The Importance of Being Earnest satirizes many aspects of Victorian society, with Lady Bracknell as a prime target. She is a fashionable woman in society, but her intimate knowledge of social niceties keeps her from thinking critically about her environment or the true character of the people around her. Lady Bracknell is utterly respectable, despite making a point to insult almost everyone she meets. She is always more concerned with increasing her social and financial status than with creating grounded, relational connections. She expects her own needs and preferences not only to be met, but to be anticipated before she asks for them.

We first meet Lady Bracknell through the eyes of her nephew, Algernon. He views her as an unpleasant relative whom he is occasionally obliged to spend time with, but he avoids her whenever possible. He knows her preferences and has his butler serve cucumber sandwiches especially for her, but he eats them all before she arrives. Lady Bracknell is initially offended, but Algernon easily persuades her there were no cucumbers available in the market. She is happy to assume the problem comes from commoners rather than her nephew.

Lady Bracknell antagonizes the characters in the play by refusing to allow Jack’s engagement to Gwendolen. To Lady Bracknell, Jack would have been a worthy candidate except for the issue of his parentage. Because Jack cannot trace his name or lineage, Lady Bracknell worries she will damage her own reputation by forming a connection with Jack. She conflates the handbag and station in which Jack was found with his family, and she often references both as though Gwendolen’s marriage to Jack could mar Lady Bracknell’s own place in society. After Jack’s true origins are discovered, Lady Bracknell ceases to have issues with his connections and family, highlighting the hypocrisy of the British aristocracy. Throughout the play, Wilde ultimately uses the character of Lady Bracknell to satirize the ignorant and self-serving nature of high Victorian society.