An Ideal Husband shows Modernism at its best and at its worst.
As we watch it, think of the Vernon family from Martin Dressler: a family entrenched in old ways. When you see Ms. Mable, think of Caroline Vernon — a woman bustling to get out of her corset and put on a new set of shoes (so-to-speak).
Think of the dilemma: in this day and age of scandals and political intrigue, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone, like Sir Robert Chiltern, still afraid of damaging his family name?
Times have changed, and 20th Century Modernism — the era when this story takes place — shows how the world ultimately caved-in on itself. It wanted everything perfect, everything scripted, everything clean-cut and tidied-up for show. But it also wanted everything to be new and better.
Simply put, you just can’t have both. The old gives way to the new. The author, Oscar Wilde, saw that. So he wrote a story that captured everybody’s wants and needs, and held them up to the light of reason — a Modern necessity.
As you watch, think about what these characters want and how it affects them (and those around them), and you will see the Modern Dilemma: people chasing illusion, and forgetting the human soul.