The Importance of Being Earnest


Oscar Wilde

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Themes and Colors
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Importance of Being Earnest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon

In the game of love that Wilde plays throughout The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack and Algernon, who strive for love, are pitted against the fickleness of the women they desire. Even though Wilde assigns stereotypical gender roles to each sex—Jack and Algernon are suave dandies, while Cecily and Gwendolen are vapid beauties—when it comes to marriage and love, he places women in a position of power because they are able to actively choose their mates and influence their partners’ behaviors. In the Victorian world women were rarely afforded this influence, as their male elders—fathers, brothers, uncles, etc.—had tight control over the men with whom they interacted, even dated. Yet Gwendolen and Cecily wield a great deal of power over their suitors. For instance, Jack and Algernon strive to christen themselves “Ernest” precisely because Gwendolen and Cecily threaten to withhold their affections from any man who does not hold this name. In doing so, they effectively compel Jack and Algernon to change their names.

Even though Gwendolen and Cecily’s engagements are restricted by a patriarchal system of cash, class, and character, it is important to note that Lady Bracknell, not Lord Bracknell, is the one who becomes master of matrimony, dictating who may marry whom. The general absence of male patriarchs points to the diminished presence of men in Wilde’s dramatic world, thereby highlighting women, like Gwendolen, Cecily, and Lady Bracknell in positions of power and prominence.

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Men and Women in Love ThemeTracker

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Men and Women in Love Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

Below you will find the important quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest related to the theme of Men and Women in Love.
Act 1, Part 1 Quotes

Jack: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

Algernon: I thought you had come up for pleasure?...I call that business.

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Algernon Moncrieff (speaker), Gwendolen Fairfax
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If I ever get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.

Related Characters: Algernon Moncrieff (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Part 2 Quotes

Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you…my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.

Related Characters: Gwendolen Fairfax (speaker), Jack
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Part 1 Quotes

Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang upon her lips.

Related Characters: Dr. Chasuble (speaker), Miss Prism
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Cecily: Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare.

Algernon: They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.

Cecily: Oh! I don’t think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.

Related Characters: Algernon Moncrieff (speaker), Cecily Cardew (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble. You should get married. A misanthrope. I can understand—a womanthrope never!

Related Characters: Miss Prism (speaker), Dr. Chasuble
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Prism: And you do not seem to realize, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.

Dr. Chausible: But is a man not equally attractive when married?

Miss Prism: No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.

Related Characters: Miss Prism (speaker), Dr. Chasuble (speaker)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Part 2 Quotes

The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man. And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don't like that. It makes men so very attractive.

Related Characters: Gwendolen Fairfax (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Part 2 Quotes

Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one who has suffered? Cannot repentance wipe out an act of folly? Why should there be one law for men and another for women?

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Miss Prism
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis: