The Changing Status of Women in The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde has not forgotten to hint the changing status of women in The Importance of Being Earnest. The feminist movement has already been in full swing. Women have already moved in the path of education. With the considerable level of education, women have already started heading towards the direction of freedom.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

They have broken different kinds of constraints and barriers imposed upon them.

Wilde has presented Lady Bracknell talking about the position of men. She says, in her talk with Gwendolyn house is the proper place for man. In the late 19th century women had reached to the point of giving their traditional place to men, and taking the professional position of men. This bit of conversation reveals women have also begun to move freely in the occupational world. Wilde pokes gentle fun at this side of feminist move. Wilde used Miss Prism as an awakened woman who serves as a governess of Cecily, and writes novels. Perhaps Wilde too wanted to see the limitations of the movement of feministically. The feministically awake and educated women had to cling to the mere job of governess. They had to write fictions. Except this pursuit and jobs of governess those feminist women got nothing significant.

In the play, Cecily and Gwendolyn discuss, changing gender roles in their conversation about male domesticity, indicating their belief that "home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man". Marriage, however, remained most woman's primary goals and occupation. Arranged marriages had been on the decline since the late eighteenth century but were not unknown among the Victorian era's upper classes.

The status of the nineteenth century's educated women remained grim, however, with few occupational outlets, other than teaching. Miss Prism, Cecily's governess, combines two common female occupations, teaching and novel writing, another activity at which women flourished. Prism's confusion between a baby and a manuscript pokes fun at changing ideas about parenthood and child rearing. The misplaced baby symbolized what critics saw as a confusion of gender roles, when women entered the traditionally masculine world of the mind. The plight of orphaned baby jack illustrates the destabilization of family ties, which in his case are sequentially lost, invented, changed and discovered.

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