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Thesis statement: Wilde tries to prove that idealism in and of itself is useless, and can be based on utter nonsense. This can be supported by how Victorians are often portrayed as having the outward forms of virtue, but ignoring the basis of virtue.

At the beginning of Act II, Cecily wishes not to receive the education Miss Prism offered her. She is also anticipated to marry an imaginary person out of love. When “Ernest” took too long to propose marriage to her in his correspondence, she suggested the matter herself. This proves how her views are incredibly idealistic and naive.

As seen in Act II, before Algernon proposes to Cecily, he asks about her thoughts on his actual name, since for now, his name is “Ernest”. In return, Cecily claimed that “… it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love someone whose name was Ernest… I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.” This supports how she exhibited an idealistic viewpoint because Cecily’s love for a man named Ernest sprang from idealism, which are her feelings and thoughts towards the name “Earnest”, instead of someone’s actual personality.

As the story comes to its end, Jack’s true identity is revealed, and we now know that his Algernon’s brother, and his last name is indeed Ernest. However, although Gwendolen was eventually able to marry a man called Ernest, Cecily’s idealistic viewpoint changed, and she accepted Algernon’s proposal, even though his name wasn’t Ernest.

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Cecily was obsessed with the name Ernest similar to Gwendolen, but different from Gwendolen, Cecily was also fascinated by wickedness. She believes Jack’s brother is a wicked man, and though she has never met such a man, she thinks the idea sounds romantic. This love for wickedness and her idealism leads her to fall in love with “Uncle Jack’s brother”. Idealism not only affected who she loved, it also shaped her personality. She was very imaginative and invented a complete romance story with Ernest and elaborated it with artistry. In the fantasy world she’s created, she and Ernest were already engaged.

Idealism often functions as a tool of social reaction, in which the ruling classes use to uphold their systems of exploitation, and we can see that Lady Bracknell inhabits some of those characteristics. As stated by Lady Bracknell, “… education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”

When Lady Bracknell did a background check on Jack, she bent the rules to suit her pleasure because she could. Jack will be placed on her list of eligible suitors only if he can pass her unpredictable and difficult test since idealists believe that everything is based on mind and thinking, and rules are changeable. She even advised Jack to “produce at any rate one parent,” despite this is technically impossible.

When Algernon tells Lady Bracknell about his love for Cecily, Lady Bracknell advises him to “never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.” Historically, idealism is a pre-scientific philosophy that is rooted in ignorance. Lady Bracknell considers herself an unassailable authority on taste and morality and often enjoys passing on her “wisdom” to others, despite many of those being wrong.

Despite her current position, Lady Bracknell was not always a member of the upper class. She was a social climber who married her way into the aristocracy. As a former member of the lower class, however, she follows the ruling class’s idealism. She does not welcome others to follow her previous path, enforces social discrimination, and excludes those who do not fit into her new class. We see how idealism affected her from how strictly she follows the social stratification. She especially believes that the lower classes should never be taught to think or question since it would lead to the possibility of the upper class losing its privileged position.

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