Victorian ideas of masculinity. The concept of Victorian masculinity is a diverse one since it was influenced by numerous aspects and factors such as domesticity, economy, gender roles, imperialism, manners, religion and much more. Some of these aspects seem to be quite naturally related to one another, while others seem none-relational. For the males, this included a vast amount of pride in their work, protectiveness over their wives, and an aptitude for good social behaviour. The Victorians saw manliness as good, a form of control over maleness, which was brutish. Christianity contributed much to the Victorian concept of masculinity.
The real Victorian man was to be spiritual and a faithful believer. The husband and father was considered to be the head of the household, but his duty was to rule. Victorian men were not only competing for respect within their own sex, but they needed to impress the women too. If they were not married, it depicted that they were not fully masculine because they did not have a family to support. Supporting a family was a sign of true success within the male sex. In the text so far Oscar Wilde shows Earnest/Jacks eagerness as a sign he could trying to assert his masculinity because that is what Victorian society is so judgemental.
Prescribing the notion that women were born to dream of marriage, Cecily and Gwendolyn, from The Importance of Being Earnest, are caught up in the fantasies of the perfect marriage to the perfect earnest husband. Cecily and Gwendolyn are fixated on the name Earnest, almost as if it were an obsession; it is the ideal name for their future husbands. They are determined not to marry a man unless he is called Earnest because they believe a man with this name will automatically live up to the name’s expectations of being serious, honourable, and moral.
In Wilde’s play, he comically satirizes the name “Earnest,” through the portrayal of two deceitful men whom the women fantasize as being ideal men worthy of marriage “My ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Earnest… ’ These two men claim to live up to the Victorian ideals, but then live another life outside of the community to escape the society’s pressures. Henceforth, in the play, the men fall under the pressure of women and Victorian ideals rather than staying true to their identity and personalities.
Even when Jack tries to admit his real name, Gwendolyn becomes lost in her ideals of a fantasized husband named Earnest and discourages Jack from confessing his real name. She uses the knowledge that she has learned from the Victorian society to judge whether someone by the name of “John” or “Jack” would be a suitable husband for her, and in doing so, she manipulates Jack into hiding his identity out of fear of losing Gwendolyn. He believes the only way Gwendolyn will accept him is to say his name is Earnest.