Are The Contrasting Themes in Lady Windermeres Fan Important?

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Are The Contrasting Themes in “Lady Windermere’s Fan” Important?

Throughout “Lady Windermere’s Fan” we are introduced to many contrasting themes. Such as conflict and harmony, trust and betrayal and deception and truth. These are the main contrasting themes that Wilde has used throughout this play. The balance of these contrasting themes certainly improve the overall effect of the play, adding viewing value in the form of intrigue and enjoyment. However, are these contrasting themes important to the play and if so, how and why?


        Although this is a comedy, Wilde derives much comedic value from the conflicts within the play. Let’s take into consideration the conflict between Lord and Lady Windermere. This conflict arises purely due to a misunderstanding (when Duchess of Berwick tells Lady Windermere of her husband being with another woman e.g. “He goes to see her continually, and stops for hours at a time…”) and through deception on the part of Lord Windermere (although he promises to his wife that he has not cheated he will not tell her of why he and Mrs Erlynne were meeting), albeit for altruistic reason. The conflict is never really heated or serious and the audience can appreciate the humorous situation as we know that all will end well and any misunderstandings will be clarified by the end of the play, as is an example in “Much Ado About Nothing” and many other romantic comedies.

Harmony is restored at the end of the play; this being the cardinal rule of comedy. One of the biggest examples of this is the bond that is created at the end between Lady Windermere and Mrs Erlynne; Lady Windermere even telling her husband to “never speak against Mrs Erlynne again.” However, harmony is only achieved through deception and an adherence to superficiality. Wilde seems to be suggesting that in order to live in a harmonious society we need to pretend that all is well and overlook factors which don’t suit our outlook in life. This was certainly the case in Victorian society where the outwardly conservative gentility contrasted with the seedy underbelly and depravities of many parts of metropolitan life at the time.

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        This contrast between these two has a very strong affect not only on the direction of the play but also, the relationship between the characters. Relationships between characters are very important as when or if a relationship were to change, the story itself could have taken on a completely different route. The conflict has also allowed Wilde to turn the tragedy around in ways and create a more humorous piece        

        Many Characters throughout the play deceive not only other characters but also themselves. Lord Windermere deceives his wife in order to protect her from scandal; Mrs Erlynne deceives Lady ...

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