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The most memorable character and one who has a tremendous impact on the audience is Lady Augusta Bracknell. Wilde’s audience would have identified most with her titled position and bearing. Wilde humorously makes her the tool of the conflict, and much of the satire. She serves well the plot and the theme of the play. She is the strong hand who forces the whole play to move forward with a happy ending.
. Generally, Lady Bracknell is first and foremost a symbol of Victorian earnestness and the unhappiness it brings as a result. She is powerful, arrogant, ruthless to the extreme, conservative, and proper. In many ways, she represents Wilde’s opinion of Victorian upper-class negativity, conservative and repressive values, and power. Her opinions and mannerisms betray a careful and calculated speaking pattern. She is able to go round for round with the other characters on witty epigrams and social repartee. Despite her current position, Lady Bracknell was not always a member of the upper class; she was a social climber bent on marrying into the aristocracy. As a former member of the lower class, she represents the righteousness of the formerly excluded. Because she is now Lady Bracknell, she has opinions on society, marriage, religion, money, illness, death, and respectability. She is another of Wilde’s inventions to present his satire on these subjects.
So, talking about her importance for the plot, we may notice that she is the person who raises a lot of important questions and at last she is the one who has the power to answer it. By doing that, she drive the play to move to the destination. Back to Wilde’s time, this kind of the drama needs one kind people who serve as the obstacle which must be dealt with and overcome by the main characters. This is the basic explanation for Lady Bracknell’s importance in the play. However, she is more than that kind of obstacle. She blocks sometimes and she offers a way out also. After her interview with Jack, she finds out the serious problem-the unknown identity of Jack. So, Jack asks her for some solutions. She does give her opinion. And at the end of the play, we know that it is she who finally points out Jack’s real identity.
Jack. May I ask you then what you would advise me to do?
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Lady Bracknell. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.
“The resolution of the farce parodies conventional scenes of family reunion. Lady Bracknell’s role as the director of proceedings, which hitherto everyone had sought to evade, is transfigured to that of raisonneur and dues ex machine. Only she can recognize the Prism of former years and demand an explanation for the unfinished business between them. Only she can point to the source which reveals Jack’s magic Christian name and restore his identity.”(Anne Varty, 2005) with her help the plot moves to the climax and then reach the ending.
There is one thing that, if there is no Lady Bracknell’s too much questions, what will happen in the play? From the lines in the play, without her too much questions, the only big problem is the name of Ernest.
Gwendolen and Cecily [Speaking together.] Your Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. That is all!
Jack and Algernon [Speaking together.] Our Christian names! Is that all? But we are going to be christened this afternoon.
These lines clearly show that the play will probably end like this without Lady Bracknell’s important questions. Then, compare and contrast this with the famous ending, it is easy to know that the importance of this lady should not be simply ignored to the plot’s advantage.
Then, what about her role in the themes of the play? The Importance of being Ernest shares with the earlier plays, but how the spirit of society’s authoritative exclusiveness is analyzed in the most satisfying way Wilde and yet devised, in its most absolute and at the same time funniest embodiment: Lady Augusta (Peter Raby 1997)
In this play, there are many serious themes. Such as, Marriage, class discrimination, manners and sincerity. Those themes are presented with the Lady Bracknell’s help. Wilde has created, with Augusta Bracknell, a memorable instrument of his satiric wit, questioning all he sees in Victorian upper-class society. With her power and weakness shown, she, as an upper class lady, connects and presents the themes in the play.
Following Lines is a general view of Lady Bracknell’s importance for representing the upper class.
The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion - has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now-but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society.
Wilde packed into this speech Lady Bracknell’s basic social assumptions(‘the ordinary decencies of family life….social indiscretion…a recognized position in good society’), an absurd political and historical reference (the worst excesses of the French Revolution), a breathtakingly magisterial manner(in calling the French Revolution the unfortunate movement)we can understand that , her every announcement has the certain indicators. (Anne Varty, 2005)
As the representative of the upper class, Lady Bracknell’s authority and power are extended over every character in the play. Her decision about the suitability of both marriages provides the conflict of the story. She tells her daughter quite explicitly, “Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact.” Done, decided, finished. She interrogates both Jack and Cecily, bribes Gwendolen’s maid, and looks down her nose at both Chasuble and Prism. As the upper class always does, she shows the air of the noble title. Her social commentary on class structure is Wilde’s commentary about how the privileged class of England keeps its power. Lady Bracknell firmly believes the middle and lower classes should never be taught to think or question. “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square” It would breed anarchy and the possibility that the upper class might lose its privileged position.
Referring to her weakness, it can be seen in the situation that Lady Brcaknell meets the difficulty that she can’t easily make her Algy and Cecily together. There is one thing that even her noble class can’t deal with. That is the firm law. “My dear Mr. Worthing, as Miss Cardew states positively that she cannot wait till she is thirty-five - a remark which I am bound to say seems to me to show a somewhat impatient nature - I would beg of you to reconsider your decision.”
About marriage, she interviews Jack about his eligibility for her daughter’s hand. She sees marriage as an alliance for property and social security; love or passion is not part of the mix. She stands at one side of argument about marriage. The whole emphasis on lineage as the only indicator of identity and social worth(Jack Worthing’s last name is not accidental and could not be replaced by Margate or any other seaside resort favored by farces of the period), mocks at the exaggerated Victorian respect for breeding and the appeal to heredity for scientific explanation throughout the nineteenth century.
About manner, much of the stage business of the comedy is occupied with activities of polite hospitality. ACT1 begins with the preparation of tea with cucumber sandwiches for Lady Bracknell and ends with the two men drinking sherry together.
About the sense of values, she is the one who alter the fiction into fact and who connects the serious matter with trivial matter.
Lady Bracknell. The General was essentially a man of peace, except in his domestic life. But I have no doubt his name would appear in any military directory.
Lady Bracknell. Yes, I remember now that the General was called Ernest, I knew I had some particular reason for disliking the name.
Lady Bracknell. My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.
At last, she points out the theme of the play and surprisingly, she is the one who makes the triviality more mysterious and more attractive.
Considering all the above, Lady Bracknell comes and then serves a very important role in the play. She moves the plot forward to a most surprising ending and then connects the themes. So, the importance of having Lady Augusta Bracknell is one thing we should not ignore.
Anne Varty .A Preface to Oscar Wilde .Beijing : Peking University Press, 2005.
 Peter Raby. The Cambridge companion to Oscar Wilde. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1997.