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An Ideal Husband Essay

1515 words - 6 pages

Set in the late nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband points out that the individuals are flawed as introduced by the irony of the play’s title. In this play, Sir Robert Chiltern is a man of wealth and power and is viewed as an ideal husband by his wife, Lady Chiltern. Though he appears to be faultless, he does in fact have an imperfection. The spurious origin of Sir Robert’s successful career and status can be traced to his prior indiscretion, but this secret must be kept confidential, if not, then this will ruin his marriage and career. Sir Robert fears that his past will ruin all that he has achieved. Forced to comply with Mrs. Cheveley’s blackmail, Sir Robert must support Mrs. Cheveley’s scheme to make a fortune. Throughout this play, Sir Robert seeks to accommodate the needs of each woman because his wife has strong idealistic views of him and Mrs. Cheveley, a morally imperfect woman, pulls Sir Robert toward committing additional immoral tasks. In An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde comments that every individual has a flaw, whether it is a simple obsession with idealistic views or moral imperfections, through his main characters, Sir Robert, Mrs. Cheveley and Lady Chiltern; however, ultimately despite their flaws. Wilde portrays through the development of his characters that love endures and triumphs all imperfections.
At the beginning of the play, Oscar Wilde first reveals the imperfection of Sir Robert. Sir Robert is the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and appears to be simply successful and wealthy, but he has a secret past that he wishes will never be revealed. Before he achieves his wealth, Sir Robert was a poor man and when he is given a chance to earn a fortune, he takes full advantage of the offer. He sells state secrets to Baron Arnheim, suggesting him to buy stocks in the Suez Canal, and in return Sir Robert receives a portion of Baron Arnheim’s profits. The wealth Sir Robert acquires also allows him to obtain power and gain a high political position at a young age. He believes that this wealth and power is a necessity to be successful and will only impact his life in a positive manner as he describes, “Every man of ambition has to fight his century with its own weapons. What this century worships is wealth. The God of this century is wealth. To succeed one must have wealth. At all costs one must have wealth” (373). Here, Wilde is emphasizing that Sir Robert’s perspective of success and happiness is to possess “wealth.” Without wealth, one simply cannot “fight his century” and be ambitious to become successful. Wilde’s repetition of the word “wealth” grows with intensity to strongly highlight that wealth is all that concerns Sir Robert. His way of thinking shows that he is morally imperfect because he is willing to perform an illegal and disloyal task in order to gain wealth and status. He exchanges his morals for materialistic things and neglecting the “weapons” he believes are necessary will one day backfire. Here, Wilde...

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