Oscar Wilde ridiculed the institution of marriage. Throughout the play, The Importance of Being Earnest, there is a pessimistic view on marriage. In many lines, Wilde made a mockery of the most sacred tradition; marriage. The hypocritical custom and traditions were also mocked. Marriage is the plot’s main core, where the two young men desire to marry two young women, who in return desire to marry men named Ernest. Wilde poked fun at the aristocrats by using marriage for mainly two reasons. One it is a traditionally sacred ceremony, and two, he can emphasize the importance of wealth and status among the upper class. Marriages, among the aristocrats, were viewed as a financial contract.
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.
Playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland (Wright 54). He was the son of two very talented parents. His father, Sir William Ralph Wills Wilde, was a leading eye and ear surgeon, scholar, and noted archeologist. His mother, Jean Francesca Elgee, wrote passionate nationalistic articles for the radical newspaper, The Nation (Wright 54). Although Wilde did not do well in school, he loved the classics and found a passion for writing. He began writing plays, essays, a novel, and many short stories, becoming
Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ can be perceived as either a seemingly satirical piece aimed at the upper class society of the 1890s with a darker nature underneath or as a play “which imitates nothing, represents nothing” and “is nothing.” (William Archer). However, I believe it is the former – a belief fuelled by the comedic features used in the interview scene between Lady Bracknell and Jack Worthing. Wilde convinces the audience to believing that there is something empowering and different about Lady Bracknell as she interviews Jack as opposed to her husband, demonstrating that women in her generation are in charge despite the ‘separate spheres’ debate.
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 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...
Oscar Wilde had a quick and fluid intelligence coupled with a gift for languages. His early education included attending Porotra Royal School in Enniskillen (1873) Trinity College in Dublin (1874-1879), and Magdalen College in Oxford. He excelled in his studies. Along with his schoolwork, Wilde began to build his reputation as a poet. His early work garnered some success. In 1878, Oscar Wilde won the Newdigate prize for poetry. His entry was inspired by a vacation to Ravenna.
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,...
At the end of the play all is well and the truth comes out. The characters have finally learned their lesson the being earnest is important. It is not the name that is important but their qualities as a person. The characters can now live happy, fulfilling, honest lives with their spouses. Wilde portrays how morals are important through a comedic satire.
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.
Wilde purposely used her role to portray how closed minded the society was, with her opinions and mannerism betraying a carefully calculated speaking pattern with witty epigrams and social wordplay to tear other characters apart. As a ruthless social climber and spokesperson for the status quo, she was not always part of the upper class but rather married into aristocracy, as she previously represent the formerly excluded. However, now that she is Lady Bracknell, she has opinions on just about everything and with her behavior enforcing social discrimination and exclusion for the outsiders from her class; she is an invention of Wilde’s to present his satire on these subjects. For example, when Jack proposed to her daughter Gwendolen, this was the moment that Lady Bracknell was able to “flex” her muscles and bend the rules to suit her pleasure as she saw marriage of more of an alliance for property and social security than love or passion. Thus Jack was placed on her list of eligible suitors if only he could pass her series of challenging tests. Yet at the same time Lady Bracknell relentlessly gives Jack “correct” but immoral advice on finding his parents. "I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire
Oscar Wilde is a famous writer who was born in Dublin, Ireland on October 16, 1854. Wilde’s birth name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. His father, William Wilde was a doctor who later founded St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital and his mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet. Oscar attended Portora Royal School, Trinity College, and Magdalen College in which he graduated in 1878. He received several awards and scholarships for the excellence he has shown in his academics. While Oscar Wilde was in New York during 1882, he met with Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. When Wilde returned to England, he married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons together. He then started to work for a magazine called Lady’s