Gwendolyn and Cecily are alike in Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest , in that both are romantic female leads. In many ways they appear on the surface to be similar to the stock character of the young girl, or "puella," in Roman comedy, who functions primarily...
Gwendolyn and Cecily are alike in Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest, in that both are romantic female leads. In many ways they appear on the surface to be similar to the stock character of the young girl, or "puella," in Roman comedy, who functions primarily as a love interest for the young man (the "puer"). They are both members of the upper or upper middle classes, sufficiently well off that they do not need to work. Both, over the course of the play, fall in love, and end up accepting proposals of marriage from the men they love. They are both more intelligent and more interesting than they might appear on the surface. Their conversation shows evidence of wide reading and astute wit.
In many ways, Gwendolyn appears a younger version of her mother Lady Bracknell (one of the great comic characters of the English stage). She has much of her mother's bossiness and concern with social propriety and standing. Both Gwendolyn and her mother though, despite being intelligent and having many qualities that might make them effective businesswomen or political leaders, are constrained by the social standards of their period to roles where their energy and intelligence has no outlet beyond managing the affairs of their social circle.
Cecily appears somewhat less concerned with appearances and perhaps better educated, as evidenced by the references to German. She also is less given to artifice than Gwendolyn, and although her diary is mainly introduced for comic effect, we get a sense that she is more imaginative and less pragmatic than Gwendolyn.
In Oscar Wilde's role as an editor of The Lady’s World he actually wanted to include more of substance and less of fashion in the magazine, and in his portraits of these two young women, we get a sense that his advocacy of equality for women shows through in the portrait of how the limited scope for action of women in their social position leads to a diminution of their lives.