The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Lady Bracknell: And now that we have finally got rid of this Mr. Bunbury, may I ask, Mr. Worthing, who is that young person whose hand my nephew Algernon is now holding in what seems to me a peculiarly unnecessary manner? (III.56)
Like public flirtation, public hand holding between two unmarried individuals is highly inappropriate in the Victorian era – as Lady Bracknell makes quite clear. But the fact that Algernon and Cecily continue holding hands even after Lady Bracknell’s icy comment shows that their love (or recklessness) transcends their sense of propriety.
Chasuble: Both these gentlemen have expressed a desire for immediate baptism.
Lady Bracknell: At their age? The idea is grotesque and irreligious! Algernon, I forbid you to be baptized. I will not hear of such excesses. (III.111-112)
As a noble, Lady Bracknell is conservative in her religious outlooks, even when practices such as baptizing adults are not forbidden by the Church, Lady Bracknell doesn't approve. Lady Bracknell believes that because of her high rank, she knows better than others – even clerics – what is respectable in religious practice.
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)
By Victorian standards, an unmarried mother is a most scandalous and dishonorable individual. It means that she lost her virginity before marriage. In a time when female chastity was highly valued – and indeed, used as a bargaining chip in arranging marriages – an unmarried pregnancy was not only a disgrace, but a ticket straight out of the upper social circles.