Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde. Play Analysis

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Lady Windermere’s Fan Analysis

In the except from the 1982 play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde reveals the values of his characters, their high regard for reputation, and the insincere, trivial nature of their society through the interactions of the character’s, especially their dialogue.

Despite having different sets of values, each of the characters believes that one’s reputation in society is important. The most aggressive advocate for a good, scandal-free reputation is the duchess of Berwick, who won’t even allow her daughter to be introduced to Lord Darlington for he is, “far too wicked.” The Duchess’ judges those around her harshly because, as a higher-ranking member of society, she feels she has the right to do so and look down upon those whose reputations she does not favor. She tells Lord Darlington and Lady Windermere that the tea she had at Lady Markby’s was “quite undrinkable,” because of its supplier. Had Lady Markby’s son-in-law had a reputation that The Duchess agreed with, the tea might have been acceptable to her but her high regard for wealth and status didn’t allow her to appreciate it.

Lady Windermere, while less concerned about the reputations of others, fears for her own reputation and allows herself to be manipulated and led by The Duchess. When The Duchess laments the downfall of society and the people she tries not to associate with, Lady Windermere immediately agrees and says she will “have no one in [her] house about whom there is any scandal.” She is trying to stay in the good graces of The Duchess in order to climb the social ladder which the character’s hold in such high esteem. She does not value originality or leadership, instead allowing herself to become a follower for the sake of her reputation.

Lord Darlington’s, whose values are much farther off from The Duchess and Lady Windermere’s, also values his reputation though it is not as spotless as those of the women. He doesn’t mind being called wicked or scandalous because he knows that behind his back there are many who say he’s “never really done anything wrong in the whole course of [his] life.” While on the surface his reputation isn’t clean, the true nature of his character is apparent to those who know him. If he was truly a wicked, failure of a man, there’s no way The Duchess would allow Lady Windermere to have him at her party. However, the stipulation to being invited to the party is that he not say “foolish, insincere things to people.” Lady Windermere doesn’t want to tarnish her own standing by having Lord Darlington share his true opinions.

The society in which the characters exist is one of insincere and trivial nature, only caring about appearances and parties. There is very little substance to the conversation and when Lord Darlington tries to introduce a topic of importance, “the game of marriage,” the women deem him trivial. He seems to be the only intellect and when mentioning the meaning of life and its importance, saying “life is fat too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” The Duchess of Berwick can’t even understand him. Lord Darlington acknowledges that intelligence is not valued in society and won’t explain his sentence to The Duchess because, “to be intelligible is to be found out.”

The insincerity of society is evidenced by The Duchess of Berwick talking behind the backs of those she associates with. The goes to Lady Windermere to gossip about Lady Markby. Although she’s controlling who Lady Windermere invites to her party, The Duchess herself allows even “the most dreadful people” to attend her parties. She is hypocritical of those around her and looks down on everyone but she does nothing to change the status of society. Even Lord Darlington takes notice of how disingenuous society has become, as shown through his comment on marriage. He compares marriage to a card game instead of something genuine and fair.

Through this play, Oscar Wilde shows the true nature and the values, as well as the lack of values, in society through the dialogue of three characters.

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