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The Victorian Social Institutions of Marriage (Essay Sample)


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The Victorian Social Institutions of Marriage
The society is easily characterized by dividing it into social classes and then evaluating the differences between each cluster. However, during the Victorian era, England witnessed a polarized gender roles difference, which can be illustrated along with the different tasks allotted to women and men, what is commonly termed as the ideology of separate spheres (Hughes 1). According to the separate spheres, men possessed the aptitude to aggression, act, reason, self-interest and independence, what is called the public sphere (Rintoul 243). On the other hand, women maintained a separate private sphere. The separate private sphere embraces inherent qualities of femininity which are selflessness, submission, emotion, dependence and passivity. These ideologies allowed men to dominate the society (Loftus 1). The Victorian era ended in 1901; however, through plays, movies, and writings details of Victorian times are passed from one generation to another. One of the innovative and artful productions that reveal this story is Oscar Wilde’s play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ A story of two young men in England in the course of the Victorian era who used the same fictitious name ‘Ernest’ in the play, and all was well until they both fall in love with women with the same name. Centered on the available literature about the institutions of marriage and family in the Victorian England this study highlights how the play enters into a conversation about marriage in the period.
As illustrated from the introduction women possessed a separate private sphere which includes selflessness, submission, emotion, dependence and passivity (Milne-Smith 16). These ideologies allowed men to dominate the society because they were presumed to be intelligent, brave, dutiful, vigorous and independent (Loftus 1). Conversely, women were dominated by their attractiveness and were expected to fall mutely into the common mould crafted by men (Hughes 2). In other words, they were identified by their sexuality. A good example in the play is Cecily. In Act two, Algernon defines her as a child of nature, as ingenuous and unspoilt as a pink rose. However, later her creativity is bellied by her appeal and wickedness. Just as Gwendolen, she is obsessed with the name Ernest; however, because of wickedness, she falls in love with Uncle Jack’s brother (Wilde, 2016). Nonetheless, in her mind, it is clear that she wants a man who she could depend on. Possibly, it is through her that Wilde demonstrates the view of women’s life in the era.
Throughout the period, marriage was one of the most important things in a lady’s life (Loftus 4). Besides, how could they make life without marrying in a society whereby they were barred from making a living? The custom and the law vetoed them from joining professions and trade. On the other hand, ladies were restricted from owning property (Rintoul 112). Thus, for the women livelihood was only through marriage. In the play, this is evident; for instance, the...
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