Portrayal of Women in
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
"The Importance of Being Earnest" was written by the famous Irish author, Oscar Wilde. The play represents WildeÃÂ´s late Victorian view of the aristocracy, marriage, wit, and social life during the early 1900's. His characters are typical Victorian snobs who are arrogant, overly proper, formal, and concerned with money. Wilde portrays the women on two separate levels, Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are young, sheltered, and without identity, while Lady Bracknell is the strong adult authority figure. There is no sense of identity for Cecily and Gwendolen; the only woman within the play who clearly stands out is Lady Bracknell.
Cecily and Gwendolen lead a very sheltered existence; one from the country and the other from the city, otherwise they are portrayed similarly by Wilde. The women are far from stupid, but they are not well informed about the ways of the world.
Most of all they do not know the ways of the society they live in. Gwendolen is sheltered by her mother, Lady Bracknell, who does not approve of education in England, as she puts it, "Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever" (577). Most likely Lady Bracknell did not send her daughter to any educational institute other than a Manner's School for Women. Gwendolen herself understands what her mother is trying to do to her, "mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted" (594). Cecily is sheltered as well, but her location is the reason for it. She resides in the country and even though an education is offered, she is not interested, "But I don't like German. It isn't at all a becoming language. I know perfectly well that I look...