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Described as the first well-dressed philosopher in history, Goring is the dandified hero of the play and a thinly veiled double for Wilde himself. As the stage notes from Act III indicate, he is in "immediate relation" to modern life, making and mastering it. He thus serves as bearer of Wilde's aestheticist creed stressing amorality, youth, pleasure, distinction, idleness, and onward in rebellion against Victorian ideals. An Ideal Husband emphasizes Goring's modernity by posing him in a number of comic dialogues with his father, Lord Caversham—in which the former urges his son to marry and claim responsibility while the latter outwits him with his repartee.
Within the play's moral scheme, Goring delivers a number of the play's more sentimental pronouncements on love and marriage, serving as helpmate to the Chilterns and teacher to the impossibly upright Lady Chiltern in particular. Thus he extols the importance of forgiveness and charity in married life, reconciling the Chilterns' marriage according to new ideals of man and wife. At the same time, however, his own union with Mabel Chiltern is far less conventional, dispensing with the questions of duty, respectability, and the ideal roles of man and wife entirely. Alike in their amoral posture, Goring and Mabel thus stand as foils to the Chilterns and their newly ideal marriage.
Ace your assignments with our guide to An Ideal Husband!