• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How far and in what ways does Oscar Wilde challenge these views on gender in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'?

Extracts from this document...


The traditional view of gender relations in the Victorian era was that men were active, manly, assertive and economically independent whilst women were assumed to be passive, pliant and dependant. How far and in what ways does Oscar Wilde challenge these views in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'? Oscar Wilde does challenge these traditional roles in the Importance of Being Earnest deliberately to make humour out of these characteristics. In fact most of the intelligent wit that is in the play stems from the fact that the characters are doing or saying something that one wouldn't expect them to say, the opposite of what they are saying is what would be predicted e.g. "Divorces are made in Heaven". Oscar Wilde works in the same way with the characters, none of them are generally what a stereotypical Victorian man or woman would be. The two main male characters, Jack and Algernon, cannot really be regarded as masculine, or at any rate both of them do not fit the criteria for what characteristics a stereotypical Victorian man would be. Algernon is active up to a certain point; he does go away to the country when he becomes bored of the city and so is in charge of his own life. However, without his ability to be deceitful be would complied to go to Lady Bracknell's dinner parties, so really he is ...read more.


and pliable. All these characteristics are those of the ingenue of a comedy of manners, who in fact would normally be female. So, Jack is rather effeminate to own all these characteristics. After examination of Algy and Jack, it can clearly be seen that Wilde has challenged the gender relations of the Victorian era by creating two male characters that by no means come across as masculine. Also, any masculine traits that are present in them are practically eliminated when they, and the audience, are introduced to their future wives. Gwendolen is assertive, she is like Algy in that she can make Jack do what she likes and will give a confident remark about herself: "I am always smart! Am I not, Mr Worthing?" She is feminine, in that she is concerned with appearance and the proper engagement, but at the same time adopts more masculine characteristics than does Jack. Gwendolen is also active as she defies what her mother instructs her to and she isn't dependent emotionally on anyone, though Jack appears to be emotionally dependant on her. A good example of Gwendolen being assertive is when Jack is made to propose to her properly. Even though Gwendolen knows exactly what he is going to ask her and she even tells him that she is going to accept him before he proposes, Gwendolen insists on a proper proposal, which is absurd. ...read more.


She is also defiant and has no intention in learning during her lessons. Algy appears to become less assertive when he meets Cecily and becomes passive, accepting everything she says even though it is absurd. It is also discovered that Cecily is going to be by no means economically dependent when she matures because she is the inheritor of "a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the Funds." It can be predicted that Cecily like Gwendolen is going to have the upper hand over Algernon in their marriage. After examination of the female characters it can be concluded that the female characters are no more typical Victorian women than are Algernon and Jack typical Victorian men. Oscar Wilde has created characters that challenge the Victorian views of gender relations, out of these stems the humour of the comedy of manners. The characters are not what you would expect and the femininity and masculinity of the male and female characters respectively give the characters their wit and it makes the play all the more absurd. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is original in that it is the first play that satirised Victorian society like this and gender roles were a very important part of that society. Oscar Wilde made his contemporary audience laugh at themselves even though they might not have known it. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Importance of Being Earnest section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Importance of Being Earnest essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The Importance of Being Earnest - 'We live, as I hope you know, Mr ...

    5 star(s)

    Lady Bracknell saying: 'an engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise...It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange herself' this seeming dedication to the meticulous arrangement of a marriage in order to achieve the best results ironically destroys any romantic element, and in that aspect chances of true love.

  2. What do you find funny in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'?Consider what dramatic devices ...

    They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta'. He then 'takes one and eats it' as he seems to do instinctively during conversing with Jack. The dramatic irony involved with this creates humour later on when Aunt Augusta asks for the cucumber sandwiches. Algernon's reaction to this is melodramatic and the actor would have to pull it off

  1. Oscar Wilde (1845-1903) - An Ideal Husband

    or a pessimist, she comments that natural is "such a very difficult pose to keep up." This ironic comment exposes the audience to the idea that even people who appear to be natural in their stance on life are posing that way.

  2. How Does Wilde Introduce the characters in A Woman Of No Importance

    Through Wilde's presentation of Lady Caroline we are shown how we cannot believe the surface appearance of characters in the play, deepening our knowledge of a 19th century culture was truly like. Wilde reinforces the hypocrisy of Lady Caroline, creating the impression that her knowledge is purely based upon gossip.

  1. Everything which ought to be of importance becomes merely trivial. Discuss "The Importance of ...

    Besides giving the play a layer of dark humour the death humour subverts the idea of life being a work of art. Jack?s imaginary, wayward brother Earnest is a device not only for escaping social and moral obligations but also one that allows Jack to appear far more moral and responsible than he actually is.

  2. To what extent is Wilde satirising Victorian society in The Importance of Being Earnest ...

    For example, even when she questions Jack on his politics, her true question is whether the members of the party are to her approval; her response to Jack?s identification as a ?liberal unionist? is of no relation to his politics, but a satisfactory remark about the fact that ?they dine with [her and her entourage]?.

  1. How does Wilde use marriage and courtship to create comedic and dramatic effects ...

    One particular source of satire was Victorian society?s preoccupation with keeping the upper class elevated and the lower class in the right place. This affected Victorian marriage because it led to extensive competition between suitors, who were expected to have a flawless ancestry, a grand estate and a considerable amount of wealth.

  2. To what extent is Wilde satirising Victorian society in The Importance of Being Earnest ...

    His ignorance and foolishness, contributes to the satirical nature of the play but yet in keeping with the comedy genre due to the melodramatic and foolish aspects of his character for example: ?She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her husband across the dinner-table.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work