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An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband

by Oscar Wilde

Analysis: What's Up with the Ending?

Like many a comedy before and after it, An Ideal Husband ends with marriage. The pleasant, friendly world that was overturned by (perpetually single) Mrs. Cheveley is restored – improved, actually – and two couples declare and renew vows. Thanks to the impressive go-betweening skills of Lord Goring, the Chilterns enjoy a newly realistic partnership. Instead of pretending to be a hero who always makes the right decisions, Sir Robert can just be himself with his wife. Lady Chiltern (in a troublingly submissive speech – see more under her "Character Analysis") has promised to accept and forgive.

Lord Goring, who at the beginning of the play seemed unlikely to settle down with anyone, ever, is hitching up with Mabel. Perhaps – and this really is speculation – his successful resolution of the Chiltern's problems makes him feel ready to be a husband. All we know is that funny, lively, indulgent Mabel seems to be a good match for him. The end of the play presses home the point that in a relationship, its better to be "real" than "ideal."

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