Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband Essay

Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband Essay

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Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband

Oscar Wilde (1845-1903) lived an outrageous and controversial life
which was well publicized and condemned, as his life defied the strict
social mores of the time. He was put into this public position due to
the success of his plays which challenged Victorian earnestness while
being hilariously funny. His plays, in particular An Ideal Husband,
1895 portray Victorian society as viciously hypocritical at it's worst
and laughably pretentious at it's best. Wilde expressed this point of
view in An Ideal Husband through the rich use of plot development,
construction of characters, dramatic irony, hyperbole, witty and
epigrammatic repartee and satire.

The central plot of An Ideal Husband begins with the antagonist, Mrs
Chevely, tries to blackmail Sir Robert Chiltern (one of the
protagonists) with a secret from his past. She has with her an
incriminating letter which proves Robert's involvement in insider
trading in the Suez Canal Scheme, in order to benefit from an
investment. The Suez Canal Scheme was a very important scheme in the
recent history of the time. Wilde's plot of a a man going unpunished
for such a serious crime challenged the earnestness of the Victorian
people. This challenge and insult to earnestness is strongly
emphasised by the characterisation of robert chiltern.

Wilde adds insult to injury by constructing robert as being a very
lucky man in life. He is an attractive man who lives in Grosvenor
sqaure, (an upper class area) with his adoring wife. After finding out
the origin of this wealth, the audience is annoyed as they know (due
to the plays realistic style) that he aquired it all t...


... middle of paper ...


... and so far have only talked about
trivial things and "people don't talk politics." (hypocritical)

An ideal person is an earnest person, and ideals are another theme of
the play. Mrs. Marchmont and Lady Basildon are two married ladies who,
while talking about their "hopelessly faultless" husbands expose
earnestness (an "admirable" quality) as 'unendurable' and
"tragic".These ladies, through dramatic irony, expose the earnestness
of searching for an ideal husband as laughably pretentious and
hypocritical. This is because many women at the time were searching
for an earnest husband to spend their lives with when there is, as
Mrs. Marchmont puts it "not the smallest element of excitement in
knowing him." Yet they keep searching for an earnest and ideal
husband. It is in these ways Wilde challenges Victorian earnestness.

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