An Ideal Husband


Oscar Wilde

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Themes and Colors
The Natural and the Artificial Theme Icon
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Theme Icon
The Trivial and the Serious Theme Icon
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon
Love, Morality, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in An Ideal Husband, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Theme Icon

Most wit, in this play, consists in saying the opposite of something commonly accepted as truth. This sort of wit insists giddily that if one abstracts enough, each thing is as true as its opposite. It’s a sophistry that serves to show not that truth is unstable, but that generalizations have little to do with truth – though they are enjoyable if one doesn’t take them too seriously.

Older, stodgier characters associate wit and verbal play with triviality. But instead it is a form of broad-mindedness that is close to wisdom, and that expresses itself as deliberate uncertainty. Dandies believe that there is more value in speaking well about nothing – “I love talking about nothing, father,” says Lord Goring, “It is the only thing I know anything about” – than in speaking boringly about ‘important’ issues. But such contrariness does not reduce to faith in emptiness or nothingness: it is not a destructive amorality (except when performed by a truly destructive person like Mrs. Cheveley). Wit and contrariness expose the emptiness of certain customs and proprieties in order to make way for actual human contact, and for genuine moral reasoning.

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Wit, Charm, and Contrariness ThemeTracker

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Wit, Charm, and Contrariness Quotes in An Ideal Husband

Below you will find the important quotes in An Ideal Husband related to the theme of Wit, Charm, and Contrariness.
Act 1, Part 1 Quotes

Oh, I love London Society! I think it has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.

Related Characters: Mabel Chiltern (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 3
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Act 1, Part 2 Quotes

I love talking about nothing, father. It is the only thing I know anything about.

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker)
Page Number: 9
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I like looking at geniuses, and listening to beautiful people.

Related Characters: Mrs. Marchmont and Lady Basildon (speaker)
Page Number: 11
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Act 2, Part 1 Quotes

Ah! I prefer a gentlemanly fool any day. There is more to be said for stupidity than people imagine.

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker)
Page Number: 26
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In fact, I usually say what I really think. A great mistake nowadays. It makes one so liable to be misunderstood.

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker)
Page Number: 28
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Act 2, Part 2 Quotes

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

Related Characters: Mrs. Cheveley (speaker)
Page Number: 42
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Act 3, Part 1 Quotes

And falsehoods [are] the truths of other people.

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Buttonhole
Page Number: 46
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But women who have common sense are so curiously plain, father, aren’t they?

Related Characters: Lord Arthur Goring (speaker), Lord Caversham
Page Number: 51
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Act 4, Part 1 Quotes

Well, my duty is a thing I never do, on principle. It always depresses me.

Related Characters: Mabel Chiltern (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis: