A Bachelor, With a Taste For Music
Algernon comes of an aristocratic family, though he is in rather poor circumstances when we meet him. He is a nephew of Lord and Lady Bracknell, and he lives in a luxuriously and artistically furnished flat in Half-Moon Street, London. He is a delightfully entertaining and stimulating man whom we meet at the very outset.
When the play opens, we find him playing on the piano, which shows his interest in music. He admits that he does not play accurately on the piano, but he claims that he can play with wonderful expression and that sentiment is his forte*. We also hear him expressing his awareness of the fact that on the occasion of a party in his establishment the servants consume too much champagne. In other words, he knows that the servants behave in an irresponsible manner in the house of a bachelor who is unable to exercise proper control over them and is not in a position to look after his possessions with the same vigilance which is exercised by a housewife. However, he does not take the matter seriously and does not scold his servant, Lane, whose responsibility it was to show proper restraint in drinking his master’s wine. Algernon believes also that the lower orders of society ought to set a good example of moral responsibility, which they do not. This is how he expresses his view in this connection :
“Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them ? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.”
This is, of course, a paradoxical statement from Algernon, because the example of moral responsibility should be set more by the upper classes than by the lower classes. The paradox here consists in a statement which is contrary to the opinion that is generally held.
Fond of Eating
Algernon is fond of eating, and he eats at all odd hours. Whether it is cucumber sandwiches or muffins, he eats greedily, to the great annoyance of Jack. Early in the play he tells Jack that one should be serious about meals. “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them,” he says, and this statement is another paradox because the general opinion is that people who attach too much importance to meals are shallow. Later in the play he again shows his love of eating and says that, when he is in trouble, eating is the only consolation for him. This is how he states his view when Jack accuses him of eating muffins in a “perfectly heartless manner” :
“When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.”
When Jack wants him to leave his house and go back to London, Algernon gives a reply which again shows his love of eating. Says he :
“You can’t possibly ask me to go without having some dinner. It’s absurd. I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.”
As we have noted above, Algernon is not in prosperous circumstances when the play opens. He is short of money and has run into debts. As Lady Bracknell puts it, he has “nothing but his debts to depend upon.” At one point in the course of the play, we find him tearing some of the letters that he has received because they are all bills which he is unable to pay. But he does not feel worried about his debts, because he is a light-hearted and carefree kind of man. At one point he himself says that half the chaps who are bankrupt have the name Algernon.
His View of Courtship and of Marriage
Algernon has a rather prosaic view of marriage. He certainly considers courtship to be something romantic, but he treats a proposal of marriage as something unromantic. A proposal of marriage may be accepted and then the uncertainty ends ; and it is uncertainty which is the very essence of romance, according to him. He describes Jack’s intention of proposing marriage to Gwendolen as “business” and not “pleasure”. When Jack calls him utterly unromantic, Algernon makes the following statement :
“I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”
His Attitude Towards Relatives
Algernon has no strong feelings for his relatives either. He considers relatives to be “a tedious pack of people”. He would not mind his relatives being criticized by others. In fact, he loves to hear his relatives abused, and this is another paradoxical statement from him. Speaking to Jack, he says :
“My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me think of them at all. Relatives are simply a tedious pack of people who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.”
He is not at all enthusiastic about attending his aunt’s dinner-parties because she either provides him with no woman at all as a companion, or makes it necessary for him to attend upon two women. He particularly dislikes his aunt’s putting him next to a woman called Mary Farquhar who annoys him by always flirting with her own husband across the dinner-table. “The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous,” he says.
Observant and Shrewd
Algernon is very observant, alert, and shrewd. The inscription inside Jack’s cigarette-case has intrigued him, and he probes and prods Jack till he obtains the true facts. He overhears Jack’s country address and makes good use of it. He is fond of Bunburying. He has invented an invalid friend to whom he has given the name of Bunbury. His object in having done so is that he should be able to go into the country as often as he pleases on the pretext of visiting Bunbury who is supposed to be always ailing.
His Bunburying and Falling in Love With Cecily
Algernon’s visit to Jack’s country house is part of his Bunburying. He introduces himself to Cecily as Jack’s younger brother, Ernest, and she receives him cordially as her “wicked cousin Ernest”. When Cecily expresses a doubt whether he is good enough for this world, he admits that he is not adding that he would like her to reform him. He then tells her that she is the prettiest girl he has ever seen, saying further that all good looks are a snare in which every sensible man would like to be caught. A little later, he declares his love for Cecily in the following words :
“Cecily, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.”
When, Jack sends a carriage to drive Algernon to the railway station, Algernon says to Jack’s butler that the carriage should come round next week at the same hour, as he is not leaving now. He then proposes marriage to Cecily and is promptly accepted by her because in her imagination she is already engaged to her guardian’s wicked younger brother by the name of Ernest. For Cecily’s sake Algernon is willing to undergo another baptism in order to acquire the name of Ernest which has fascinated Cecily.
Over-Dressed, Over-Educated, and Practical
As he himself says, Algernon has never allowed his duties as a gentleman to interfere with his pleasures in the smallest degree. He is always over-dressed, as Jack points tout. Algernon does not deny being over-dressed but he claims that he makes up for being over-dressed by “being always immensely over-educated.” Jack also says that Algernon has a “ridiculous vanity Cecily loves him for his hair which to some extent curls naturally, and she calls him a “dear romantic boy”. But he is quite practical too. He makes it possible for Jack to propose marriage to Gwendolen by taking Lady Bracknell away into the other room, having already obtained from Jack a promise that Jack would entertain him to dinner that evening if he creates an opportunity for Jack to make his proposal of marriage to Gwendolen. Algernon also makes it possible for himself to propose marriage to Cecily by sending Jack away to change his clothes.
His Sparkling Wit
The most outstanding and striking quality of Algernon, however, is his wit. His sarcastic remarks, his inneundoes, his sallies and retorts, and his paradoxical observations and comments are remarkable for their variety, their originality, their scintillating quality. Almost every remark that he makes is amusing. He forbids Jack to eat cucumber sandwiches on the ground that they are meant for his aunt, Lady Bracknell, but he himself starts eating them and,, when asked by Jack why he is eating the cucumber sandwiches, his reply is : “That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt.” He then offers some bread-and-butter to Jack, saying that the bread-and-butter is meant for Gwendolen and that Jack therefore has a right to eat bread-and-butter. When Jack begins to eat bread-and-butter, Algernon makes the following witty observation :
“Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her (Gwendolen) already. You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.”
When Jack asks why he will not ever be married to Gwendolen, Algernon gives a witty reply by saying : “Well, in the first place, girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don’t think it right.” The turn which Algernon gives to some of the well-known saying is also very witty. Instead of the saying “Marriages are made in heaven,” he says “Divorces are made in heaven.” The common saying that “two is company and three is none” is amended by him as follows : “In married life three is company and two is none.” The amended saying implies adultery on the part of the husband or the wife. Instead of the idiom “washing one’s dirty linen in public.” he speaks of “washing one’s clean linen in public.” Again, while w generally use the phrase “the whole truth, pare and simple,” Algernon says :
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very, tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility !”
His view of literary criticism is that it should be left to people who have never been at a university. This is a paradoxical statement because generally it is university scholars who have the necessary qualifications for producing literary criticism.
More Witty Than Jack
In his verbal skirmishes with Jack, Algernon has the better of that gentleman. “I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result,” he says to Jack with biting sarcasm. When Jack decides to announce that his younger brother Ernest has died of apoplexy, Algernon, suggests that Ernest should be made to die of a severe chill; and Jack accepts the suggestion. The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain, says Algernon ; and the only retort that lack can make is to call the statement “nonsense”. Algernon is undoubtedly a superior talker as compared to Jack. He is never at a loss as to what to say on any occasion. His shafts of wit are pungent and sharp, and his retorts often have a barbed point.
(2) JACK WORTHING
A Serious-Looking Man
Jack Worthing is a serious-looking kind of man. According to Cecily sometimes Uncle Jack looks so serious that he seems to be unwell. Miss Prism commends the gravity of Jack and says that she knows no one with a higher sense of duty and responsibility than Mr. Jack Worthing. According to Miss Prism, idle merriment and triviality would be out of place in the conversation of this gentleman. Algernon observes that Jack is the most earnest-looking man he has ever seen in his life.
Of Unknown Parentage
Jack finds life in the country rather dull. He says that when one is in town one amuses oneself but that when one is in the country one amuses other people. He finds his neighbours in the country to be perfectly horrid and he never speaks to any of them. The story of how Jack as an infant was lost and found is quite interesting and is part of the comedy of the play. Miss Prism, who was a nurse in those days, put by mistake the infant Jack into a leather hand-bag, and she then deposited the hand-bag in the cloak-room of a railway station. A certain Mr. Thomas Cardew found the infant, adopted him, and brought him up. Jack frankly tells Lady Bracknell that he does not know who his parents were. Nor does he see any reason to feel ashamed of the presumption that he was an illegitimate child. Lady Bracknell rejects him as a possible son-in-law because of his unknown parentage, but Gwendolen finds this fact most romantic and stirring.
His Love For Gwendolen and Its Fulfilment
Jack falls deeply in love with Gwendolen. He finds her to be a very charming girl and says that she is the only girl he ever saw in his life whom he would wish to marry. While declaring his love to Gwendolen he feels somewhat confused and cannot complete his sentence. “Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any other girl ...I have ever met since ...I met you,” he stammers, thus showing that this is the first time he has ever made a proposal of marriage. He does not have that composure or aplomb* which Algernon exhibits while declaring his love to Cecily. But he is quite clever. In order to be able to go to town as frequently as possible to meet Gwendolen, Jack has invented a younger brother who is supposed to lead a loose and irresponsible life in London and who therefore often needs Jack’s help. This invention and Jack’s subsequent effort to “kill” his younger brother lead him into very embarrassing situation. After having decided, in consultation with Algernon, that he will inform Cecily and others at his country home that his brother Ernest has died of a severe chill in Paris, be returns home in mourning clothes and gives the sad news to Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism first because they are the first to meet him. Soon afterwards Cecily comes out and is surprised to find her Uncle Jack in mourning clothes which she asks him to change. At the same time she informs him that his brother Ernest is in the house and that the visitor bad arrived only about half an hour before. Jack’s position is at this time unenviable, indeed. Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism are surprised to hear that Jack’s brother Ernest is still alive. When, a few moments later, Algernon himself comes out of the house, Jack feels extremely annoyed with Algernon for the trick Algernon has played in order to meet Cecily. Jack feels still more annoyed to learn that Algernon has been talking to Cecily about Bunbury. He refuses to shake hands with Algernon, but is compelled to do so by Cecily. However, everything ends well for Jack. For the sake of his beloved Gwendolen, he was even prepared to undergo a second baptism in order to change his name, but that is found to be unnecessary because his original Christian name proves to be Ernest, and he says : “I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn’t I ? Well, it is Ernest after all.” Eventually, of course, the two are united in wedlock.
His Unpleasant Encounters With Lady Bracknell
Jack has two encounters with Lady Bracknell who is the mother of the girl with whom he has fallen in love. Although Gwendolen herself has readily accepted Jack’s proposal of marriage, Lady Bracknell thinks it necessary to interrogate the young man who is a candidate for her daughter’s hand. After Jack has explained the circumstances in which he was found as a baby by an old and charitable gentleman, Mr. Thomas Cardew, Lady’ Bracknell rejects him as a possible son-in-law. Jack finds Lady Bracknell to be a very formidable woman .and he thus describes the view that he has formed of her :
“As far as Gwendolen is concerned, we are engaged. Her mother is perfectly unbearable. Never met such a Gorgon. I don’t really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth.”
On the second occasion, it is with regard to Cecily that Jack is interrogated by Lady Bracknell. In reply to Lady Bracknell’s doubts about the background and the family connections of Cecily, Jack informs: Lady Bracknell in a tone of irritation that he has in his possession certificates of Cecily’s birth, baptism, whooping cough, registration, vaccination, confirmation, and the measles (both the German and the English variety). When Lady Bracknell asks if Cecily has any little fortune, Jack replies that Cecily has about a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in her name. He then tries to cold-shoulder Lady Bracknell, saying : “Good-bye, Lady Bracknell. So pleased to have seen you.” Soon afterwards when Lady Bracknell approves of her nephew Algernon’s decision to marry Cecily, Jack raises an objection and says that he, as Cecily’s guardian, would not allow the girl to marry Algernon unless Lady Bracknell first allows her daughter Gwendolen to marry him (Jack). When Lady Bracknell says that she cannot permit Jack to marry her daughter Gwendolen. Jack gives the following witty retort. “Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to.” Although Lady Bracknell is indeed a formidable opponent, we must admire Jack for the firm stand that he takes on both occasions in his verbal clashes with her.
A Good Guardian For Cecily
Jack is an excellent guardian for Cecily. He wishes to adopt a high moral tone so as to exercise a healthy influence upon his ward. In this context he also tells. Algernon the reason why he has invented a younger brother of the name of Ernest who lives in London. Here is what Jack says to Algernon in connection with his guardianship of Cecily and in connection with his invention of a younger brother :
“When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It’s one’s duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness, in order to” go up to town I have always pretended to have-a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes.”
Cecily is quite devoted to her guardian whom she addresses as “Uncle Jack ; and her devotion to him shows that he must be essentially a very good man.
No Match For Algernon
Although witty like every other character in the play, Jack is no match for Algernon. Early in the play, Jack is cornered by Algernon with reference to the inscription inside Jack’s cigarette case. In his verbal skirmishes with Algernon, Jack generally has the worse of that gentleman. On several occasions all that Jack can say to a verbal attack from Algernon is : “Oh, that is nonsense.” Jack has to yield to Algernon’s demand that he should entertain Algernon to dinner at an expensive restaurant in exchange for a little service that Algernon expects to do to him. Jack is also unable to get rid of Algernon when the latter visits his country residence. As Algernon’s presence is very embarrassing to Jack, Jack bluntly asks Algernon to go away, but Algernon persists in staying on. When Algernon says that he is going to stay for a whole week as Jack’s guest, Jack replies : “You are certainly not staying with me for a whole week as a guest or anything else. You have got to leave by the four-five train.” When Algernon claims to be an “immensely over-educated” man, Jack snubs him in the following manner :
“Your vanity is ridiculous, your conduct an outrage, and your presence in my garden utterly absurd. However, you have got to catch the four-five, and I hope you will have a pleasant journey back to town. This Bunburying, as you call it, has not been a great success for you.”
However, this rebuke serves no purpose at all, because Algernon simply refuses to leave. Indeed, Jack is no match for Algernon either in wit and verbal twists or in manipulation and manoeuvring.
There are several occasions, however, when Jack rises to the occasion and makes amusing and effective remarks. Speaking of aunts, for instance, he says that some aunts are tall and some aunts are not tall. “You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt,” he says to Algernon, and this remark clinches the argument. On another occasion he says : “My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist to one who isn’t a dentist.” He also shows his wit When he says to Algernon : “My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quit the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl.” When Algernon expresses a desire to meet Cecily, Jack says : “I will take very good care you never do. She is excessively pretty, and she is only just eighteen.” This retort is a damaging reflection on Algernon’s character. When Algernon says that, if ever he gets married, he will try to forget the fact, Jack makes the retort that the Divorce Court was specially invented for people like Algernon. When it becomes necessary for Jack to admit that his brother Ernest is a purely imaginary person, he does so in the following paradoxical and witty manner :
“it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind. However, I will tell you quite frankly that I have no brother Ernest. I have no brother at all. I never had a brother in my life, and I certainly not have the smallest intention of ever having one in the future.”
When Algernon mocks at Jack, saying that Jack has an absolutely trivial nature, Jack gives him the following reply
“Well, the only small satisfaction I have in the whole of this wretched business is that your friend Bunbury is quite exploded. You won’t be able to run down to the country quite so often as you used to do, dear Algy. And a very good thing too.”
On this occasion he also rebukes Algernon in the following manner :
“As for your conduct towards Miss Cardew, I must say that your talking to a sweet, simple, innocent girl like that is quite inexcusable. To say nothing of the fact that she is my ward.”
Jack is certainly witty, and effectively so, as the above remarks by him show, but on all such occasions Algernon has the last word and comes out the winner. When both the young men find themselves in a difficult position, and Algernon begins to eat muffins, Jack rebukes him by saying : “How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.” But Algernon makes a fitting reply. When Algernon persists in eating more muffins, Jack groans and sinks into a chair (while Algernon continues eating).
(3) MISS GWENDOLEN FAIRFAX
Averse for country Life
Gwendolen is a young, charming girl who loves town life bna feels bored in the country. She cannot understand how anybody of any importance can exist in the country. Nor did she have any idea that there are so many flowers in the countryside. Though fond of living in the town, she says that she hates crowds, thus making a paradoxical statement.
Her Absurd Reaction to Jack’s Declaration of Love
Gwendolen’s reaction to Jack’s declaration of love for her is simply amazing. Even before Jack is able to complete his sentence, she bursts into an extravagant speech about how he has always fascinated her and how it was always her cherished ideal to love some one of the name of Ernest. When he asks her whether .she really loves him, she replies : “Passionately.” The name Ernest, she says, is divine, has a music of its own, and produces vibrations in her. The name Jack or John, according to her, conveys only domesticity and nothing more. She could never marry a man having the name Jack or John, says Gwendolen woman who marries Jack or John would not .get a single minute’s solitude in her house, Gwendolen goes on to say. And, even before Jack actually proposes marriage to her, she accepts the proposal in advance. She then praises his wonderfully blue eyes and expresses the hope that he will always look at her exactly in the way in which he is looking at bar now. The story of his “romantic origin” stirs the deeper fibres of her nature I Now, her whole reaction to Jack’s declaration of love for her is absurd ; her reaction is, indeed, farcical ; this reaction is almost incredible. That a woman should be so prompt and forward as to accept a proposal of marriage even before the proposal has actually been made is simply preposterous and unbelievable. But the absurdity, the farce, and the incredibility are all part of the fun in this comic play, and are really delectable.
An Independent-Minded Girl
Gwendolen shows a purely formal respect for her mother’s wishes. When her mother asks her to accompany her into the next room, she says “yes, “yes, mamma,” but remains behind with Jack (or Ernest as she believes his name to be). Her mother forbids her marriage with Jack, but she flees from home in order to meet Jack at his country residence, having already obtained his address in anticipation of such a step. When her mother follows her to Jack’s country home, she informs her mother that she is engaged to Jack to be married to him. Gwendolen is, indeed, the emancipated type of woman, free to follow her own inclinations, her own judgment, and her own fancies. She is certainly very bold and adventurous.
Her Ready Wit
Like the other characters, Gwendolen possesses a ready and sharp wit. She has always something unexpected and refreshing to say. When Jack says to her : “You’re quite perfect, Miss. Fairfax,” she denies it on the ground that she intends to develop in many directions and that perfection would rule out the possibility of any r development. When Jack talks about the weather, her reply is that, whenever people talk to her about the weather, she feels quite certain that they mean something else. Again, although Jack has already told her about his love for her, yet when he talks about marrying her, she reminds him that he still has not formally proposed marriage to her. Her paradoxical observations and comments are especially original and stimulating, sometimes startling. For instance, she says to Jack : “The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.” When Algernon tries to stop her from talking alone to Jack, she says : “Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude towards life. You are not old enough to do that.” Speaking to Jack, she says : “The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me.” When Jack asks her to wait for him a moment, her paradoxical reply is: “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.” Speaking about her father to Cecily, Gwendolen says that very few people have heard about him, and makes the following paradoxical observations :
“Outside the family circle, I am glad to say, papa is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it should be. The home seems to me to be a proper sphere for the man. And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate. And I don’t like that. It makes men so very attractive.”
In the same speech she also makes another paradoxical remark when, referring to her weak eye-sight and the need for her to use spectacles, she says to Cecily :
“Mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted ; it is part of her system. So, do you mind my looking at you through my glasses?”
Referring to a state of uncertainty, she says : “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” Other examples of her paradoxical wit are as follows:
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”
“I never change, except in my affections.”
All this is very entertaining, of course. In other words, Gwendolen makes a substantial contribution to the wit and humour of the play. Even some of her minor remarks are a source of amusement to us. For instance, when Cecily suggests that they should both speak at the same time; Gwendolen replies : “An excellent idea ! I always speak at the same time as other people.”
Her Attitude Towards Cecily
Gwendolen is very friendly and sweet with Cecily when they -first meet. But as soon as she realizes the possibility of a love-affair between Cecily and Cecily’s guardian, Jack, in whom Gwendolen herself is interested, she is stung by jealousy and speaks to Cecily bitterly. Finding Cecily to be a young and pretty girl, Gwendolen thus expresses her apprehensions to her :
“I cannot help expressing a wish you were––well, just a little older than you seem to be––and not quite so very alluring in appearance. Well, to speak with perfect candour, Cecily, I wish that you were fully forty two, and more than usually plain for your age. Ernest has a strong upright nature. He is the very soul of truth and honour. Disloyalty would be as impossible to him as deception. But even men of the noblest possible character are extremely susceptible to the influence of the physical charms of others. Modern, no less than Ancient, History supplies us many most painful examples of what I refer to. If it were not so, indeed, History would be quite unreadable.”
The last sentence in the above speech is particularly amusing because, according to Gwendolen, the interest of History lies in incidents which deal with the attraction that the physical charms of women exercise even upon men of the noblest possible character. Soon, however, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and Gwendolen becomes friendly with Cecily again, saying to Cecily : “You have lifted a load from my mind. I was growing almost anxious.” But the misunderstanding is revived and it leads to an exchange of several ill-natured remarks between the two till the whole picture becomes clear to both the women. In the course of the quarrel, when Cecily says that she calls a spade a spade, Gwendolen maker one of her most sarcastic remarks, saying to Cecily : “I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that oUt social spheres have been widely different.” (Gwendolen also amuses us when she expresses her surprise on learning that so many flowers grow in the countryside. She is essentially a woman of the town, even though she hates crowds, and she cannot understand how anybody, who is socially important, can exist in the countryside).
Some Other Amusing Remarks By Her
Gwendolen also provides some amusement to us when she and Cecily first feel annoyed with their respective lovers and then become reco to them when their lovers do not seem to take much notice of them, Gwendolen suggests to Cecily that the latter should cough in order to attract their attention. When their lovers approach them, Gwendolen first says to Cecily : “Let us preserve a dignified silence,” and then modifies her remark by saying “Thus dignified silence seems to produce an unpleasant effect.” When the two men express their willingness to be re-christened, Gwendolen makes the following remark: “How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes ! Where questions of self-sacrifice are concerned, men are infinitely beyond us.”
(4) MISS CECILY CARDEW
An Active, Observant, aid Cheerful Type of Girl
Cecily is a tall, excessively pretty girl of eighteen living as a ward of Jack Worthing at the Manor House, Woolton, in the county of Hertfordshire. She is the grand-daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Cardew and is expected to inherit a large fortune when she comes of age. She is a girl of active habits interested in such hobbies as watering flower-plants, but averse to studying German grammar, political economy, and geography which she regards “horrid”. She is a cheerful, sprightly person who does not approve of her, Uncle Jack’s over-seriousness but who, paradoxically enough, feels depressed by novels which have happy endings. When her governess, Miss Prism, speaks of a three-volume novel which she had once written, Cecily makes the following observation :
“How wonderfully clever you are ! I hope it did not end happily ? I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.”
Though quite young, she is observant enough to have noticed the g intimacy between Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. When Chasuble comes into the garden where Miss Prism Cecily is urging Cecily pay more attention to German grammar, Cecily tells the Canon that Miss Prism, has just been complaining of a headache and that it would do much good to Miss Prism if she takes a walls with fin. Cecily makes this suggestion because she knows that Miss Prism finds great pleasure in Dr. Chasuble’s company.
Her Diary, and the Entries Made in it By Her
Cecily keeps a diary and writes regularly in it. When asked by Miss Prism why she keeps a diary, Cecily gives reply which is quite amusing: “I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them.” When Miss Prism says that memory is the diary which all human beings carry about them, Cecily makes another statement which is witty and paradoxical, saying : “Yes, but it (the human memory) usually chronicles the things that have never happened, and couldn’t possibly have happened. I believe that memory is responsible, for nearly all the three-volume novels that Mudie sends us.” What Cecily means to say is that novels contain entirely improbable and incredible events. When Algernon begins to praise Cecily’s beauty and accomplishments, she quickly picks up her diary and begins to write down what he has to say about her. Algernon thereupon wants to look into the pages of her diary but she does not allow him to read anything written in it and she makes another paradoxical and witty statement which is as follows :
“You see it (the diary) is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently, meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy. But pray, Ernest, don’t stop. I delight in taking down from dictation. You can go on. I am quite ready for more.”
Algernon, feeling embarrassed, begins to cough, whereupon Cecily makes the following witty remark : “Oh, don’t cough, Ernest. When one is dictating, one should speak fluently and not cough. Besides, I don’t know how to spell cough.” Algernon then tells her that he loves her wildly, passionately, devotedly and hopelessly, a statement to which Cecily objects pointing out that “hopelessly” here does not seem to make much sense. Cecily’s keeping a diary and writing everything in it is one of the absurdities of the play. Many people keep diaries but Cecily goes to the extreme in this respect, recording in it every word that an admirer has to say to her about her.
Engaged to Ernest Without Having Seen Him
A greater absurdity awaits us. We are told that Cecily has been in love with Algernon for the last several months. She fell in love with him without even having met him or seen him. She fell in love with him on the basis of the accounts of him that she heard from her guardian and from her governess ; and she was fascinated by him because she believed his name to be Ernest. She got herself engaged to him in her imagination ; she bought a ring in his name, and she obtained a bangle with the true lover’s knot, also in his name, promising to wear it always. She has been writing letters from him to herself, thee times a week and sometimes oftener. Once she broke off the engagement because she had felt annoyed with him, but she then forgave him and the engagement was renewed. Now therefore, when Algernon proposes marriage to her, the question of her saying “no” does not arise. She loves him for the kind of life he has lived, for the kind of hair he has got, and for his exquisite name which she believes to be Ernest. The following statements made by her contain her feelings about Algernon (whom she thinks to be her guardian’s younger brother, Ernest) :
(1) “Well, ever since dear Uncle Jack first confessed to us that be had a younger brother who was very wicked and bad, you, of course, have formed the chief topic of conversation between myself and Miss Prism. I dare say it was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, Ernest.”
(2) “You dear romantic boy. I hope your hair curls naturally, does it ?” (He kisses her, and she puts her fingers through his hair).
(3) “You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest. There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.”
All this is even more absurd than Gwendolen’s reaction to Jack’s declaration of love to her. We roar with laughter when we read these statements made by Cecily. All this is, of course, unrealistic and incredible, but we are reading an artificial comedy. Absurdity is the very keynote of this artificial comedy.
Her Ready Wit
Cecily has a keen sense of humour and is ready-witted like the other characters in the play. She often makes startling, and at the same time highly amusing observations, some of which have already been quoted but a few more of which may also be noted. For instance, she tells Miss Prism that her reason for not liking the German language and grammar is that she looks quite unattractive after her German lesson. (This means that her appearance deteriorates after she has studied German for some time). Another witty remark from her is as follows : “When one is going to lead an entirely new life, one requires regular and wholesome meals.” Cecily’s wit is often paradoxical. Memory, she says, chronicles the things that have never happened and could not possibly have happened. She also says that she does not quite like women who are interested in philanthropic work because their doing that kind of work shows that they are very forward. She’ also makes the remark that, whenever one has anything unpleasant to say, one should be quite frank. She further says to ‘‘she herself is unpunctual but that she expects punctuality from others. Another paradoxical remark that she makes is that the two men (Jack and Algernon) must be feeling repentant of their deceptions because they are eating muffins. She amuses us when, faced with the unpleasant task of surrendering to her lover, she suggests that she and Gwendolen should both speak at the same time ; and the two girls do indeed speak at the same time. She also amuses us when, on being asked her age by Lady Bracknell, she replies : “Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always admit to twenty when I go to evening parties.”
Her Biting and Sarcastic Remarks
Cecily’s wit can be quite biting, as in the course of her dialogue with Gwendolen. When Gwendolen says that she hates crowds, Cecily makes the following sarcastic remark to her : “I suppose that is why you live in town.” When Gwendolen says that she never thought there were any flowers in the countryside, Cecily says, again in a sarcastic tone : “Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.” Thinking that Gwendolen has come to Cecily’s house in order to claim Cecily’s lover as her own, Cecily says to her : “No doubt you have many other calls of a similar character to make in the neighbourhood,” and this is a devastating remark. Cecily is also capable of being candid and practical. When Algernon in a romantic mood says that he can wait to marry Cecily till she attains the age of thirty five, Cecily frankly declares that she cannot wait so long. Occasionally she makes a wise remark too, as in the following case : “Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life.” When Algernon compares her beauty to that of a pink rose, Cecily naively says : “Miss Prism never says such things tome.” She can also behave in a naughty manner as when she gives cake instead of bread-and-butter to Gwendolen, and when she puts lumps of sugar in the tea when Gwendolen wanted no sugar at all.
A Sweet and Lovable Person
On the whole, Cecily is a sweet and lovable person, fanciful, poetical as well as practical, naughty, refined, forgiving, and very human. But whether she is a convincing character, it is difficult to say. Every reader has to decide for himself whether it is possible to believe in the existence of a girl like Cecily.
(5) LADY BRACKNELL (AUNT AUGUSTA)
A Memorable Character
Lady Bracknell is one of the most important characters created by Wilde. According to some critics, she is Wilde’s greatest achievement so far as the portrayal of characters is concerned. She is, indeed, an unforgettable character. She dominates the company whenever she is present. We meet her in Acts I and III of The Importance of Being Earnest and on both occasions she makes a striking impact on those with whom she has to deal. She does not figure in Act II at all and yet she remains in our thoughts throughout the play. Like the rest of the characters in this play, she is an unusual person, but she has strongly been individualized and she differs from all the rest to a striking degree.
Gossipy and Fastidious
Lady Bracknell is a talkative, gossipy, fastidious, and exacting lady, with a partiality for cucumber sandwiches. She has a taste for music, but she will not allow French songs which seem to her to be improper. She is quite fond of her nephew Algernon whose presence at her parties she thinks essential, even though be does not like her much and seeks excuses to keep away from her parties. She feels disappointed when he tells her that he will not be able to attend her dinner-party as he has to go to meet his ailing friend, Bunbury.
Her Cross-Examination of Jack
Lady Bracknell is very snobbish, class-conscious, and mercenary in her outlook. She cross-examines Jack very closely in order to determine his suitability as her son-in-law. Her manner of interrogating Jack shows her suspicious nature. Her comments on the replies which Jack gives to her questions are a mixture of belief and unbelief. When, for instance, in reply to a question he says that he is twenty nine years old, her comment is : “A very good age to be married at.” But when, in reply to another question, he says that he owns a country house, she doubtfully asks : “A country house I How many bed-rooms ? Well, that point can be cleared up afterwards.” When Jack tells her that his town house is occupied by a tenant, Lady Bloxham, she says that she does not know Lady Bloxham and that the fact of Lady Bloxham’s being considerably advanced in ears is no guarantee of respectability of character. She feels quite satisfied with most of the particulars that Jack gives to her about himself but she feels very disappointed to learn that as an infant be was found in a hand-bag in a railway cloak-room and that his parentage is unknown. She forbids the marriage of her daughter, Gwendolen, to Jack on this account. She makes one of her most famous speeches when Jack has given her an account of the circumstances in which he was found. This is what she says :
“Mr. Worthing, I confess, I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any race 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 ?”
To compare the circumstance of a child being found in a hand-bag with the worst excesses of the French Revolution is one of the greatest absurdities and one of the most comic statements. Here we nave an example of the what may be called comic exaggeration. On the basis of Jack’s misfortune in not knowing his parentage, Lady Bracknell rejects him summarily and in a categorical manner for the position of nor son-in-taw, and Jack is right when, after the cross-examination, he expresses to Algernon” the view that she is a Gorgon that is, a kind of frightful monster). Lady Bracknell is acutely class-conscious and says to Algernon : “Never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”
Her Questions About Cecily
The questions that Lady Bracknell asks about Cecily in order to determine whether Cecily would be a suitable wife for her nephew Algernon again show her tendency to get to the bottom of a situation and not to judge by appearances only. When Jack names Cecily’s family solicitors, Lady Bracknell says, in a condescending tone, that one partner in that particular firm of solicitors is occasionally seen at dinner-parties and that for this reason she feels quite satisfied with this aspect of Cecily’s credentials. She is very particular to know whether Cecily will bring a rich dowry and, on being informed, that Cecily has a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in her name, Lady Bracknell comes to the conclusion that Cecily is a suitable girl to marry her nephew Algernon. But even then she speaks to Cecily in a patronizing tone and adopts a superior attitude towards her, saying : “Pretty child I Your dress is sadly simple, and your hair seems almost as Nature might have left it. But we can soon alter that.” She then wants to see Cecily’s profile and, after scrutinizing it, remarks, again in a patronizing manner : “There are distinct social possibilities in Miss Cardew’s profile.” Although she approves of Cecily as a bride for Algernon chiefly on the basis of Cecily’s wealth, she yet has the cheek to declare : “But I do not approve of mercenary marriages. When I married Lord Bracknell I had no fortune of any kind. But I never dreamed for a moment of allowing that to stand in my way.” This is, indeed, one of her most amusing speeches, the humour here arising from the twist in the argument. If, she had no fortune of any kind when she married Lord Bracknell, it went to the credit of Lord Bracknell that he married a woman without a dowry but Lady Bracknell claims the credit for herself.
Her Authoritative Tone
Lady Bracknell is unduobtedly a formidable personality. She not only tries to overawe Jack and afterwards Cecily, but adopts an authoritative attitude towards her daughter Gwendolen. Nor is there any doubt in our minds that she rules her husband, Lord Bracknell. When Gwendolen tells her mother that she has got engaged to Mr. Worthing, Lady Bracknell gives the following reply to her : “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.” Afterwards, when Gwendolen again informs her mother that she has got engaged to be married to Mr. Worthing, Lady Bracknell again speaks to her in a tone of authority: “Come here. Sit down. Sit down immediately. Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young and of physical weakness in the old.” Lady Bracknell’s attitude towards her husband can be judged by the following remark that she makes to Jack about him : “Indeed, I have never undeceived him on any question. I would consider it wrong.” In other words, she never allows her husband to know what is going on in the house.
Like most of the other characters in the play, Lady Bracknell possesses a sharp wit. Almost all her remarks amuse us greatly. For instance, she says that it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he is going to live or die. Then she says that she considers the modern sympathy with invalids to be undesirable as it shows morbidity. Later in the play, when she is told that Mr. Bunbury is dead, she says that Mr. Bunbury showed much sense in deciding to die. When Jack, in the course of her interrogation of him, tells her that he had lost both his parents, she says : “Both ? That seems like carelessness.” Later, when Jack in a tone of irritation, tells her that he has in his possession certificates of Cecily’s birth, baptism, whooping cough, registration, vaccination, and the measles, Lady Bracknell makes the following comment : “Oh I A life crowded with incident, I see, though perhaps somewhat too exciting for a young girl. I am myself not in favour of premature experiences.” When Lady Bracknell sees Jack kneeling before Gwendolen, she pricks the romantic bubble by asking him to rise from his “semi-recumbent, indecorous posture.” She perhaps makes her most memorable remark when she gives her decision with regard to Jack’s desire to marry her daughter Gwendolen. This is what she says to Jack who has told her that as a child he was found in a hand-bag lying in a railway cloak-room :
“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.”
Her Paradoxical Remarks
Some of Lady Bracknell’s remarks are paradoxical as are the remarks of some of the other characters in the play too. She makes a paradoxical remark when, for instance, she says that a girl with a simple, unspoiled nature like Gwendolen can hardly be expected to reside in the country. (Actually, a simple, unspoiled girl should prefer to live in the country. It is only sophisticated and spoiled girls who have a preference for town life and a distaste for the country). Again, Lady Bracknell expresses her opposition to long engagements on the ground that they give the two partners an opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which according to her is not at all desirable. (Actually, it is better that a man and a woman should know each other’s character before marriage). She expresses her opinion of Algernon in the following paradoxical manner : “He has nothing, but be looks everything. What more can one desire ?” Another paradoxical remark that she makes about Algernon is : “He has nothing but his debts to depend on.” Lady Bracknell has a fling at society ladies who do not tell their real age, and her remark in this context is also famous :
“Thirtyfive is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirtyfive for years. Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point. To my own knowledge she has been thirtyfive ever since she arrived at the age of forty which was many years ago now.”
But Lady Bracknell also says that no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age because “it looks so calculating”. Here is another of her very interesting and paradoxical statements :
“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit ; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modem education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England at any rate education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”
(6) MISS LAETITIA PRISM
Her Serious Blunder as a Nurse
Originally a nurse in Lord Bracknell’s household, Miss Prism is Cecily’s governess when the play opens. I n fact, she has been Cecily’s governess for quite some time. As a nurse in Lord Bracknell’s home she had once committed a serious blunder. She had, in a fit of absent-mindedness, put Lady Bracknell’s infant nephew Ernest into a leather hand-bag which she had deposited in a railway cloakroom. The incident had occurred twenty-eight years ago. A brief account of this incident is given by Miss Prism to Lady Bracknell and others towards the close of the play, and this account explains the mystery of the parentage of Jack Worthing. Of course, this whole incident is something absurd and incredible, but it has got to be accepted as a fact if the plot-construction of the play is to remain intact and if we are to enjoy the play as a whole.
Her Literary Ability
Miss Prism is a woman of some literary pretensions. She once wrote a three-volume novel in which the bad characters received the punishment they deserved while the good ones received their due reward. However, she is opposed to the practice of keeping a diary, as is clear from her injunction to Cecily : “You must put away your diary, Cecily. I really don’t see why you should keep a diary at all.” When. Cecily says that she needs a diary to put down in it the wonderful secrets of her life which she would otherwise forget, Miss Prism says : “Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.”
Some of Her Amusing Remarks
As a governess, Miss Prism is, in the opinion of her employer Jack, admirable. She is quite strict with Cecily and keeps urging her to devote herself to books, especially German grammar the importance of which Jack has always emphasized. When she goes away for a little while, she gives the following instructions to Cecily :
“Cecily, you will read your political economy in my absence. The chapter on the fall of the rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.”
It is amusing to find that Miss Prism thinks the devaluation of a certain foreign currency to be something sensational and melodramatic. She also amuses us when she disapproves of Cecily’s watering the plants on the ground that his is a utilitarian occupation which should be left to the gardener.
Appreciative of Her Employer’s Temperament
Miss Prism is quite appreciative of her employer Jack Worthing’s seriousness of nature and temperament. She expresses her approval in a paradoxical statement which she makes to Cecily:
“Your guardian enjoys the best of health, and his gravity of demeanour is especially to be commended in one so comparatively young as he is. I know no one who has a higher sense of duty and responsibility.”
She also tells Cecily that Mr. Jack Worthing has many troubles in his life, and adds : “Idle merriment and triviality would be out of place’ in his conversation. You must remember his constant anxiety about that unfortunate young man, his brother.”
A Moralist With Plenty of Wit
Miss Prism is, or pretends to be, a kind of moralist. She has formed a very bad opinion about lack’s spoilt younger brother, Ernest. “As a man sows, so shall he reap,” she says with reference to that young man. When Cecily expresses the view that her Uncle Jack should allow his unfortunate brother Ernest to come to his house sometimes so that Miss Prism might exercise some good influence on him by her knowledge and learning, Miss Prism declares that young man to be beyond any reform, at the same time expressing her disapproval of any efforts whatsoever to reform bad people. This is how she states her opinion :
“I do not think that even I could produce any effect on a character that, according to his own brother’s admission, is irretrievably weak and vacillating. Indeed, lam not sure that I would desire to reclaim him. I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moment’s notice.”
When Jack tells her and Dr. Chasuble that his brother is the cause of his mourning clothes, Miss Prism asks if his brother has again been guilty of extravagance and if he has incurred some more shameful debts. On being told by Jack that his brother is dead, Miss Prism repeats what she had previously said to Cecily about that young man : “As a man sows, so shall he reap.” When, soon afterwards, she learns that Ernest is still alive, she says that the young man’s sudden return is peculiarly distressing. Indeed, she talks about Ernest as if she had a personal grudge against him. She shows a pungent wit when she says that people who live entirely for pleasure usually remain unmarried, or when she says that the death of Ernest is a blessing of an extremely obvious kind. But she can be pleasantly witty also as when she says that no married man is ever attractive except to his wife.
Her Matrimonial Interest in Dr. Chasuble
Miss Prism’s matrimonial interest in Dr. Chasuble is obvious. She goes out for walks with him and, in order to get an opportunity for walking in his company, she even pretends to have a headache. She makes a direct suggestion to him to get married. This is how she puts the matter to him : “You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble. You should get married. A misanthrope* I can understand –– a womanthrope** never ! When Dr. Chasuble says that the Primitive Church was opposed to matrimony, she gives the following interesting reply :
“That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day. And you do not seem to realize, 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.
This is certainly a strong argument in favour of marriage, and ultimately she carries the day. It is noteworthy that she talks to Dr. Chasuble on an equal footing, and she can match him in wit.
(7) DR. CHASUBLE
Opposed in Theory to Matrimony
We meet Dr. Chasuble in the beginning of Act II when he comes to meet Miss Prism who is supervising Cecily’s studies. Miss Prism expresses her pleasure on seeing Dr. Chasuble who says : “And, how are we this morning ? Miss Prism, you are, I trust, well? Moments later, we find Miss Prism walking away in the company of Dr. Chasuble for whom evidently she has a great liking. Soon, Dr. Chasuble returns in the company of Miss Prism and has an interesting conversation with her. Miss Prism suggests that Dr. Chasuble should get married and should not behave like a “womanthrope”. But Dr. Chasuble says that the Primitive Church was distinctly opposed to matrimony. In other words, he is not in favour of matrimony though subsequently he does get married. This is how Cecily wittily and paradoxically describes Dr. Chasuble “Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man. He has never written a single book, so you can imagine, how much he knows.” And Dr. Chasuble’s learning can well be judged by his claim that a particular sermon of his can be adapted to almost any occasion, joyful or distressing. He has preached this particular sermon at harvest celebrations, christening, confirmations, on days of humiliation and festal days. This is, indeed, funny. And he also claims that the Bishop was much struck by some of the analogies which he drew in the course of his sermon.
A Classical Allusion
Dr. Chasuble, after addressing Min Prism as “Egeria” instead of by her correct name of Laetitia, explain that he has made a classical allusion drawn from the pagan authors ; and this ability to allude to the pagan authors is a sign of his learning. He tries to be witty when he says that, if he were fortunate enough to be Min Prism’s pupil, he would hang upon her lips. Then he explains that he has spoken metaphorically, his metaphor having been drawn from bees.
His Emotional Interest in Miss Prism
Dr. Chasuble has been feeling an emotional interest in Miss Prism and has been flirting with her mildly. Yet, when Miss Prism suggests that he should get married to relieve his loneliness, he speaks of the celibacy prescribed by the Primitive Church. This is sheer hypocrisy, because eventually he does marry Miss Prism. Before he marries her, he gets an opportunity to express a fervid opinion about her, saying that she is the most cultivated of ladies and the very picture of respectability.
Ready to Christen Grown-Up Men
Dr. Chasuble does not mind christening grown-up people. According to him, the sprinkling and even the immersion of adults is a perfectly canonical practice. However, he is prepared to do away with the immersion to simplify the ceremony and also because “our weather is so changeable.” He is ready to christen both Jack and Algernon, and. later, when they change their minds, he feels quite annoyed. This is how he reacts to Jack’s telling him that the christenings are not really necessary :
“I am much grieved to hear such sentiments from you, Mr. Worthing. They savour of the heretical views of the Anabaptists, views that I have completely refuted in four of my unpublished sermons. However, as your present mood seems to be one peculiarly secular. I will return to the church at once. Indeed, I have just been informed by the pew-opener that for the last hour and a half Miss Prism has beep waiting for me in the vestry.”
His incidental mention of Min Prism proves to be very important from the point of view of the plot because Lady Bracknell at once expresses a wish to see the woman of that name and because this meeting between Lady Bracknell and Min Prism leads to a solution of the mystery of Jack’s parentage.
His Condolences to Jack
Dr. Chasuble expresses his condolences to Jack in a purely formal and conventional manner when the latter appears in mourning clothes. Dr. Chasuble speaks like the preacher that he is : “And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude into a house of sorrow. I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in diguise.” When Miss Prism finds fault with the dead man, Dr. Chasuble raises his hand and says : “Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity. None of us are perfect.” And he adds : “I myself am peculiarly susceptible to draughts.” Miss Prism was referring to the dead man’s moral failings, while Dr. Chasuble speaks of physical infirmities in view of the information that the man had died of a severe chill.
A Satirical Portrait of a clergyman
There is no doubt that the author has given us a satirical portrait of Dr. Chasuble. The author has ridiculed the whole class of clergymen who are self-righteous, egotistical, conceited, hypocritical, and mercenary. Yet Miss Prism finds enough good in Dr. Chasuble to fall in love with him and to marry him. Miss Prism probably realizes the truth of Dr. Chasuble’s own observation : “None of us are perfect.”