An Ideal Husband Themes
by Oscar Wilde
Political corruption dominates the plot in An Ideal Husband. Sir Robert's flawless career is threatened by the corruption of his youth. One of the play's ironies is that the happy ending relies on Sir Robert's corruption remaining hidden from public view. The offer of a cabinet seat would never stand if the public had knowledge of his past. Yet, because he successfully hides this past, he feels absolved of his crime. Even Lady Chiltern forgives him for it. The reader can also certainly understand the folly of youth and imperfections of humanity, especially in the face of temptation. However, Wilde's play observes the relevant point that the modern political playing ground was emerging into one where corruption often went hand in hand with politics. The morals of many people, and some of the plays major characters, are based more on the fear of public detection and retaining social status than on pure values of right and wrong. He criticizes this society throughout the play. Institution of Marriage
Wilde treats marriage as a complicated and imperfect relationship in his play, and mocks the Chilterns' attempt to create the perfect marriage based on social status. Lady Chiltern constantly states that her husband cannot afford to support the Argentine Canal scheme because he represents the best of English life. Both Lady Basildon and Mrs. Marchmont complain about their marriage because they are too perfect, and are therefore uninteresting. In any marriage, problems arise, but in the best marriages, love remains constant. Lord Goring is the play's champion of love, and his relationship with Mabel allows for imperfections rather than focusing on ideals. Mrs. Cheveley tries to make Lord Goring marry her, but she represents evil and self-interest, and as Lord Goring notes, desecrates the word of love. Thus, he does not even imagine accepting her suggestion, and maintains true to himself and...
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