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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Does comedic literature in The Importance of Being Earnest and "Not My Best Side" celebrate the resourcefulness and power of female characters?

Quick answer:

Some comedic literature celebrates the resourcefulness and power of women. For example, in The Importance of Being Earnest female characters make decisions that oppose traditional Victorian gender roles. However, some comedic literature does not. For instance, in “Not My Best Side” the women are depicted as superficial and unintelligent.

Expert Answers

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When reflecting on whether or not these works celebrate the resourcefulness and power of female characters, consider how the writers portray women. For instance, in The Importance of Being Earnest, playwright Oscar Wilde depicts empowered female characters who are stronger than the men around them. Consider how Lady Bracknell makes decisions for Gwendolyn instead of her husband. In doing this Lady Bracknell goes against traditional gender roles in Victorian marriages. Although Wilde is critiquing marriage as a ridiculous institution and suggesting that Victorian women are superficial, he also suggests that men’s role in the institution of marriage is even more ridiculous than women’s. One might use this play to argue that comedic literature does portray women as resourceful and powerful.

In "Not My Best Side," Fanthorpe also depicts women as superficial, but his female character comes across as somewhat unintelligent. For instance, consider how she talks about missing the dragon and how she even lusts after it. This depiction of her desire is comedic, but it also hypersexualizes her and suggests that women are inferior to men. Thus one could use this poem to argue that some comedic literature ridicules women and does not portray them as powerful.

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