Set in the late nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband points out that the individuals are flawed as introduced by the irony of the play’s title. In this play, Sir Robert Chiltern is a man of wealth and power and is viewed as an ideal husband by his wife, Lady Chiltern. Though he appears to be faultless, he does in fact have an imperfection. The spurious origin of Sir Robert’s successful career and status can be traced to his prior indiscretion, but this secret must be kept confidential, if not, then this will ruin his marriage and career. Sir Robert fears that his past will ruin all that he has achieved. Forced to comply with Mrs. Cheveley’s blackmail, Sir Robert must support Mrs. Cheveley’s scheme to make a fortune. Throughout this play, Sir Robert seeks to accommodate the needs of each woman because his wife has strong idealistic views of him and Mrs. Cheveley, a morally imperfect woman, pulls Sir Robert toward committing additional immoral tasks. In An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde comments that every individual has a flaw, whether it is a simple obsession with idealistic views or moral imperfections, through his main characters, Sir Robert, Mrs. Cheveley and Lady Chiltern; however, ultimately despite their flaws. Wilde portrays through the development of his characters that love endures and triumphs all imperfections.At the beginning of the play, Oscar Wilde first reveals the imperfection of Sir Robert. Sir Robert is the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and appears to be simply successful and wealthy, but he has a secret past that he wishes will never be revealed. Before he achieves his wealth, Sir Robert was a poor man and when he is given a chance to earn a fortune, he takes full advantage of the offer. He sells s…
… major factor that reconciles them, though only slightly in Mrs. Cheveley’s case. This joy of love is amplified and concluded in the stage directions at the end of Act 1: “The room becomes almost dark. The only light there is comes from the great chandelier that hangs over the staircase and illumines the tapestry of the Triumph of Love” (370). Here Wilde highlights that when conflicts become so difficult to resolve that they are “dark”, the “only light” provides hope for an individual. In this play, the “dark” past and imperfections of each character signify that the “Triumph of Love” is the “only light” that can help enlighten the problem through forgiveness and compromise as demonstrated by Oscar Wilde through his main characters.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings. New York: Bantam Dell, 1982. Original publican date: 1895.