How does Candida examine husband–wife relationships in the late Victorian era?

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Candida shows husband–wife relationships in late Victorian England as unequal but interdependent and suggests that romantic love plays a minor role. Candida’s decision to stay with her husband because he relies on her indicates her feelings of superiority and responsibility. James appreciates his wife’s love, loyalty, and intellect, although he underestimates her efforts in running their household.

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In his play Candida, George Bernard Shaw explores an upper–middle-class marriage in late Victorian England. The husband and wife, Candida and James Morell, are well suited to each other, but their relationship has many elements of inequality. The harmony in the couple’s marriage is largely achieved through the wife’s efforts; the husband tends to underestimate her.

Throughout the play, Shaw critiques the impracticality and idealism of romantic love, as Candida ultimately rejects Eugene Marchbanks, a young poet who clumsily attempts to lure her away from her husband. Through Eugene’s character, Shaw reveals how an outsider and unmarried person can fail to understand the complex bonds that keep a couple together.

Shaw’s view of marriage is both unconventional and traditional. Candida is portrayed as smart, organized, and, in many respects, independent. She seems unconstrained by spousal jealousy, for example, as she freely entertains a young, single man in their home. At the same time, she apparently does not seek further independence, such as employment outside the home or activism in women’s rights issues of the time.

Candida is a sensible and insightful person who recognizes the extent of her husband’s dependence on her. In this respect, even though James is a pastor, the author shows Candida’s position to be morally superior. However, this enforces a traditional view of wives as the upholders of virtue and domestic management.

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