The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Lady Bracknell: To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which I think is never advisable. (III.86)
That Lady Bracknell considers it "never advisable" to "give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage" just shows that high society has made the institution of marriage more about politics and less about love. A politically or socially respectable marriage has nothing to do with chemistry between the couple and everything to do with each individual’s bloodlines and credentials.
Jack: [Embracing her] Yes . . . mother!
Miss Prism: [Recoiling in indignant astonishment] Mr. Worthing! I am unmarried!
Jack: Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. (III.148-150)
In the nineteenth century, it was unspeakably dishonorable for an unmarried woman to have children because it means that she has lost her virginity before her wedding night. Thus, Miss Prism is horrified that Jack would imply that she is his mother when she has no husband. Compared to social standards nowadays, the practices of the nineteenth century were harsher and more judgmental of women than they are now.