English Literature Coursework
‘In dramatic comedy women are typically presented in a less favourable way than men.’ To what extent do you agree with this view in relation to ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’? In Victorian society, the male role would be to rule, protect and provide for his family. Men were always making the political decisions and women had the job of wife, mother and domestic manager. When married, it was men who owned all properties of the women, and she must be faithful to her husband. Divorce led to shame only on females and loss of the right to see their children. In this patriarchal society, men were clearly dominant over women, however, this is not entirely the case in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. The play portrays particular female characters in very different and unexpected manners, some less favourable than others. A way that Wilde challenges the typical Victorian society is by the way he presents women similarly to men. The female characters in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Lady Bracknell in particular, are much more dominant than expected for the time and tend to take control over most situations. Within the Bracknell household, Lord Bracknell is known to be ‘under the thumb’ of the women and Gwendolen even remarks that “Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it should be” (Act 2). Here, Gwendolen shows reversing the traditional roles of men and women. Gwendolen challenges the conventional idea that women should be the ones at home cooking, cleaning, and raising children. Wilde overtly shows that woman can occupy positions of power and usurp the traditional gender roles. He uses the comedic device of role reversal to highlight the importance of traditional roles in Victorian society. The humour comes from the ridiculousness of women being the dominant gender and taking charge of others, when it is well known this was not the case at the time....
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