Is the fan the only symbol in Lady Windermere's Fan?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Oscar Wilde's 1895 play Lady Windermere's Fan is one of the four society plays which brought Wilde to the zenith of triumph in the mid 1890's, only to be overshadowed by the scandalous three trials that led to his ultimate destruction in that same year.

In typical Wildean style, Lady Windermere's Fan is a conduit for Wilde to expose the lives of the aristocrats and other wealthy Londoners for what they really were: Shallow and superficial.

In Lady Windermere's Fan it is arguable that the fan is characteristic of Lady Windermere's behavior as a female,and as a woman that feels betrayed. The fan itself represents her husband's fondness (it was his birthday gift for her), her superior status above Mrs. Cheveley (she held the fan in contempt as she waited for her), her flirtation with Lord Goring (she flirted with Goring using the "fan language"), her want for revenge (she was ready to beat up Mrs. Cheveley with her fan), her passiveness, and her aggressiveness, all at the same time.

Comparatively, Lady Windermere's rival, Mrs. Cheveley, also has a symbol of her own which represents several aspects of her personality: The diamond brooch.

The diamond brooch with ruby eyes represents the betrayer and the enemy in the symbolic form of a snake. Not only does the snake brooch reflect Mrs. Cheveley's cunning ways, but it also symbolizes her shady past, since she had stolen that brooch. When Lord Goring recognizes the brooch he points out to Mrs. Cheveley that it also can be used as a cuff bracelet (reminiscent of the cuffs used by police). This is how he confronted her, thus trapping her into his knowledge so that she would not go try to ruin Lord Windermere.

In conclusion, the two female main characters had symbols that represented their behaviors as well as their diverse roles within the play.

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