The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Gwendolen: I adore you [Jack]. But you haven't proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on. (I.157)
Gwendolen’s comments reveal that she thinks marriages (and proposals) should be organized. Her insistence on a proper proposal also reveals her coy nature.
Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . . And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing. (I.172)
It is obvious from these comments that Lady Bracknell’s idea of marriage differs greatly from Gwendolen’s. While Gwendolen believes that a girl should be able to fall in love and marry the man of her choice, regardless of his social class, Lady Bracknell thinks that love should have nothing to do with it. In fact, she thinks that it’s okay for a girl not to even meet her future husband before marrying him. Lady Bracknell's concept of marriage is based on the idea that it must be – above all – a mark of social status.
Lady Bracknell: You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter - a girl brought up with the utmost care - to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr. Worthing! (I.218)
Since Lady Bracknell thinks that a woman should marry to improve her social status, it makes sense that she would blast Jack, for not knowing anything about his family. She can't imagine any honorable man dreaming of proposing to her daughter without having any noble connections.