A Woman of No Importance
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Like many of Wilde's plays, the main theme is the secrets of the upper-classes: Lord Illingworth discovers that the young man he has employed as a secretary is in fact his illegitimate son, a situation similar to the central plot of Lady Windermere's Fan. Secrets would also affect the characters of The Importance of Being Earnest.
In one scene, Lord Illingworth and Mrs. Allonby (whose unseen husband is called Ernest) share the line "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy", "No man does. That is his." Algernon would make the same remark in The Importance of Being Earnest.
In A Woman of No Importance, money is presented as unlimited due to the majority of the characters belonging to the luxurious aristocracy, who rely on the fortune provided by their predecessors so they have gotten away with never working a day in their lives. However, Mrs. Arbuthnot has had to struggle through life in order to supply herself and her son, Gerald, the basics in life. This symbolises the rest of the population of Victorian Britain, who have had to work hard whilst the upper classes are given an unfair advantage, highlighting the massive divide in Victorian society at that time.
The play opens with a party on a terrace in Lady Hunstanton's estate. The upper class guests spend the better part of Act I exchanging social gossip and small talk. Lady Caroline Pontrefact patronizes an American visitor, Hester Worsley, and proceeds to give her own opinion of everyone in the room (and her surrounding life). Lady Caroline also denounces Hester's enthusiasm for Gerald Arbuthnot until Gerald himself enters to proclaim that Lord Illingworth, a powerful, flirtatious male political figure, intends to take him under his wing as secretary. This is great news for Gerald, as being Lord Illingworth's secretary would be the young man's first step to a life of financial/political success. The guests then discuss the rumors surrounding Lord Illingworth's aim for being a foreign ambassador, while Lady Hunstanton sends a letter through her footman to Gerald's mother, inviting her to the party.