segunda-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2010

Book Review - 'Lady Windermere's Fan'



'Lady Windermere's Fan' is a late 19th century play, by Irish-born Oscar Wilde, one of the most famous writers and playwrights ever. This is the period of the so-called Victorian Age, a time when women started to assert themselves, especially educated women. However, it was also a time of social hypocrisy, that is, saying or acting in a way that is not true or real, and pretending to be something one was not. An hypocrisy that was a necessary component in the social world. Hypocrisy is actually one of the two major themes in Wilde's play, the second being that of the 'bad mother', here portrayed by Erlynne, who leaves to pursue her own life and was, therefore, regarded as evil. People in high society must pretend, must conform to the social norm in order to maintain their position. If the truth were to come out, these relationships would fall apart. When it is thought that Mrs. Erlynne is at the house of another man her honour is ruined forever, and she has to leave London. However, the reaction is quite another one when it is thought that Lord Windermere is having an affair. Wilde ridicules this, himself being a supporter of the 'feminist movement'. At some point in the play, the Duchess of Berwick tells Lady Windermere that her husband has often been seen with a Mrs. Erlynne. She also tells her that Lord Windermere, her husband, is suspected of having paid Mrs. Erlynne enormous sums of money. Lord Darlington, who is in love with Lady Windermere, also makes a thinly disguised accusation that her husband is having an affair with another woman, but she doesn't believe him. 'It's impossible! We are only two years married. Our child is but six months old!' Eventually she goes to his desk and pulls out his bankbook to examine it. To her relief, she finds nothing. However, as she's turning it to its place, she notices another book, this one locked. She cuts it open and finds Mrs. Erlynne's name on page after page, accounting the different sums of money that have been paid to her over a period of time. Just as the truth of her husband's infidelity becomes apparent to Lady Windermere, her husband sees his private bankbook in her hands and she confronts him with the evidence of his affair. He claims he has never loved anyone but his wife, but does not explain why he is paying Mrs. Erlynne. His wife, therefore, cannot believe the relationship is innocent, and is insulted when he asks her to invite that woman to her birthday ball that evening. When Lady Windermere refuses to do it, he writes the invitation himself and his wife promises that if he invites Mrs. Erlynne, she will publicly insult the woman. The mystery is heightened when Lord Windermere says, 'What shall I do! I dare not tell her who this woman really is. The shame would kill her.' Lady Windermere, minding gossip and suspecting the worst, decides to leave her husband and run away with the handsome Lord Darlington, who's in love with her.
Later, the notorious Mrs Erlynne shows up at Lady Windermere's birthday ball at the invitation of Lord Windermere, who knows she is his wife's mother, thought to be long dead. And so the mystery unfolds ...
Will Lady Windermere ever get to know who this woman really was? Let us not forget this was late 19th century.......
Celeste Calejo
Note: Book available at the school library

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