Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest

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The Importance of Being Ernest and Insignificance of Being Earnest 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).…show more content…
Such comedy emphasizes wit, whether true or false…” (Bacon). As a comedy of manners, the play accomplishes its goal of revealing the shallow mindset of the Victorian high society through satirical, yet critical, tone. In his book, Oscar Wilde, Erickson refers to the play as “Wilde’s comic masterpiece” (Ericksen, 145). When critiquing the play, the Times correctly noted a quality in the language of The Importance of Being Earnest that foiled every expectation: “Mr. Oscar Wilde’s peculiar vein of epigram does not accord too well with flippant action. Its proper vein is among serious people, or so we have been taught to think. In a farce it gives one the sensation of drinking wine out of the wrong sort of glass: it conveys to the palate a new sensation, which in the end, however, is discovered to be not unpleasing” (Powell, 119). It seems that the reason for Wilde’s incredible success with his satirical play is due to the fact that it contradicts the purpose of a farce, so where “a typical farce dissolves into bland conventionality, Wilde strikes at the root of accepted standards” (Powell,…show more content…
Contrary to the stereotypical woman of the Victorian culture, both female characters Gwendolen and Cecily become instigators of love, from influencing the proposal to composing their own love letters from their lovers. Gwendolen affirms her forwardness in romantic matters when she exclaims to Jack who is hesitant about proposing, “I am afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose” (Powell, 132). Not only do the ladies have a skewed view of marriage and their responsibilities within that relationship, but the men do as well. Algernon says of proposals, “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted” (Ericksen, 150). He clearly has a skewed view of marriage. When it comes to Lady Bracknell, her view of marriage is primarily concerned with money and sometimes concerned with social respectability. When questioning Jack about the potential of marrying Gwendolen, she focuses on typically irrelevant characteristics. Lady Bracknell says of Jack’s confession to his tendency to smoke, “I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind” (Greenblat, 539-540). She goes on to take interest in such things as his knowledge and education, finances, and family

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