| Quote #4
Lady Bracknell: What is your income?
What the upper class considers respectable is wealth and style. This is shown in Lady Bracknell’s interest in Jack’s assets when considering whether or not he is a proper suitor for Gwendolen’s hand. It is also important that Jack has enough wealth to afford both a country and town house. To pass Lady Bracknell’s test, Jack must live in a fashionable area in the city. Because of her pride in her rank, Lady Bracknell assumes that Jack will gladly either relocate his house to the fashionable side or change his style to reflect the current fashionable trends.
| Quote #5
Lady Bracknell: [….] Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion – has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now – but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society. (I.200-214)
The most important criteria for respectability in Victorian England was one’s bloodlines, especially if they were aristocratic. Lady Bracknell asks whether Jack’s wealth comes from "the purple of commerce" or from "aristocracy" because the upper classes had more respect for aristocrats. That Jack has no idea who his family is, and was "found" at birth in such an unpromising place as in a hand bag at a train station immediately makes him a ridiculous prospect for marriage with Gwendolen.
| Quote #6
Cecily: Dear Uncle Jack is so very serious! Sometimes he is so serious that I think he cannot be quite well.
As an older character with a staunch sense of morality, Miss Prism admires Jack for his apparent "gravity of demeanor," especially since he is "so comparatively young" – twenty-nine years old. She admires his "sense of duty and responsibility" and espouses the same for Cecily. But young Cecily, who values pleasure and romantic love above all, sees Jack’s ‘respectability’ as tiresome and even a sign of possible illness.