Lady Windermere’s Fan

by

Oscar Wilde

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Themes and Colors
Morality and Ambiguity Theme Icon
Language and Truth Theme Icon
Gender, Performance, and Femininity Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lady Windermere’s Fan, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Morality and Ambiguity

At the start of Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan, which largely centers around a stuffy, upper-class party, Lady Windermere herself and several of the other characters have very clear-cut notions of what makes people good or bad. Lady Windermere, a young wife and well-respected member of London society, is universally seen as good and moral, and she believes that she should only associate with other moral people. Morality and immorality seem to be…

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Language and Truth

Throughout the play, various characters carefully employ both written and spoken language to achieve their ends. However, these attempts repeatedly go awry, with over-reliance on language frequently leading to misunderstanding and unnecessary conflict. Wilde seems to argue that as important as words are, they’re not ultimately enough to ensure harmony between people: they also need to rely on unspoken feelings and trust to build loving relationships. Because he uses the medium of written and spoken…

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Gender, Performance, and Femininity

Much of the play’s plot revolves around the gender roles that were prevalent when it was first performed in 1892. Men and, especially, women are expected to behave in particular ways in order to uphold respectable reputations. However, it quickly becomes clear that the characters’ adherence to rigid gender roles is, in almost every case, a flimsy act that falls apart under pressure. The characters are rarely who they seem to be on the surface…

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Family and Friendship

Throughout the play, characters frequently point to labels of friendship and family to prove their worth to each other. Though these close bonds do turn out to be crucial in some cases, the play’s events also show how, in the context of a corrupt society, even seemingly reliable relationships can easily become fraught. Wilde cautions against his characters’ tendencies to idealize bonds of friendship and family, suggesting that people might be better off if they…

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