Earnest

1505 Words7 Pages
Oscar Wilde uses conventional comic devices such as disorder, caricature, and witty repartee in order to contrive the satirical ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Combined with a prominent use of droll epigrams, maxims and skilfully employed inversions of conservative Victorian morality and disposition, Wilde is able to effectively create a unique blend of classical romantic comedy and humorous social satire. Wilde uses this satire in order to mock many aspects of late nineteenth century society such as, marriage, education and the aristocracy among others.
In terms of structure, marriage serves as a prime force of motivation in terms of driving the plot. In conforming to the traditional aspect of dramatic comedy of an end denouement of marriage, Wilde creates adjacent desires for Jack and Algernon whether this is to marry Gwendolyn or Cecily. Thereby the vast majority of events which coalesce to form the play are in relation to this shared desire and therefore the plot is more easily driven. For example, Jack maintains the false persona of ‘Earnest’ in order to marry Gwendolyn which creates humour for the audience as it serves as a reoccurring pun. The resulting comical disorder of this and the impact it has in terms of climaxes, for example; when it becomes apparent that neither Jack nor Algernon are called ‘Earnest’, makes the structural device of marriage even more significant in terms of the play’s effect on the audience. In this, the structure of the play provides greater humour for the audience and emphasises the comic effect of the continuous ‘Earnest’ pun. In Act 1 of the play during the bout of witty repartee between the characters Jack and Algernon, Wilde includes an inversion of the cliché that ‘marriages are made in h...

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...ing more immersed within the story – much like the act of ‘Bunburying’ which forces the reader to continuously deliberate on what actually occurs during this activity.
In conclusion, with a prominent use of inversion, satire and epigrams; Oscar Wilde is able to create an eloquent blend of effective yet sometimes implicit social criticisms of late nineteenth century society and derive humour for both modern and Victorian audiences in doing so. Combined with carefully sculptured characters such as Lady Bracknell and with the use of puns and intelligent wordplay, the playwright elegantly comments on aspects of society such as marriage and traditional gender roles thus confirming Sir John Hankin’s interpretation that the play is ‘…only a joke, yet an amazingly brilliant one’[ ] and mope importantly establishing The Importance of Being Earnest as a sardonic masterpiece.
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