Absurdity and Satire in The Importance of Being Earnest

analytical Essay
1685 words
1685 words

Absurdity and Satire in The Importance of Being Earnest

In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, much is made of societal expectations, protocols, as well as the inversions of these expectations. A character, Jack Worthing, adopts an alter ego when going into town to avoid keeping up with the serious and morally upright behaviour that is expected of him as guardian to his eighteen-year-old ward, Cecily. Another character, Algernon Moncrieff, makes up an invalid friend Bunbury whose grave health conditions provide him with the excuse to escape to the country as and when he pleases. Both Jack and Algernon are admired by two young ladies who erroneously believe the men's names to be Ernest, and who adore the men for this very reason. In relating the story of mix-ups and mistaken identities, the ideals and manners of the Victorian society are satirized in a comedy where the characters "treat all the trivial things of life seriously and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality" (Wilde back cover), in the words of the author himself.

Act 1 JACK. [Nervously.] Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN. Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact. And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative. For me you have always had an irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you. [JACK looks at her in amazement.] We live, as I hope you know, Mr Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the nam...

... middle of paper ...

... play is "to ridicule the vicious and the foolish" and "to expose the reigning Follies in such a manner, that men shall laugh themselves out of them before they feel they are touch'd" (qtd Rose 81). Indeed, it is precisely through the use of such absurdity that The Importance of Being Earnest successfully pokes fun at the audience without them getting offended, since the sting of the criticism is cushioned by the detachment that the viewers feel from such ludicrousness in the play.

Works Cited

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Montgomery, Martin et. al. "Irony." Ways of Reading. Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature. London: Routledge, 2000.

Rose, Margaret. Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-Modern. Cambridge: CUP, 1993.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. London: Penguin, 1994.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how oscar wilde's the importance of being earnest depicts societal expectations, protocols, and inversions of these expectations. jack worthing adopts an alter ego when going into town to avoid keeping up with serious and morally upright behaviour.
  • Narrates how they have admired miss fairfax more than any girl. they wish that in public, you had been more demonstrative.
  • Opines that most metaphysical speculations have very little reference to the actual facts of real life.
  • Opines that ernest is a divine name with music of its own and produces vibrations.
  • Analyzes how an inversion of attitudes is displayed in the exchange between jack and gwendolen, where the latter expresses her love for the former because of his false name, ernest.
  • Analyzes how gwendolen's preoccupation with the name of the person she loves is a clear inversion of her usual expectations.
  • Analyzes how gwendolen's idea of marrying ernest suggests emptiness and a lack in value of the ideals of society of that era.
  • Analyzes how the play uses indirect satire to make a dig at its audience, made up mostly of the middle to upper classes.
  • Analyzes how henry fielding's play the historical register for the year 1736 uses absurdity to poke fun at the audience without them getting offended.
Get Access