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As is true of most of his plays, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde is in many ways a drawing-room comedy, involving witty dialogue among members of the British aristocracy, replete with dandies and parties. Unlike Wilde's more successful plays, there is a more serious moral point hung on a somewhat clumsy plot structure.
The social critique has to do with first a double standard by which society in this period judged what was considered sexual misconduct, unfairly penalizing women and homosexuals while allowing, in particular, straight men to stray without being punished. It specifically directs its criticism at the hypocrisy of punishing women who commit adultery or strive for divorce, without punishing their male partners.
Mrs. Erlynne, who turns out to be the mother of Lady Windermere, actually proves the most moral of the characters in the play.
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