The Importance of Being Ernest - How Do the Events at the End of Act 1 Reflect Victorian Attitudes to Engagement, Courtship, Love and Marriage?

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Between 1837 and 1901, Britain experienced a period where the way activities were carried out was experiencing a big change; this period of time was known as the Industrial Revolution. However, the moral values and social customs remained the way they were and everyone strictly followed these values. In ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, the main characters are all people from the upper class and therefore it is very important for them to abide by these rules in order for them to be seen as pure and have a high social status. In this essay, I will be discussing the norms of Victorian behavior and customs of Victorian marriage rituals and romance; and will be relating this to the events at the end of Act I of Victorians took the issue of romance, courtship, engagement and marriage very seriously and strictly followed a set of rules in which a man can interact with a woman. The rules of the Victorian era regarding the interaction of a man and a woman were that a man and a woman were not allowed to communicate with each other unless introduced by a mutual friend or a family member. A woman was only allowed to talk to a man if another older woman was around. No physical contact was allowed between a man and a woman unless they were engaged. A woman was not allowed to flirt with a man through the use of words, but flirting with a fan was acceptable. These were one of the few rules that were set at the time. Towards the end of Act I, we will see many examples of where these rules are violated and examples where these rules were followed by the main characters of Act I (Gwendolen, Jack and Lady Bracknell). Towards the end of Act I, where the conversation between Gwendolen and Jack are going against the norms of Victorian behavior as the flirty language exchanged between the two can be identified. The quote “Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else” suggests that Gwendolen acknowledges the attempts of Jack...
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