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September 12, 2005

Moral Responsibility

Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

ALGERNON:Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense or moral responsibility.

This quote really shows the views of the rich towards the lower classes. Algernon sees no reason for there to be a lower class if they don't set a good example for the higher class. It's almost as though he feels that the upper class is not capable of forming their own values and beliefs for themselves. Then he contradicts himself by saying that they, as a class, have no sense or moral responsibility. So if they don't have a sense of moral responsibility, then the upper class musn't either.

Posted by CheraPupi at September 12, 2005 3:06 AM


I'm not sure if Algernon is so much denouncing the lower classes and asking them to set a moral example, as he is stating his feelings about Lane's dealings with marriage and all the things Lane said the proceeded this statement.

Chera, this made me pause and think, too. Glad other people are making similar connections!

Posted by: Katie Aikins at September 12, 2005 8:06 PM

This is a kind of parody of the concept of nobless oblige: "with wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities"


Not only is Lane supposed to cater to Algernon's every whim, he's supposed to set a moral example. That's hard to do when you've got to work for a living, in the service of spoiled aristocratic dandies.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 12, 2005 3:17 AM

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