Oscar Wilde frames "The Importance of Being Earnest" around the paradoxical epigram, a skewering metaphor for the play's central theme of division of truth and identity that hints at a homosexual subtext. Other targets of Wilde's absurd yet grounded wit are the social conventions of his stuffy Victorian society, which are exposed as a "shallow mask of manners" (1655). Aided by clever wordplay, frantic misunderstanding, and dissonance of knowledge between the characters and the audience, devices that are now staples of contemporary theater and situation comedy, "Earnest" suggests that, especially in "civilized" society, we all lead double lives that force upon us a variety of postures, an idea with which the closeted (until his public charge for sodomy) homosexual Wilde was understandably obsessed.
The play's initial thrust is in its exploration of bisexual identities. Algernon's and Jack's "Bunburys" initially function as separate geographic personas for the city and country, simple escapes from nagging social obligations. However, the homoerotic connotations of the punning name (even the double "bu"'s, which serve mostly an alliterative purpose, insinuate a union of similarities, and "Bunbury" rhymes with "buggery," British slang for sodomy) flare up when paired with Algernon's repeated assaults on marriage:
ALGERNON. "...She will place me next to Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent ... and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It i...
... middle of paper ...
... he was inextricably associated but from which he could just as easily distance himself via a pithy saying, but he treats the tension of homosexuality, his own mask, more seriously. Jack is never ready to admit his entrance into the Bunbury underworld, and we never learn from Algernon the necessary rules of conduct. The personification of homosexuality as a character's double is not surprising - some critics argue that Dr. Jekyl's evil counterpart, Mr. Hyde, has some homosexual leanings - as such a controversial and, perhaps, embarrassing topic can be more easily disguised and obscured in the murky depths of the doppelganger tale. Today, with scientific evidence backing an opinion that places individuals' sexual preferences on a sliding scale from full heterosexuality to full homosexuality, the simple bifurcated view of sexuality in literature may soon be obsolete.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Importance of Masks in Taming of the Shrew As a passing traveler in Padua, one could easily make superficial assumptions about the inhabitants. On the surface, Katherina seems like a vicious tiger that is angry at the entire world. Petruchio first appears like the type of man that anybody would like to have as a friend. At first glance, Bianca seems like a heavenly vision of beauty that any man would be lucky to have for a wife. However, after the courtship of Katherina begins, the true personalities of the characters are revealed.... [tags: Taming Shrew Essays]
710 words (2 pages)
- The average speed of an indoor field hockey ball, when drag flicking, is upwards of 75 miles per hour. Avoiding the ball every time is almost impossible. Taking a ball to the head has the potential to shatter bones, or cause a serious brain injury. Dating back before ancient Olympic Games, field hockey is one of the oldest competitive sports; it has evolved tremendously since then. During ancient times, field hockey was considered too dangerous for women. Today, women play this thrilling game using stiff, composite, slightly curved sticks that range primarily from 35 to 39 inches long to hit a hard, plastic ball.... [tags: Informative Essay]
1063 words (3 pages)
- Imagine that you are a hockey player and are skating down the ice without a visor on your helmet, and suddenly a player from the other team shoots the puck and it hits you in the eye traveling at 70-90 miles per hour. Your face is covered in blood and you can’t see to skate off the ice. As the athletic trainer cleans the blood up you wonder if you will ever be able to see again. After a trip to the doctor you learn that you will have cloudy vision in that eye for the rest of your life and will never be able to play hockey again.... [tags: hockey players, hockey helmet, nhl]
1050 words (3 pages)
- Have you ever worn a mask before. Maybe the mask wasn't a costume mask, but it was a mask to make you seem happy, or seem cool, or anything that made you feel like something than you are not normally. Chances are you have. Trying to fit in with the crowd, a mask is used to obtain the things we cannot reach on our own. Masks are especially common today because of the pressures to belong to the 'in'; group, or the pressures to succeed. Books, using masks, commonly show the many connotations of masks.... [tags: essays research papers]
993 words (2.8 pages)
- South-west of Lake Tanganyika is an area home to the Tabwa people. Composing of about six major clans, the Tabwa population reached around 200,000 people. Tabwa societies survive off the land from farming and fishing. Small villages led by chiefs comprised the political structure of Tabwa life. There were no major rulers or states. Living at a key crossroad for people, goods, and philosophies, the Tabwa people were greatly swayed by different types of people, the slave trade, and the ivory trade.... [tags: Religion/Spirituality]
1685 words (4.8 pages)
- In Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, we find a group of British boys stranded on a tropical island while the rest of the world is at war. Their plane has been shot down and they find themselves without adults to tell them how to act. As they struggle to survive, they encounter conflicts that mirror the decayed society from which they have come. We see Golding's theme come about as we watch the boys begin to lose their innocence and let their natural evil overwhelm their otherwise civilized manner.... [tags: Lord Flies Essays William Golding Papers]
592 words (1.7 pages)
- Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" In the closing lines of the first act of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," Algernon remarks, "I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious," to which Jack responds, "Oh, that's nonsense Algy. You never talk about anything but nonsense." Algernon caps off this exchange with a proclamation of the purpose of the whole work: "Nobody ever does" (1642). Wilde never allows anything in the work to conclude on a serious note.... [tags: Oscar Wilde Importance Earnest Essays]
3835 words (11 pages)
- In the novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier tells the uncommon, suspenseful love story using a small range of characters with a wide range of personality traits. The reader begins to feel as though they truly know these characters only to discover the unseen truth as their masks fall off. As these personalities develop throughout the novel one can discover that the narrator, Mrs. de Winter, strives to please people and feels very insecure in her identity. She tries to defend herself, but her words have no effect on her cruel, manipulative, controlling husband, Mr.... [tags: Character Analysis]
1738 words (5 pages)
- Masks For hundreds of years masks have played an important role in the lives of the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. They signify ancient traditions dating from antiquity to present day. The dramatic, colorful masks of the Northwest Coast are some of the most fascinating artifacts produced by Native Americans. Mask Making Although the different tribes throughout the Northwest Coast have different traditions and cultures, there are many techniques and styles which are common to the entire region.... [tags: Native Americans Culture Traditions Essays]
1455 words (4.2 pages)
- The importance of costume in the theatre cannot be rated too highly, for it is not only an outward and immediately visible medium of expression for the actor himself but it is significant of the dramatic values which he is suppose to portray (Brooke, 1). The colors, texture and shape of a costume can create a feeling of the character that the actor may not be able to portray. There is not any definite information on what exactly the Greeks used for costumes because so much time has elapsed since the original records were taken.... [tags: Theater Costumes]
1940 words (5.5 pages)
- Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
- The History and Theory of Magical Realism
- Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Sexual and Maternal Instincts in James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans
- Disparate Objects in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
- Concealing Dalkey Hill: Evasion and Parallax in Nausicaa