A Woman Of No Importance
Themes: The author Wilde criticises the victorian upper class in a variety of different ways. They are usually throughout the first two acts in the abundance of witty dialogue the protagonists engage in.
Lady Caroline displays her own ignorance when she dismisses ‘new woman’ Hester Worsley a somewhat pious woman who is independent and financially secure. She patronizes Hester through her actions. She is seen as sarcastic because she makes sarcastic comments on Hester’s country; (line 6, act 1). She also dismisses Americas ‘open spaces’ and this acts as a metaphor as it describes the liberation in which America has to offer. Lady caroline is portrayed by Oscar Wilde as ethnocentric; basing other cultures on her society’s standards. This also shows the differentiation between the victorian upper class and the working class. Lady Caroline considers those that work to be inferior; (line 41-42 act 1). She also has double standards; she says Mr Kelvil is important but she fails to remember his name, (act 1, line 21-22).
Lady Hunstanton; a hypocrite. She may come across as genuine as she seems rather enthusiastic when she hears about Gerald’s placing of a job. She is also seen as a hypocrite because she, along with another lady agreed on getting rid of a nanny due to the fact that she was ‘pretty’. She saw this as a threat because she may sleep with her sons or that woman’s husband. Its seen as hypocritical as the woman talk about having an affair in acts one and two and how they can slip away easily because they have not been caught. The woman do what their husbands wish them too.
Mr Kelvil is typically regarded as a pompous hypocrite and reflects the unimportance of the house of commons. He is constantly talking about the topic of purity and reflects the unimportance of woman’s rights; yet he does not seem to be proactive about it seeing as he has sent his wife and children to the seaside for they day. Additionally, Wilde presents Lord Illingworth to actually realise and use his conscience about the poverty ridden individuals in the East End. Lord Illingworth has a conscience, but deep down it is situated.
Gerald is seen as naive.
Wilde does not introduce the characters straight away which creates an ephoria of excitement and anticipation in the audience and therefore uses theatrical devices to the best of their ability.
Lady Stutfield: She repeats her adjectives a lot. She is also shown to have no opinions of her own. She admires Mrs Allonby and takes her views very seriously. Wilde uses her for the purpose of comedy because she is brainless.
He is a man of about 45 and a bachelor. He is witty and clever and a practised flirt, who knows how to make himself agreeable to women. He is Mrs. Arbuthnot's former lover and seducer and the father of Gerald Arbuthnot. Also, he has a promising diplomatic career and is shortly to become Ambassador to Vienna. He enjoys the company of Mrs. Allonby, who has a similar witty and amoral outlook to his own, and who also engages in flirting. His accidental acquaintance with Gerald, to whom he offers the post of private secretary, sets in motion the chain of events that form the main plot of the play. Illingworth is a typical Wildean dandy.
Apparently a respectable widow who does good work among the poor and is a regular churchgoer. She declines invitations to dinner parties and other social amusements, although she does visit the upper class characters at Lady Hunstanton's, since they all appear to know her and her son, Gerald. However, the audience soon realise that she has a secret past with Lord Illingworth who is the father of her son, Gerald.
The illegitimate son of Mrs. Arbuthnot and Lord Illingworth. Gerald's young and rather inexperienced character represents the desire to find a place in society, and gain high social standing. His naivety allows him to accept uncritically what society deems as proper, and his belief in honour and duty is what leads him to insist upon his parents' marriage.
A flirtatious woman who has a bit of a reputation for controversy. She is not the stereotypical female character and exchanges witty repartee with Lord Illingworth, indeed she could be viewed as a female dandy. It is she who dares Illingworth to "kiss the Puritan."
Miss Hester Worsley
As an American Puritan and an outsider to the British society in the play, Hester is in an ideal position to witness its faults and shortcomings more clearly than those who are part of it. Hester is both an orphan and an heiress, which allows her to "adopt" Mrs. Arbuthnot as her mother at the end of the play.
Jane, Lady Hunstanton
The host of the party. Means well but is quite ignorant, shown in her conversation and lack of knowledge. Could be seen as portraying the typical Victorian aristocrat.
Lady Caroline Pontefract
A very strong bully, shown by her belittling of Mr. Kelvil whom she constantly refers to as Mr. "Kettle". Her traditionalist views are in direct contrast to Mrs Allonby.
The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny, D.D.
Seen as the 'ultimate priest' his willingness to 'sacrifice' his free time for the benefit of his wife who is seen as an invalid of dramatic proportions. Shows his discomfort at being within the upper-class social circle.
A naive and intellectually restricted character that shows her lack of vocabulary with constant repetitions such as her use of the phrase, "Quite, Quite". However this view is a misconception, and those who study the women characters in depth will find Lady Stutfield to be full of ulterior motives and desperate for male attention.
Mr. Kelvil, M.P.
A stuffily and thoroughly modern progressive moralist. He earnestly wishes to improve society and in particular the lot of the lower classes, but seems to lack the charisma and charm to succeed — for example, he chooses to discuss the monetary standard of bimetallism with Lady Stutfield.
Lord Alfred Rufford
A stereotypically lazy aristocrat who is constantly in debt with no intentions of paying back his debtors due to him spending other peoples money on luxury items such as jewelry.
Sir John Pontefract
Husband to Lady Caroline Pontefract, he is a quiet man who allows his wife to control their relationship. He seems weary of his wife's behaviour, constantly correcting her mispronunciation of Mr. Kelvil's name.