Lady Bracknell: There are distinct social possibilities in your profile. The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present. Algernon!

Algernon: Yes, Aunt Augusta!

Lady Bracknell: There are distinct social possibilities in Miss Cardew's profile.

Algernon: Cecily is the sweetest, dearest, prettiest girl in the whole world. And I don't care twopence about social possibilities.

Lady Bracknell: Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can't get into it do that.

(Bolding my own.)

What do the bolded lines mean, and what do they say about the characters?

1 Answer 1


Lady Bracknell is pleased with Cecily's appearance, but only in the sense that she thinks it will make an impression on society ("distinct social possibilities"). Her listing of lack of principle and lack of profile as the present day's two "weak points" is ironic to the reader, given that one of these is an essential component of character and the other is completely superficial.

Algernon objects to this because he considers Cecily beautiful in her own right, and what society thinks about her appearance is unimportant. Lady Bracknell responds that by disrespecting the opinion of society, he is only demonstrating that he's outside of it - in essence, she's calling him jealous. Only people who aren't fashionable ("can't get into it") reject the ideals of fashionable people.

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