking first to see what social class they are in. Although none of the characters are considered to be in the lowest class of society, they are judged by the people in the upper classes because they are considered to be of less quality and not proficient enough to be given the opportunity to be noble.

Social Masks + "bunburying"

     Throughout the novel, the two characters of Jack Worthington who goes by the name of Ernest and Algeron Moncrieff who goes by Ernest as well. These men do this in order to bunbury their actual character. Jack only goes by Jack in the country and Ernest in the city in order to have a dual identity. This means that one of his identities could act foolish, but the other could always act with pride in a social standing in order to keep him at a high level. The correlation between bunburying, or making another identify, and social masking is the same. In social masking, the person acts like a different person is controlling them, but they are never actually in the action. With bunburying, the person is actually created an entirely new identity for themselves. They go by two people, but with social masking only one identity is used.

Gender Ideas in Public and Private Spheres

       In the novel, it is very interesting how some of the women overstep their boundaries of the way they are supposed to be living. Gwendolen Fairfax, one of the high class women, decided he was going to marry Mr. Worthington and nothing, not even her rich mother, was going to stop her. She wanted it to be the way she demanded and she would marry Jack (or Ernest) if it was the last thing she would ever do. She defies the gender idea that women had to wait for the man to ask her for her hand in marriage. She practically forces Jack to propose so her mother cannot interfere with what she wants. Another idea where the gender ideas in a public sphere is challenged is when Algeron and Cecily plan to be married. To begin with, Cecily was able to make up the entire relationship between the two in hopes of him falling in love with her. She creates a box full of memories, which never existed, and presented them to him like they had actually occurred. As a women she is able to convert the ideas of this man, who at this time period were "always" smarter then the women and trick him.

Gwendolen=Typical Victorian Girl???

          Gwedolen is a typical Victorian girl in a very small manor. She appears to respect her mother to her face although she does not take the orders that her other forces on her. She is smart and pleasant as all Victorian ladies should be. She also dresses very classy in the style which they were to wear clothes, as modest as possible but still allowing for a male to perceive them. Gwedolen does not fulfill some of the expectations and standards of a Victorian lady as she does not marry a man that her mother chose for her. Gwedolen knows that her mother will not approve of Mr. Worthington so she does not allow her other to make this choice. she decides without first asking her mother who she will marry and she odes it out of love and not social class. In the Victorian Age you were supposed to pick your significant other from the same social class as yours to ensure that you will have plenty of wealth as you continue on. This sets Gwedolen apart as she will not marry someone that her mother chooses because she wants to marry for love.


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