Oscar Wilde was written during the Victorian era. The statement that “A text reflects the dominant ideologies of the time in which it was written” in reference to The Importance of Being Earnest is completely untrue. The play explores the inner workings of the Victorian upper class and challenges the attitudes and ideologies which society at the time was based. In particular Wilde criticised the certain social and financial expectations to marry in an upper-class or aristocratic society. Wilde also portrays women to have greater social and moral responsibility and power than men contrary to the ideology that “a woman was inferior to a man” and thus should be powerless. Also critiqued is the immorality of upper class society through their behaviour. Contrary to this the only characters in which are moral are the working class represented by Merriman.Therefore Wilde comprehensively challenges what were dominant ideologies in Victorian England through the use of characters and themes.
Men of the time were held to the standard of being active in society. They were expected to be active in politics and social activities outside of the home. Expectations for men were also for them to be respectful and proper, especially when women were present. The character, Jack Worthing, in The Importance of Being Earnest, is the representation of the perfect Victorian gentleman. For example, Jack says to Algernon in Act I, “...My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!” (Wilde 1.2.236). In this simple quote, Jack describes the high standards and expectations that Victorian gentlemen were held to. But not only men were held to high standards, women were expected to hold themselves in the most proper way as well. The point of a Victorian woman’s life was to marry and domestically support her family. Women had little rights and in fact, prior to the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870, women were forced to give up all property that they held to their husbands upon marriage. (Appell 1). Within the play, Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen 's mother, is provided as a tool to explain the oppression put upon women of the time.
Throughout The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde plays around with the standard expectations along with the absence of compassion of a Victorian society in the 1890’s, he demonstrates this through several genres of comedy such as Melodrama, Comedy of Manners, Farce, dark humour and Irony, as well as portraying the themes, death and illness, in this play in a brilliance of unusual amount of references.
The absurdity of Lady Bracknell’s views are apparent during the opening of the scene. Lady Bracknell asks “do you smoke?” to Jack and upon his answer of yes, Wilde has crafted it so Lady Bracknell replies “I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind” which would make the audience laugh as we know that smoking is not an
Every line, every character, and every stage direction in The Importance of Being Earnest is set on supporting Oscar Wilde’s want for social change. The Importance of Being Earnest was written during the late period of the Victorian era. During this period social classification was taken very seriously. It could affect working and living conditions, education, religion, and marriage. Wilde explores the issues of social class and turns it into a comedic play. He humorously criticizes Victorian manners and attacking the society of the luxurious life. The audience becomes self-aware as the characters reflect on themselves. Plays such as this become successful because of the backgrounds the writers come from and the experiences they have had. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde satirizes the Victorian society and the ironic differences between the lower and upper class.
The idea of absurdity in Victorian times was embraced by some writers and looked down upon by others. Oscar Wilde embraced the absurd whole-heartedly. This is obvious, if not even the theme, of The Importance of Being Earnest. Not only is the word "absurd" used many times in the story, but the ridiculousness of the characters and their roles conveys the ideas of absurdity in the Victorian Era.
According to two female characters in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Ernest is a name that is typically desirable for a husband and represents high social status and wealth. Earnest, on the contrary, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, means to be “serious, sincere”, or, in other words, honest (“Earnest”). Within the irony of the title of Wilde’s play itself, the hypocrisy of the high social class of the Victorian era is revealed. Wilde himself said of the play in one of his letters to Lord Alfred Douglas from Worthing, “The real charm of the play, if it is to have a charm, must be in the dialogue. The plot is slight…but…adequate” (Ericksen, 145).
...ble life that has been led by Jack and Algernon is one of the leading symbols in the play. It is the central metaphor in the play. Both Jack and Algernon’s fake personas are their way of escaping from the burdensome responsibility of the society. They also helps them to appear far more moral and responsible than they can ever be.
The reign of Queen Victoria was the reign of social conservatism. There were a lot of social rules and values that needed to be upheld. Each member of the society, whether living in the city or the country, had to live according to the rules. Those rules seemed necessary to most people, but there were a lot of people who did not wish to honor the values imposed by the ruling class. Among those who did not wish to do so, was Oscar Wilde. Consequently, this paper focuses on the critique of the Victorian era upper class society values and the reverse gender roles, as presented in Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest.
Many traditionally accepted practices Wilde finds disgustingly unacceptable; therefore, he completely satirizes them to express how truly shallow those customs are. In that time, and even today, it was very common for the families of two engaged people to do background checks on the opposite family. Therefore, when Jack Worthing, under the fake identity of Ernest Worthing, proposes to Gwendolen, it does not seem strange that Lady Bracknell would want to know Jack’s background. The extreme expectations in which Lady Bracknell has for a man suitable for her daughter are unimaginably high. Jack tells her about his impressive lifestyle and his success and Lady Bracknell complains that he lives on the wrong side of the street. Then Jack tells her the sad story of how he was abandoned as a child and she tells him that he needs to find his parents if he wants to marry her daughter. With these ridiculous responses Wilde is trying to emphasize that the upper class believe that they are worthy of more than anyone else and are insensitive to the feelings of others. Later on, Lady Bracknell tells Algernon that he can not marry Cecily, Jack’s ward. This wealthy woman only decides to chan...
Wilde’s strategically uses each of the characters to represent the manner in which those, who were in the upper class, would behave. As the play begins we are instantly battered with the satirically condemning wit that is Oscar Wilde. Algernon requests his servant, Lane, to produce the cucumber sandwiches for the arrival of Lady Bracknell. Lane and Algernon have idle chatter and end up on the subject of marriage. After Lane exits the room and Jack insists, “Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility”. This is Wilde’s analysis on the absurdity of the upper class and also gives us an improved view of the character Algernon. Algernon is a constituent of the affluent. He assumes less responsibility than his counterpart Jack,...
The first character readers meet is Algernon, a friend to Jack, who is preparing for his aunt, Lady Bracknell, to arrive. After a conversation with his manservant he says “Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility” (Wilde 6). Algernon believes people of less fortune have fewer morals. For example marriage is less important. Algernon displays hypocritical characteristics because he is going to try to base a marriage off of a fake identity. Another subtle hint to Algernon’s selfishness is when he eats all the cucumber sandwiches meant for his aunt. As he is sitting there talking to Jack he...
The The Importance of Being Earnest can be seen as comedic because Wilde uses the subversion of gender roles to give an indication that the play is merely superficial. Lady Bracknell is an amusing character because she has so much control over the other characters: “you’re uncle would have to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accustomed to that.” This female dominance allows for a more comic edge as it would have been suprising, but entertaining to a Victorian audience to see a women carrying so much power over her husband. Perhaps Wilde was not writing in this way to portray his negative view on society but rather to exaggerate the comedic nature of the play by reversing our expectations. Gwendolen’s disobiedience of Lady Bracknell only serves to reinforce this, as these two powerful women contrast greatly to the comparible weakness of the men; Algernon and Jack: “Well…may I propose to you now?” and Gwendolen’s forceful reply “I think it would be an admirable oppurtunity”. This removes any impression of seriousness and ridicules the situation by completely subverting our expectations therefore spoiling the integrity of any comment on society if there is in fact any.
In Oscar Wilde’s drama The Importance of Being Earnest, he uses light-hearted tones and humor to poke fun at British high society while handling the serious theme of truth and the true identity of who is really “Earnest.” Truth as theme is most significantly portrayed through the women characters, Gwendolen and Cecily but to present serious themes comically, Wilde portrays women to be the weaker sex of society, despite the seriousness of the subject—the identity of the men they want to marry.
Throughout the late nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde wrote plays such as Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest- his most famous play. Earnest is a comedic work that focuses on a pair of wealthy men. They have been leading double lives so that they can go off for periods of time and enjoy living without responsibility while still maintaining their aristocratic reputation. Because of Wilde’s invlovement in the aesthetic movement, it is not uncommon (or unfair) to believe that his work, Earnest included, is nothing more than fluff. That being said, it is also fair to argue that this particular play does have meaning in it. Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest as a commentary on the hypocrisy of the ideal Victorian character. Earnestness is sincerity- which most Victorians believed themselves to be- and so Wilde uses the word ironically. In his eyes, people who considered themselves sincere were actually smug, self-righteous, and pompous. He expresses these opinions clearly through the play’s over-the-top and frustrating characters.