Summary Of An Ideal Husband English Literature Essay

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An Ideal Husband is an 19th Century stage play written by Oscar Wilde which revolves around blackmail and political bribery. The play itself also touches on the important subject of public and private honour. The play is set in London England, and takes place over the period of twenty four hours. "Sooner or later," Wilde biblically notes, "we shall all have to pay for what we do." But he adds later that, "No one should be entirely judged by their past." [1] 

Lord Goring is a man who, like Wilde notes, "should not be entirely judged by their past".

For it is seen that Lord Goring's previous decisions in life do not determine his actions during the play. Instead, his actions are far from predictable. When Lord Goring extols the importance of forgiveness and charity in married life, reconciling the Chilterns' marriage according to new ideals of

man and wife he becomes a loveable character. The freedom of Lord Goring's personality, and his genuine love for his friends create a authentic character who is both admirable and memorable.

"An Ideal Husband emphasizes Goring's modernity by posing him in a number of comic dialogues with his father, Lord Caversham in which the former urges his son to marry and claim responsibility while the latter outwits him with his repartee [2] ."

Lord Goring, unlike his fellow companions, refuses to let the "partying" and the "deep matters" of life collide with each other, or at any given time. Simply put, the "trivial" and the "serious", Lord Goring will never let meet. However, the striking realization is that Oscar Wilde describes Lord Goring as "the first well-dressed philosopher in history of thought." (1.1) This is surprising, but at the same time this description of Lord Goring encourages the reader to believe that there is to more to Lord Goring than meets the eye. Most notable Lord Goring himself could, in fact, be able to connect and accepting both the trivial and philosophical. Like a coach on the side lines, Lord Goring sees the entire playing field. Also because of Lord Goring's somewhat distant, or as some would call, anti-social behavior he has a perfect panoramic view of all the characters in the novel. His "outsider" situation therefore acquires him a position of power, a neutral, mediator type position. He is therefore able to assert his influence and point on view upon the other characters in the play in the hopes of retaining order. He, like a marriage counselor, offers hope to the troubled individuals such as Sir Robert Chiltern.

However, even though Lord Goring's position puts himself in a position of power and even superiority he does know that he is not above his own faults. He expresses this fact jokingly with Sir Robert: "My father tells me that even I have faults. Perhaps I have. I don't know". (2.74) The act of not out-right admitting his short comings, such as Sir Robert did, continues to leave Lord Goring in the position of invulnerability. "He's more sheepish when he is admitting to Mabel that he's a little over thirty and very extravagant." (4.99) Lord Goring strength of character is seen when Sir Robert confides in him about the origin where all his illicit money came from, from selling a Cabinet secret. Lord Goring truly is shocked at Sir Roberts actions, but instead of condemning his long time friend Lord Goring instead helps him.

As the play reaches its conclusion the fact is clear that the hero of the play is in fact the

strong character of Lord Goring. This is rather difficult to comprehend, since the stage notes from Act III indicate, he is in "immediate relation" to modern life, making and mastering it. However, Lord Goring can be considered "good". Not for what he does for his own pleasure, but for his sincere compassionate, forgiving nature as well as his heroic actions that, indeed, save the reputation of Sir Robert.

Lord Goring may not be called the "protagonist" of the play, but his actions define the term hero perfectly. He defeats Mrs. Cheveley, and as a result he saves Sir Roberts reputation from complete inhalation. Lord Goring also persuades Lady Chiltern to forgive her husband and move on with their marriage, as well as, at the same time, keep the reader entertained with his swift humor and swift tongue.

In short, Lord Goring can be considered a "good" individual since his thoughts and

actions are pure.

Figure 1

Lord Goring confronts Mrs. Cheveley about a stolen bracelet.

From a 1901 collected edition of Wilde's work. [3]