An Ideal Husband

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The Buttonhole Symbol Icon
When Lord Goring comes home at the beginning of the third act, he exchanges a day buttonhole (a small flower arrangement, like a corsage) for an evening one. We shortly learn that the buttonhole, one of “the delicate fopperies of fashion,” is in fact out of fashion at present – no important people wear it. Its unpopularity does not bother Lord Goring, who believes that “fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.” The buttonhole is meant to mark a person as insignificant or perhaps middle-class, but Lord Goring happily short-circuits the frigid signaling system that connects clothes and social status. Fashion, for him, is not that signaling system: it is the delicate, inscrutable transfer of meaning from person to object. The buttonhole, at that historical moment, is a trivial item, and Lord Goring wishes it to be “more trivial” still. Its triviality is a mark of its freedom from the serious social games of adults, games with interminable rules, harsh sanctions, and very few rewards. The games extend so far and wide that it requires constant vigilance and good humor to distinguish them from life, and Lord Goring’s buttonhole is a sign of that vigilance.
Get the entire An Ideal Husband LitChart as a printable PDF.
An ideal husband.pdf.medium

The Buttonhole Symbol Timeline in An Ideal Husband

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Buttonhole appears in An Ideal Husband. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Part 1
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
...first well-dressed philosopher in the history of thought.” He asks Phipps for a change of buttonhole (a flower one wears on a suit jacket). Lord Goring speaks meditatively and slyly about... (full context)