The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Miss Prism: You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble. You should get married. A misanthrope I can understand - a womanthrope, never!
Chasuble: [With a scholar's shudder] Believe me, I do not deserve so neologistic a phrase. The precept as well as the practice of the Primitive Church was distinctly against matrimony.
Miss Prism: [Sententiously] That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day. And you do not seem to realise, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.
Chasuble: But is a man not equally attractive when married?
Miss Prism: No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.
Chasuble: And often, I've been told, not even to her.
Miss Prism: That depends on the intellectual sympathies of the woman. Maturity can always be depended on. Ripeness can be trusted. Young women are green. (II.81-87)
Here, we see yet another opinion on marriage – this time from two respectable, and more mature individuals, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. Miss Prism’s comments reveal her belief that all respectable men should get married. Her logic is as follows: bachelors permanently become temptations for women if they stay single. Thus, it is their duty to stop leading women astray. Her comment that "young women are green" suggests that women should wait to marry until they are mature enough to value their husbands.
Chasuble: Your brother was, I believe, unmarried, was he not?
Jack: Oh yes.
Miss Prism: [Bitterly] People who live entirely for pleasure usually are. (II.113-115)
Miss Prism – like Algernon – differentiates between business and pleasure. But she differs from Algernon in that she embraces responsibility and duty. So while she believes that marriage is a social responsibility, she considers it an honor and a mark of respect.
Algernon: But why on earth did you break it off? What had I done? I had done nothing at all. Cecily, I am very much hurt indeed to hear you broke it off. Particularly when the weather was so charming.
Cecily: It would hardly have been a really serious engagement if it hadn't been broken off at least once. But I forgave you before the week was out. (II.224-225)
Cecily’s comment that "it would hardly have been a really serious engagement if it hadn’t been broken off at least once" hints that she thinks marriage is a big deal. But, because Cecily is so young and believes in happily-ever-afters, she has not quite grasped the seriousness of marriage to the extent that Lady Bracknell or Miss Prism have.