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Hardy Philosophy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By champamoni
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Gwendolen’s father, Lord Bracknell, never appears in the play, yet Lady Bracknell mentions him often. What picture of his life and marriage do we get from the things she and Gwendolen say about him?
Lady Bracknell’s offstage marriage is one of the play’s running gags, and Lord Bracknell is the butt of a good many of its jokes about marriage. He seems to be the victim of a kind of abstract domestic abuse—ignored, unconsidered, hidden away, and relegated to the status of an idiot or invalid child. When Lady Bracknell tells Algernon that his absence from the dinner party will require her husband to dine “upstairs,” she means “not with the servants.” The implication is that she usually makes him eat in the kitchen, away from the family or from company. Lord Bracknell seems to lead the life of a recluse and to have taken refuge from his domineering wife and daughter in a chronic invalidism. Lacy Bracknell makes vague, off-hand references to his failing health, and Gwendolen tells Cecily that “Outside the family circle, papa . . . is entirely unknown,” adding, “I think that is quite as it should be.” The image of the offstage Lord Bracknell, faint though it is, seems in keeping with the play’s depiction of gender roles, which posit a reversal of the Victorian expectations of the two sexes: women are competent and aggressive and men are weak, ineffectual creatures, to be warehoused or treated like children. Thirty years after Algernon and Jack’s father’s death, no one can even remember his…...

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