Illustration of Jack Worthing in a top hat and formal attire, and a concerned expression on his face

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde
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In Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," are the women presented as victims of the men's schemings?

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I think someone would be hard-pressed to find much evidence that the women in this play are presented as victims. If anything, I think they wield more power than the men do. Lady Bracknell, for example, behaves absolutely imperiously, and Gwendolen acknowledges how her father is actually very little known...

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I think someone would be hard-pressed to find much evidence that the women in this play are presented as victims. If anything, I think they wield more power than the men do. Lady Bracknell, for example, behaves absolutely imperiously, and Gwendolen acknowledges how her father is actually very little known outside of their household, as men's proper place is really in the home. This is quite a huge reversal, some situational irony, from what we think of as typical reality during the Victorian era: women were supposed to be the angels in the house while the men cultivated legal, social, political, and economic identities in the community. Cecily has already determined that she and "Ernest" (Algy) are engaged, even before meeting him, and she certainly gets her way (in everything but his name) in the end. Gwendolen gets her way as well, in all things, really. Just as Algernon suggests that women tend to rule their husbands in marriage, it seems likely that Cecily and Gwendolen will do so as well.

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Women are certainly not presented as victims to the men's schemings in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. In fact, the women seem to be in charge and composed when dealing with the men's antics and lies. The fun irony of the situation is that the girls won't marry men whose names aren't Ernest. In a way, this gives them more control over the men than they know; and, Aunt Augusta isn't taking anyone's word but her own.

The only time the girls are weakened from their positions is when they accept the men back into the realtionships without an apology for the lies. Gwendolen says in Act III that she will not change her views on marrying a man by the name of Ernest by saying, "I never change, except in my affections." To that end Jack is lucky because he finds out that his real birth name was Ernest, but Cecily accepts Algernon even though his lies are revealed. (Cecily's acceptance is inferred because the issue of Algernon's name never comes up again after that; therefore, there is no quote to satisfy the issue.)

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