Social Status in The Importance         of  Being Earnest

Lady Bracknell

Lady Bracknell can be related to Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice: she is all about social status and the ways of the ton. She is constantly looking to better herself and her daughter. In most of the scenes involving her she is the highest ranking person. She knows it and acts accordingly.

Even though Jack is a wealthy business man and land holder she refuses to allow Gwendolen to marry him because his parentage is unknown. He could be a peasant for all she knows and she will not allow Gwendolen to undo the progress she made by marrying herself above her station.

She is uninterested in Cecile until Jack mentions that she is worth one hundred and thirty thousand pounds. That gets a reaction from the old bat.

Banburying is creating a fictitious person to avoid responsibilities which is almost the same as wearing a social mask which is creating a second identity to "wear" in public. In both cases an entire character is created in response to societies demands. For instane, Jack creates another person so that he can relieve himself for a short period of the stress of his responsibilities. He creates a brother whose actions society demands he control. Algernon creates an invalid friend so that he may exit the pressure of society while having a socially acceptable reason for leaving as well as adding to his good reputation.

None of the women in the play are anything like the prudish, demure, and submissive female that defined conventional Victorian society. Nor are the men chivalrous and impeccable.  Women are supposed to be poise and elegant, remaining cordial in the most perturbed of circumstances. However when Cecily and Gwen first meet and find they are both engaged to "Earnest" if it weren't for the butler they would have been at each others throats. As it was they spoke with barbed tongues and forcibly suppressed emotions.

The men are not nearly as impeccable as they should be. For heaven's sake, both men create a whole different person just to get out of their responsibilities. Algernon tries to make moves on Cecily before they are even engaged and Jack lies to Gwen when she asks if she was the reason he created Earnest. What scoundrels.

Gwen is a typical Victorian because she does not let her affection for Jack show. She follows her mother's lead most of the time.

However when she runs off to find Jack and along the way gets a tattoo on her butt she definitely breaks out of the traditional Victorian mold. No true Victorian lady would get a tattoo, especially not on her butt.

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2 years ago