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Timeless Message of Equality in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest

Timeless Message of Equality in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest satirizes Victorian society. The witty epigrams of his characters provide light comedy masking the underlying theme of criticism of the Victorian way of life. Wilde's effective use of humour diffuses the tense theme of his work. In a Victorian society that emphasized progress, it was precarious for artists like Oscar Wilde to express an imperfect interpretation of life in nineteenth-century England. Wilde's attack on the ethics of his era is an attempt to fulfill the author's prophecy that art has the power to dictate life, not merely imitate it (614-615). At a time when the world measured progress in empirical research, Wilde chose to use the English language rather than the scientific method as his mean to transform society. The Importance of Being Earnest satirizes two main social constructs: social class and gender relations.

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde makes fun of characters from the upper class to bring about change in the social construct of the class system. Wilde satirizes the upper class? pompous attitude, ideas of progress, and emphasis on earnestness. Wilde identifies the pompous attitude of the upper class by creating characters with distorted perceptions of their self-importance in society. When Lane the servant says there were no cucumbers at the market, ?[n]ot even for ready money? (8), Algernon seems surprised that his wealth has not given him a slighted chance to obtain cucumbers over the common man. Algernon?s subordinate view of Lane also symbolizes his arrogance. As the story opens, Algernon wants to talk to Lane about himself, but...

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...e art impact life instead of simply imitating it. Wilde stood at the forefront of a movement by artists who deflected the confines of the scientific method to reform society. As The Importance of Being Earnest continues to flourish many years after it was written, Wilde?s message of equality between the social classes and the sexes transcends generations. Oscar Wilde succeeded in transforming the landscape of art and society.

Works Cited

Keach, William, John Richetti, Bruce Robbins, and Carol Moulton, eds. Adventures in

English Literature. Toronto: Holt, Rineheart and Wiston, 1996. 599-615.

Kishlansky, Mark, Patrick Geary, and Particia O?Brien. Civilization in the West.

New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 1998. 839-843.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. New York: Dover Publications, 1990.

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