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.
Cecily’s Diary of Reality in The Importance of Being Earnest
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde uses wit to undermine the societal expectations of women. Set in England during the late 19th century, the play shows the shallow and trivial attitude of the upper-class Victorian society. This status-driven society favors men, creating a dissatisfying life for women. The male characters, particularly Algernon Moncreiff, uses wit to show superiority over women.
The Importance of Being Earnest is set in late Victorian England, a time of social reform. Society was rediscovering art in its many forms yet as a consequence, The Upper class continued their program of suppressed inferiority. The lower classes were treated with disdain and disgust and the animosity between the groups was easily visible. Essentially, the late Victorian era was the beginning of a mini cultural renaissance, yet Upper Class society, which forms the basis of the play was rigidly controlled by a set of unwritten rules, a code of conduct as it may, in which all were expected to conform with. This code referred to a number of things, including the way they ate, dressed, and spoke. The 19th Century saw many important alliances formed politically between Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers. This was typified by her friendship with Benjamin Disraeli. Together they formed a number of political partnerships, none of which was more important than the Reform Act. The Reform Act greatly annoyed the upper class, which considered the idea of any man being allowed to vote as simply disgraceful. The Victorian era saw legislation concerning labour and industry, which began to intrude on the power of the Upper class over the working class labourers. In fact by the late 1880’s Lower classes were working less hours, while their wages continued to increase. This allowed many to enjoy luxuries that until then were considered only possible by the Upper Classes.
The Importance of Being Earnest, uses comedy and farce to display a light hearted approach to the hugely powerful upper class of Victorian society and add a playful edge to their actions. Although it could also be seen as a comedic shell for the true nature of Wilde’s comment upon the society in which it is set, exposing the flaws and inconsistencies that the upper class was built upon. It will be necessary to consider whether Wilde is purposely commenting on the dysfunction of the society in which he lived, or if it does in fact only serve as a comedy.
One of the Oscar Wilde’s most loved, well known and successful play ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ was written during the summer of 1894 at Worthing, England. It was first performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s theatre, London. Jack Worthing, the play’s main character was found and adopted by a wealthy man, Thomas Cardew in a handbag at a railway line where he was accidentally abandoned as a baby. All the respect that has been given to him as acknowledged upper-class Victorian is only because of his adopted father’s wealth. As the protagonist of the play he is expected to be an earnest man to do justice to the title of the play, but it turned out to be that he is nowhere close to that. Wilde has used Jack’s character more to an instrument to represent a set of ideas or attitudes.
Every text is an argument to the audience and every argument is influenced by a text and the audience surrounding the author. The Importance of Being Earnest is a play written by Oscar Wilde which was first performed in 1895. The plot centers around the proposal of marriage between Jack Worthing and Gwendolen Bracknell and also the proposal from Jack’s friend and Gwendolen 's cousin Algernon Moncrieff extended towards Jack’s ward, Cecily Cardew. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde uses the ideas of his time period, his own background, and absurd comedy to argue that the views of marriage and gender held by those in Victorian Era England are wrong and hypocritical.
The Importance of Being Earnest, written by Oscar Wilde, is a novel about two friends who lead double lives. Throughout the novel, the reader sees both sides of John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff’s personalities. Both characters exhibit a serious upper class personality in one setting but also have a completely different personality that allows them to be more carefree and pleasure-seeking. Ultimately Worthing & Moncrieff’s double lives allow them to express different sides of themselves and in turn discover their true selves.
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.
The morals of the Victorian Era gained renown for their strict socials roles that existed for both men and women. However, Oscar Wilde rejected these morals as he not only wrote characters but also acted as a character who flippantly disregarded the strict moral code. In his play The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde elicits a thoughtful laughter through the constant hypocrisy and non-sequitous behaviours of Lady Bracknell. Wilde uses her to explore the hypocrisy that he detested within Victorian Society, and through Lady Bracknell’s commentary on gender roles and marital roles, Wilde illustrates his own personal contentions with Victorian morals.
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.