Earnest And Hedda Gabler Analysis

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Whether one should define marriage as pleasure or business has long been a source of contention, but by the 19th Century, debate was at an all time high. With changes in marriage laws and social stratification, the act of finding a spouse began to more closely resemble a business deal rather than a romantic bond. This shift caught the attention of numerous authors, particularly those who were classified as realists like Oscar Wilde and Henrik Ibsen. In focusing on marriage as a business transaction, these authors stumbled upon another issue in the nature of marriage: people were marrying based on monetary and social pressure rather than a deeper connection. Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler both analyze this…show more content…
Instead of working at home, with the help of their wives, men began to work in factories. What resulted, was “the two sexes [inhabiting] what Victorians thought of as “separate spheres” (Hughes). With this increase in the domestic responsibility of women, came a shift in the marriage dynamic. Wives’ dependency on their husbands increased, which in turn created even more pressure to marry and to marry well. This is the mindset that permeates both Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Both plays, having been written at the end of the 19th century, offer insight into how this societal pressure creates an environment in which women face a particularly large amount of pressure to find wealthy, suitable husbands rather than ones they truly love. This issue of marriage being classified as business is best summed up in The Importance of Being Earnest when Algy, after having learned Jack intends to propose to Gwendolyn, remarks, “I thought you had come up for pleasure…? I call that business” (Wilde…show more content…
In The Importance of Being Earnest, as Lady Bracknell grills Jack to determine whether she will permit a marriage between him and Gwendolyn, she bluntly asks what his income is. After learning of Jack’s wealth and the investments he holds, Lady Bracknell simply remarks, “That is satisfactory” (Wilde 13). Lady Bracknell is more concerned about Jack’s financial status than she is about whether he cares for her daughter. Her conversation with Jack reads more like a job interview than a mother talking to her potential son-in-law. Clearly, she views marriage to be like a business dealing, vetting Jack’s finances and social standings in order to see if such a union would be profitable for the family. A similar mindset is seen in Hedda Gabler, as despite Hedda’s own wealthy background, she too admits to having succumbed to the pressure of finding a man who could provide for her. When explaining why she choose Tesman, Hedda simply explains, “he kept pressing and pleading to be allowed to take care of me - I didn’t see why I ought to resist (Ibsen 251). Hedda’s only rational behind marrying Tesman is that she felt he could take care of her financially and guarantee her a comfortable life. Much like how Lady Bracknell wanted Gwendolyn’s husband to be wealthy and respectable, Hedda simply required that her husband be able to take care of
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