Lady Windermere’s Fan

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Miniature Symbol Analysis

The Miniature Symbol Icon

The miniature is a small figurine of her mother that Lady Windermere treasures and kisses when she says her prayers each night. Though Lady Windermere believes that her mother is dead, the audience knows that Mrs. Erlynne is actually her mother. The miniature symbolizes the way that Lady Windermere idealizes her mother, and the way that the real Mrs. Erlynne would never be able to live up to that perfect, false version of herself. Lady Windermere’s continued love of the figurine—and of her ideals—shows again that she’s still tempted by unambiguous morality, even though she knows by the end of the play that morality is not black-and-white but exists in shades of gray.

Additionally, the miniature (along with the photograph of Lady Windermere that Mrs. Erlynne keeps) highlights how wordless connections with other individuals are sometimes more powerful than anything language can create. In the end, Mrs. Erlynne and Lady Windermere both choose silence over language: Mrs. Erlynne doesn’t tell Lady Windermere her true identity, and Lady Windermere doesn’t tell Lord Windermere about almost leaving him. Instead, the two women opt for simple, visual representations of the truth that they can happily treasure and enjoy, without confronting the unnecessary complications that speaking up would cause. This ending suggests that in some cases, literal truth as depicted by language is less valuable than consciously deciding to view reality in a positive way.

The Miniature Quotes in Lady Windermere’s Fan

The Lady Windermere’s Fan quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Miniature. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Morality and Ambiguity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Lady Windermere’s Fan published in 2008.
Act IV Quotes

LORD WINDERMERE: I wish that at the same time she would give you a miniature she kisses every night before she prays—It’s the miniature of a young innocent-looking girl with beautiful dark hair.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Ah yes, I remember. How long ago that seems. (Goes to a sofa and sits down) It was done before I was married. Dark hair and an innocent expression were the fashion then, Windermere!

Related Characters: Lord Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lady Windermere
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

MRS. ERLYNNE: Yes. (Pause) You are devoted to your mother’s memory, Lady Windermere, your husband tells me.

LADY WINDERMERE: We all have ideals in life. At least we all should. Mine is my mother.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.

LADY WINDERMERE: (shaking her head) If I lost my ideals, I should lose everything.

MRS. ERLYNNE: Everything?

LADY WINDERMERE: Yes.

Related Characters: Lady Windermere (speaker), Mrs. Erlynne (speaker), Lord Windermere
Related Symbols: The Miniature
Page Number: 55-56
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Lady Windermere’s Fan LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lady Windermere’s Fan PDF

The Miniature Symbol Timeline in Lady Windermere’s Fan

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Miniature appears in Lady Windermere’s Fan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act IV
Morality and Ambiguity Theme Icon
Language and Truth Theme Icon
Gender, Performance, and Femininity Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...ask Lady Windermere to give her the fan. He suggests that she also take the miniature of a young woman that his wife treasures and kisses when she says her prayers.... (full context)