How can I write a compare and contrast research paper on Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and Lady Windermere's Fan (10 sources, 10 pages)?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is not easy to dig into a unified whole and find the parts that comprise it, especially to compare that to another whole and especially when both are created by a master. But this type of analysis will serve you well. First, to ignite your analysis and your brainstorming, your ten sources will inform you--many sources wait for you in your school reference library in the literary criticism section (others in the book stacks)--about different opinions and perspectives, through different eras, on these plays. Your critical assessment of the opinions you read can relate to your own analysis of the plays. Such an analysis requires that you know the plays well, having read them closely. From the research you do of others' opinions, your ten sources will emerge.

Second, there are some key points of comparison and contrast that can add to the fire of your brainstorming. You can examine:

  • theme
  • the roles of fans
  • settings
  • aspects of satire
  • name symbolism
  • Wild's biographical elements related to places and names (e.g., Goring-on-Thames appearing as Lord Goring)
  • actions of character types common to both plays (e.g., a wife leaves in each)
  • unexpected appearances and mistaken identities
  • characterization of husbands and wives

To illustrate a couple of these for you, let's consider some points that compare. In each play a wife leaves: Lady Chiltern in An Ideal Husband (IH) and Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere's Fan (LW). In each play there is an advocate for mercy and forgiveness: Lord Goring in IH and Mrs. Erlynne in LW. There are mistaken identities in each: Mrs. Erlynne is really Lady Windermere's mother; the woman at Lord Goring's door is really Mrs. Cheveley, not Lady Chiltern.

There are points of contrast as well. The use of fans in each has contrasts in effect and importance. The characterization of the husbands contrast: IH has a financially criminal husband; LW has a philandering husband. Themes have contrast; for example, the theme of modesty in LW contrasts with that of hypocrisy in IH. Settings have different dynamics in each play; for example, the Act I, Scene i setting of a private meeting between Lady Windermere and Lord Goring contrasts with the Act I, Scene i setting of a party gathering in IH. These ideas ought to get your brainstorming fired up, especially when you add fuel from your research reading.

Read the study guide:
An Ideal Husband

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question