Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Most modern productions of Fashion have treated the play strictly as social satire. In this interpretation, Elizabeth Tiffany’s slavish adherence to fashion becomes the central element of the play, and a central theme is the contrast between the real and the illusory. Elizabeth, whose sister Prudence reminds her that originally they were milliners, has tried to adopt French fashions that she does not understand. Although she asserts that she has studied a book on French and is quite comfortable with the language, she must rely upon Millinette to explain the customs and provide the vocabulary for everyday objects such as “armchair,” which she insists upon calling fauteuil, or, as she pronounces it, “fowtool.” Nevertheless, Elizabeth believes she is a “real” lady of fashion.
Elizabeth’s pretentiousness is not limited to language, however. She is determined that her daughter will marry a French nobleman, though she lacks the wisdom to recognize the falsity of Jolimaitre’s credentials. Likewise, she becomes a patron of T. Tennyson Twinkle, primarily because she believes such a patronage “fashionable” but also because she lacks the taste to realize that he is a bad poet. She tolerates the condescension of Augustus Fogg because he is supposedly a member of “fashionable” society, and in general she spends so much money frivolously that her husband becomes an embezzler to pay her expenses.
(The entire section is 520 words.)
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