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Gender in Arcadia and the Importance of Being Ernest

Compare and contrast how Wilde and Stoppard portray the women in ‘Arcadia’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, in light of the opinion that the sexes compliment each other in ‘Arcadia’ whereas, the women dominate the men in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. The female characters in both ‘Arcadia’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ have significant roles and have a certain amount of control in their relationships. However, in ‘the importance of being earnest’ the women dominate the men and exert their power without the male characters knowing it.
In ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Jack and Algernon are the main male characters. They have encounters with Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell and Cecily. These characters are rather unusual ladies for the time period, and their behaviour is not what was considered to be of a typical Victorian lady; however they still try to uphold a sophisticated and polite manner. One particular part which shows this very well, is a scene between Cecily and Gwendolen.
When the women think they are both engaged to the same man, they use their actions to show their anger and dislike towards each other, rather than words. For example, when Cecily asks Gwendolen if she would like sugar in her tea, Gwendolen replies with ‘No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more’, after hearing this Cecily puts four lumps of sugar into Gwendolen’s tea. This blatant ignoring of a request was not morally right for a lady to do in this era, and Cecily uses it to insult Gwendolen.

By doing this, Cecily upholds her civil conduct but still manages to display her resentment for Gwendolen. In contrast to this, in ‘Arcadia’ when Hannah and Chloe are talking about Bernard and Gus, they state how they feel and what they are thinking very clearly through words. ‘I’m just trying to fix you up, Hannah’, Chloe is saying quite plainly that she is trying to get Hannah with Bernard, whereas if this was said in the same time period as ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ then it would have been said in a much less direct way.
Another situation that shows how women overpower men in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is when Jack proposes to Gwendolen. Gwendolen uses her girlish charms to persuade jack to do as she says. When Jack says that he doesn’t care much for the name Ernest, Gwendolen uses flirtatious comments to make Jack agree that Ernest is a ‘divine name’, and consequently Jack decides to be christened as soon as possible under the name of Ernest.
In comparison to this, Hannah and Bernard argue in ‘Arcadia’ and Bernard does not agree with everything Hannah says and voices his own opinion instead. ‘It’s not going to jump out at you like ‘Lord Byron remarked wittily at breakfast! ’ the way Bernard supports himself is quite unlike the way the men in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ agree with everything the women say and do not stress their own thoughts. Lady Bracknell is both a portrayal of a typical Victorian lady, but also has modern manners about her.
She knows her place and thinks the way an upper class, well spoken and married woman would behave in those days. However, Lady Bracknell also presents another side to her, where she controls her husband and close males relatives. By using her authority, wealth and social class, she manipulates the men around her to think as she does and conform to her ideas of a suitable man. ‘Mr Worthing! Rise from this semi- recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.
He tries to rise; Gwendolen restrains him’ the idea that a woman tells Jack to do something, and he tries to do so, but is prevented by another woman, shows just how different ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is different to ‘Arcadia’, because the women tend to try to impress and fit in with the males desires in ‘Arcadia’ . ‘Arcadia’ shows a very different relationship between the sexes, as they praise each other’s good findings but also insult and tease incorrect ones. The relationship between Septimus and Thomasina,

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