Question: Sketch the Character of Lady Bracknell
Lady Bracknell is one of the major characters of the famous Play “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1899), written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Lady Bracknell is a snobbish, mercenary, and domineering aunt of Algernon and Gwendolen’s mother. In her Behavior, she represents birth and status. Through the figure of Lady Bracknell, Wilde reveals the hypocrisy and stupidity of the British aristocracy.
Fastidious and Fashionable Lady
Like most of the ladies of the higher class of Victorian society, Lady Bracknell is very fastidious and fashionable. She knots her luxuriant hair up with combs and expensive hairpins. She has a taste for fine music. Her character is marked by her snobbery. She feels proud of her superior social status and judges every individual from that perspective.
We notice the paradoxical attitude of Lady Bracknell’s characters while treating her husband. Though she speaks on being attentive to her husband’s needs, she herself very irresponsible with her husband. What she simulates does not seem to match with her own attitude. In the play, When Gwendolen informs her mother Lady Bracknell about Gwendolen and Jack Worthing’s engagement, Lady Bracknell shows her good attitude in front of her daughter and instructs Gwendolen to wait in the car. After she leaves, Lady Bracknell questions Jack about his habits, his income, his background, and so on. Jack admits he is an orphan, found in a handbag on the train. Lady Bracknell refuses Jack’s proposal of marriage to Gwendolen in strong terms:
“You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter- a girl brought up with the utmost care – to marry into a cloakroom, and form an alliance with a parcel!”
Uncaring and unsympathetic nature
In the play, Wilde expresses that Lady Bracknell possesses a mercenary outlook. self-interest dictates her life’s course. Nothing can wield her mind except personal gain. Naturally, this particular quality makes her uncaring and unsympathetic toward Bunbury, a fictitious invalid friend of Algernon, and passes a comical comment in this regard:
“I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die; this shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.”
Self-absorption without compassion
Two areas in which the Victorians expresses little sympathy or compassion were illness and death. When Lady Bracknell hears that Bunbury died, she reacts without compassion. like other aristocrats, Lady Bracknell is too busy worrying about her own life. Gwendolen who knows from her mother is totally self-absorbed and definite about what she wants. She tells Cecily:
“I never travel without my diary. One should have something sensational to read in the train.”
So, Wilde sketches a social class that thinks only of itself, showing little compassion or sympathy for the less fortunate.
Mastery on rhetoric and authority
Lady Bracknell’s authority and power are extended over character in the play. Always in a good voice, Lady Bracknell has a mastery of rhetoric and authority, but only once she is undermined when Jack refuses his consent to the marriage of Cecily and Algernon.
In termination, we can say that Lady Bracknell is first and foremost a symbol of Victorian earnestness and unhappiness. She is powerful arrogant, ruthless to the extreme, conservative, and proper. Thus, through the character of Lady Augusta Bracknell, Wilde satirizes Victorian upper-class society.