Essay on Morality of the Upper Class in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermeres Fan

Essay on Morality of the Upper Class in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermeres Fan

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Morality of the Upper Class in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermeres Fan

Lady Windermere's Fan is a witty commentary on the wiles of social properness in late 19th century England. Oscar Wilde was a flamboyant homosexual understandably critical of the norms of his day. Within the play, lie subtle and overt contradictions about the "properness" of the high born upper-class. During the Victorian period, strict rules governed mannerisms, protocol, etiquette, decency, etc. This decorum became too oppressive for Wilde's taste. The morality of the upper-class is supposedly the standard of the day, to which everyone is evaluated. However, in this play, the morality of the main characters pivots more on the situation instead of social status. Independent from inner intentions, all characters are only moral when its self-serving. Obvious examples are Lady Windermere and the Duchess. Lady Windermere tries to be superlative at the expense of being realistic. The Duchess pretends to be proper but is exposed by her contradictory statements. Less overt examples include Lord Windermere and Lord Darlington. (Secretly, I think Lord Darlington is Wilde himself.) Lord Windermere tries to uphold his family name through dubious relations with a scandalous woman. While Lord Darlington does not represent himself as a proper person, he becomes conveniently judgmental when he feels he has a chance with Lady Windermere. On the bottom of the social pyramid lies the characters who do not pretend to be proper: Lord Augustus Lorton, Mr. Cecil Graham and Mrs. Erlynne. All of these characters admit their transgressions (gossip, scandals, etc) and make no apology for themselves. On the top of the pyramid lie the epitome of properness: Lady Plymdale, Lady Stutfie...


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...itude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do." Wilde's recurring themes on the importance of "imagination, self-development, and individualism" are apparent in this play. The characters portray people who are very serious and common at the same time. How fanciful and carefree is life? Well, no one knows until they sincerely become completely unrestrained and untainted. Quite plainly the play reminds us to live for ourselves (as Lord Darlington would) and for the moment because otherwise one lives for something or someone else. After all, good and bad are relative terms, mere labels. They are not absolute terms, thus, everything is nothing until it is compared to something else. This is the heart of the aesthetic thinker.

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