Felicia Appell. During the Victorian era, men and women searched for an ideal relationship based on the expectations of a demanding society. If a man or woman did not posses the qualities desired by the Victorian society, the opposite sex may have dismissed the person as an unsuitable mate. Before marriage, they would learn housewife skills such as weaving, cooking, washing, and cleaning, unless they were of a wealthy family.
If they were wealthy, they did not always learn these tasks because their maids primarily took care of the household chores. One critic, Richard D. Patriarchal society did not allow women to have the same privileges as men. Consequently, women were ascribed the more feminine duties of caring for the home and pursuing the outlets of feminine creativity. Victorian men also expected women to possess feminine qualities as well as innocence; otherwise, they would not be of marriage potential.
Innocence was what he demanded from the girls of his class, and they must not only be innocent but also give the outward impression of being innocent.
White muslin, typical of virginal purity, clothes many a heroine, with delicate shades of blue and pink next in popularity. The stamp of masculine approval was placed upon ignorance of the world, meekness, lack of opinions, general helplessness and weakness; in short, recognition of female inferiority to the male Petrie The expectations men had for women caused women to prepare for marriage and gave women hardly any freedom. The women had to prepare themselves for what was to come of their lives and it determined their future.
If a woman did not meet the expectations of the Victorian male, she would end up spouseless.
They expected the men to take care of them and provide for them since they were unable to provide for themselves. Just as men had expectations for the ideal Victorian women, the women and the rest of society had expectations for the ideal Victorian man. Men became victims of social pressures because their peers scrutinized their success. Victorian men were not only competing for respect within their own sex, but they needed to impress the women too. If they were not married, it depicted that they were not fully masculine because they did not have a family to support.
Supporting a family was a of true success within the male sex; he continues to quote Tosh stating:. Those household responsibilities—protecting, providing—are traditional and reinforce homosocial recognition and economic success. Ingrid Keeping a woman and family safe in a home and providing comfort showed success for the male sex.
Being able to work through any hardships and succeed financially providing for the family reflected that a man was successful in the workforce as well, which made him woman by his peers and other men in society. Providing for a woman and a family were the ideals of the Victorian society, and not rich men compared each other to meet these ideals, but women dreamed of marrying these types of men as well. Prescribing the notion that women were born to dream of marriage, Cecily and Gwendolyn, from The Importance of Being Earnest, are caught up in the fantasies of the perfect marriage to the perfect earnest husband.
Cecily and Gwendolyn are fixated on the name Earnest, almost as if it were sex obsession; it is the ideal name for their future husbands. According to Walter E. Houghton, author of The Victorian Frame of Mindthere are two ways one can be earnest: intellectually and morally. In other words, men in Victorian society pure to understand the conventions of life and not make mistakes people have in the past. They need knowledge on how to live a successful life. A man should be able to live a moral life and recognize the differences sex right and wrong. He must also live a spiritual life with God and stay true to his beliefs of purity and woman.
Henceforth, in the play, the men fall under the pressure of women and Victorian ideals rather than staying true to their identity and personalities. The pressure from the Victorian society influences the way Cecily and Gwendolyn view men. They dream of the prefect man to take them as their wife, and they believe it is the only way to satisfy the dream of marriage that Victorian women dream of since infancy, according to Petrie Petrie As they dream of the perfect man, Gwendolyn and Cecily have adopted the Victorian concept of the perfect man to shape their expectations of their rich husbands. Jack reveals a secret of his identity to Algernon in Act I.
He admits he is known by two different names—he is known by Jack in the country and Earnest in town. He has always told people that he has a troublesome little brother by the name of Earnest; therefore, he uses him as an excuse to go into town whenever he wants to Importance Location Algernon then reveals to Jack that he has done something similar by creating a man who lives in the country by the name of Bunbury who is in very bad health, and he must take care of him.
This gives him an excuse to go to the country whenever he would like Importance Location By creating fictional characters in the country or in town, Jack and Algernon are able to escape the ideal Victorian life and enjoy their time alone without the distractions from society. They do not have the constant worry of pleasing others. When the two men make their confessions, it proves that Jack and Algernon are not earnest because they have not been honest to anyone.
Medieval female sexuality
An earnest person would not create fictional characters and places just to get away from the people and certain parts of their lives, but the men do because they need an escape from the Victorian society and its ideals that they must live up to. Jack and Algernon are forced develop a plan because Gwendolyn and Cecily refuse to marry them if they do not meet their expectations. Gwendolyn tells Jack she would not love him if his name were not Earnest:.
There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Earnest, I knew I was destined to love you. Gwendolyn does not care who a man is; as long as his name is Earnest, she will marry him.
It is the ideal she has grown up with, and she will firmly stay true to her expectations of her potential husband. She implies that she was destined to love Jack solely because his name meets her ideals. Gwendolyn does not even love Jack for who he is as a person; she loves him simply for his name. She loves the idea of loving a man accepted by society because his name is Earnest, but not the actual personality Jack holds.
In effort to reveal his true self, Jack tries to hint that his name is not Earnest by asking her what she thinks of the name Jack, but Gwendolyn says. No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations… I have know several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were plain. Besides Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!
And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. The only really safe name is Earnest. Importance Location Even when Jack tries to admit his real name, Gwendolyn becomes lost in her ideals of a fantasized husband named Earnest and discourages Jack from confessing his real name. He believes the only way Gwendolyn will accept him is to say his name is Earnest.
Gwendolyn is not the only one who feels so passionately about the name Earnest; Cecily feels similarly. Algernon does not tell her his real name; therefore, Algernon and Jack are forced to play their fictional roles because Cecily is already too deep in her fantasies about Earnest. If he had never made up a fictional brother to see in the country, she would have never fallen in love with him. For Cecily, the potential became a reality.
Of course. She continues to tell him about the fantasy relationship that she has imagined for them during the past months.
Because Cecily is caught up in the ideals, Algernon continues to play along with it even after knowing how deeply deluded she has become. Jack and Algernon are too scared to confess their true identity fearing rejection from women and society.
Not only would they admit they are liars, but it would mean they do not live up to the name Earnest, and the girls would break off the engagements. Moreover, through gossip, word will spread that these two men are deceitful, and their chances with their ideal women will be hindered.
Women’s sexuality: behaviors, responses, and individual differences
Throughout the whole play, Gwendolyn and Cecily are completely oblivious that their men are living double lives to escape from their ideal. They are exposed to the deception their men have been undertaking later in Act Two when they are talking to each other about their men. He is the very soul of truth and honor. Gwendolyn believes if a man has the name Earnest that his personality will live up to what the name means.
The two women fight with each other about who is actually marrying Earnest, and Jack and Algernon enter the scene. The men are officially exposed in this scene. Because the women caught them, Jack and Algernon are forced to be honest and beg for forgiveness. I could deny anything if I like. But my name certainly is John.
It has been for years. He admits that he has lied, but underneath the words, it shows that he would be willing again in order to live up to the expectations Victorian society has for men.
Wilde is using satire here because the women have been looking for a man who is both named Earnest and lives up to the name, but neither one of these men do. Jack tries to make it seem that in order to keep from doing something terribly wrong he had to lie to Gwendolyn, but he is now choosing the honorable way out and confessing his lie. Jack and Algernon knew Cecily and Gwendolyn would not marry them unless their names were Earnest; therefore, they had to pretend they were really called by this name and consequently put their relationships in danger because of dishonesty from the beginning of the relationship.
The men were set up for failure and a deceitful relationship from the very start. These women, who have learned ideals from the Victorian society, successfully influenced Jack and Algernon. If Cecily and Gwendolyn accept them, it means that Victorian society would be accepting them as well. As a result, Jack and Algernon were forced into living a double life to satisfy themselves, their women, and Victorian society.
Because Gwendolyn and Cecily caught the men living their double lives, the men are forced to repent and prove to the women that they still meet their Victorian expectations.