In The Importance of Being Earnest, how are genders depicted, especially in terms of dominance versus passivity, and what is the relationship between them?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde depicts males and females as alternately passive and dominant. More so, regardless of their gender, the characters are capable of promulgating fabrications and stratagems.

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In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, the men and the women are depicted as schemers. While the false identities of Algernon and Jack serve as the primary deceptions, the women carry out their own machinations as well.

For example, when Cecily wants to get out of learning German grammar, she finds numerous ways to evade her governess, Ms. Prism. She waters flowers, writes in her diary, and eventually tells her governess’s romantic interest, Rev. Chasuble, that Ms. Prism is suffering from a “slight headache” and could use a stroll.

Both genders are also a mix of dominance and passivity. Think about the scene in which Jack confesses his love to Gwendolen. One could say that Jack is dominant since he’s the one asserting his emotions. Yet Gwendolen is not passive about her emotions. She proclaims her love as well.

More so, Jack/Ernest is dominated by Gwendolen’s mom, Lady Bracknell. She won’t let her daughter marry Jack/Ernest until he clarifies his familial origins.

Finally, the men and the women end up trying to dominate the members of their own respective genders. When Gwendolen and Cecily think they’re both engaged to the same Ernest, they try to dominate one another with insults and glares. When Jack and Algernon’s "Ernest" scheme collapses, Jack and Algernon wind up trying to dominate one another by jockeying for control of the muffin dish.

Although the men are the ones who court the women, the women are not entirely passive, nor are the men entirely dominant. Again, in Wilde’s play, the male and female characters alternate between passivity and dominance.

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