The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Algernon: Might I have a buttonhole first? I never have any appetite unless I have a buttonhole first.
Cecily: A Maréchal Niel? [Picks up scissors.]
Algernon: No, I'd sooner have a pink rose.
Cecily: Why? [Cuts a flower.]
Algernon: Because you are like a pink rose, Cousin Cecily.
Cecily: I don't think it can be right for you to talk to me like that. Miss Prism never says such things to me. (II.71-76)
Algernon’s line about Cecily’s being "like a pink rose" reveals that men flirt with women by praising their beauty. Although Cecily protests the propriety of Algernon’s comment, she secretly revels in it, as can be seen in a later scene, where she copies down all of Algernon’s compliments in her diary.
Gwendolen: Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it should be. The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man. And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don't like that. It makes men so very attractive. (II.266)
Here, Gwendolen is shown reversing the traditional roles of men and women. Gwendolen challenges the conventional idea that women should be the ones at home cooking, cleaning, and raising children. This is one of the few places where Wilde overtly shows that woman can occupy positions of power and usurp the traditional gender roles.
Gwendolen: [After a pause] They don't seem to notice us at all. Couldn't you cough?
Cecily: But I haven't got a cough.
Gwendolen: They're looking at us. What effrontery!
Cecily: They're approaching. That's very forward of them. (III.3-6)
This sudden solidarity in the face of dishonest men shows how quickly women can change sides. When insulted by the men they love, they are quick to turn against them, even if it means siding with former enemies. In a society where women have virtually no power, commanding a man’s gaze gives women a sense of empowerment.