A Woman of No Importance

Women and Society

Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance contrasts two different perspectives on gender relations: the traditional perspective that prefers men and the modern one that insists on gender equality. Lady Stutfield's remark in Act 2 summarizes the former opinion: "The world was made for men and not for women." On the other hand, Hester Worsley is a devout supporter of the modern perspective of gender relations. In addition, Oscar Wilde creates another type of characters who take advantage of the traditional perspective for their personal benefit. Lord Illingworth is the best representative of this group. The play shows that Wilde himself is very critical of the first view and sympathizes with those who suffer from it. Mrs. Arbuthnot is a good example of this suffering.

Lady Caroline and Lady Hunstanton belong to the British high society and enjoy the benefit which this class offers them. Their view of gender relations does not give equal rights and responsibilities to women. They are not with the opinion that women should take part in politics when Mr. Kelvil mentions it in Act 1. Since women are not allowed to participate in serious social and political issues, they focus on petty issues. Their bias in terms of gender relations can be seen in their attitude towards the legal punishment for those who involved in illicit relationships.   They believe that women who involved in such relationships should be punished while they do not mind interacting with men who are immoral. Although they all know that Lord Illingworth has been a womanizer, they still enjoy his company and even try to flirt with him. This traditional view becomes very dangerous when the women of high class such as Mrs. Allonby challenge Lord Illingworth to insult another woman, the young American lady, because she supports the modern worldview.   Mrs. Allonby even calls Hester the dreadful girl.

Hester Worsley strongly disagrees with these British ladies on the issue of gender...