The Importance of Being Earnest

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AThe Importance of Being Earnest a play written by Oscar Wilde is set in England in the late Victorian era. Wilde uses obvious situational and dramatic irony within the play to satirize his time period. According to Roger Sale in Being Ernest the title has a double meaning to it and is certainly another example of satire used by Wilde. With a comedic approach, Wilde ridicules the absurdities of the character’s courtship rituals, their false faces, and their secrets. (Sale, 478)

In the Victorian era, courtship rituals were slightly different from modern time courtships. It started with couples speaking first, going out together, and finally they would keep each other company after mutual attraction was confirmed. The character Jack, in all his seriousness, refutes these rituals. Gwendolyn says “I adore you. But you haven’t proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on.” (Wilde, 622) This shows that Jack is ignoring the stages of courting and jumping right into marriage. Wilde is certainly satirically commenting on courting and how there really just has to be a mutual attraction. Upon Gwendolyn’s acceptance of his proposal, the problems with different social affairs begin to be unraveled. Gwendolyn says “I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence…” (Wilde, 622) In fact, Ernest's love for Gwendolyn seems rather arbitrary while Gwendolyn indirectly admits that she loves Ernest only for his name. This just adds to the satirizing of courtship because the girl only will marry him because he has the name Ernest.

The characters Lady Bracknell’s and Al...

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... invent these fictitious alter egos so they are able to escape the restraints of propriety. However, different members of the society have different viewpoints of what is decent and what is not. A paradox within the play is the impossibility of being earnest and moral within the society. The characters who embrace triviality and wickedness are the ones who may have the greatest chance of attaining virtue.

Works Cited

• Baraka, Amiri. "The Dutchman." Stages of Drama. Fifth ed. Boston/ New York

Bedford/ St. Martins, 2003. 1086-093

• Baraka, Amiri. "The Myth of 'Negro Literature'." Within the Circle. Ed. Angelyn

Mitchell. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1994. 165-171.

• Rice, Julian C. "Leroi Jones' "Dutchman": A Reading." jstor.org. Web. 7 Apr. 2011.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1207453
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