The Importance of Being Earnest

1380 Words6 Pages
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a timeless comedy of manners in which two young, light-hearted men, pretend their names are ‘Ernest’ in a bid to impress their love interests, who both believe the name Ernest bestows magical qualities on the possessor. Throughout the play, Wilde uses a mix of social drama, melodrama and farce to appeal to the audience. Through his gentle use of parody Wilde is able to ridicule his contemporaries and attack the values and attitudes of Victorian society, such as; wealth, hierarchy, respectability, morality and self- interest. Via satirical dialogue and dramatic irony Wilde is able to reveal the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Victorian era.

The title “The importance of being Earnest” places an ironical importance on a plot about men leading ‘double lives’, lying to family and friends about their private lives, so they can take trips away and do the things they really want to do. Both Jack and Algernon lead a double life, a life separate from their family and friends; Jack uses his imaginary brother ‘Ernest’ to escape his life in the country. Whilst Algernon uses his imaginary friend ‘Bunbury’ to escape social gatherings, suggesting that both men find the stresses of society and their lives extremely restrictive, and in order to escape the constraints of society they must lie or deceive.

Via his play Wilde claims that the majority of Victorian society wears some sort of social mask. Many critics have argued that each character depicted in the play is an extension of Wilde himself, and that Algernon and Jack’s ‘double life’ represent Wilde’s own alter ego which hid his homosexuality and many of his illicit affairs from a society that frowned upon homosexual acts. Through his p...

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...being Earnest and other plays page 325

Oscar wilde the importance of being earnest and other plays page 304

Donohue and Berggren 1995, p.281 Kumaraditya Sarkar

York notes, the importance of being earnest, pg. 6

The importance of being earnest and other plays Page 297 22/04/2012 6/04/2012 6/04/2012
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