In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, much is made of societal expectations, protocols, as well as the inversions of these expectations. A character, Jack Worthing, adopts an alter ego when going into town to avoid keeping up with the serious and morally upright behaviour that is expected of him as guardian to his eighteen-year-old ward, Cecily. Another character, Algernon Moncrieff, makes up an invalid friend Bunbury whose grave health conditions provide him with the excuse to escape to the country as and when he pleases. Both Jack and Algernon are admired by two young ladies who erroneously believe the men's names to be Ernest, and who adore the men for this very reason. In relating the story of mix-ups and mistaken identities, the ideals and manners of the Victorian society are satirized in a comedy where the characters "treat all the trivial things of life seriously and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality" (Wilde back cover), in the words of the author himself.
Act 1 JACK. [Nervously.] Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.
GWENDOLEN. Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact. And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative. For me you have always had an irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you. [JACK looks at her in amazement.] We live, as I hope you know, Mr Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the nam...
... middle of paper ...
... play is "to ridicule the vicious and the foolish" and "to expose the reigning Follies in such a manner, that men shall laugh themselves out of them before they feel they are touch'd" (qtd Rose 81). Indeed, it is precisely through the use of such absurdity that The Importance of Being Earnest successfully pokes fun at the audience without them getting offended, since the sting of the criticism is cushioned by the detachment that the viewers feel from such ludicrousness in the play.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Montgomery, Martin et. al. "Irony." Ways of Reading. Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature. London: Routledge, 2000.
Rose, Margaret. Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-Modern. Cambridge: CUP, 1993.
Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. London: Penguin, 1994.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Despite the comedy in the ways in which women in the play are presented, Oscar Wilde forces even a modern audience to attend deeply to serious matters. To what extent is this the case in “The Importance of Being Earnest”. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a comedy of manners in which the vast majority of the humor derives from Wilde’s portrayal of the female characters. The play is not meant to be serious, or to carry any particular moral message, as Wilde himself acknowledges in the plays subtitle that it is merely a "trivial comedy for serious people".... [tags: Comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest]
1395 words (4 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest]
1219 words (3.5 pages)
- To what extent is the importance of being Earnest an attack on Victorian society or a vehicle to showcase Wildes literacy prowess. Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is a beautifully constructed depiction of nineteenth century Victorian life. The quirky and often irreverent situations presented were often witty and amusing but in many instances revealed a biting critique of traditional expectations and behaviour. Wilde arguably would have used the play to showcase his literary prowess and it is to what extent that Wilde used the play as a platform or used the play to expose hypocritical values that would be questioned by both contemporary and modern audiences.... [tags: Victorian era, The Importance of Being Earnest]
1535 words (4.4 pages)
- Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest Webster’s dictionary defines earnest as “characterized by or proceeding from an intense and serious state of mind.” This definition is subject to total upheaval by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest. The title suggests a treatise on the value of solemnity in everyday life. However, Wilde presents us with an ironic play that leaves us with the opposite lesson. None of the characters benefit from propriety. The least serious characters, Algernon and Jack are rewarded in the end for their frivolous behavior throughout the play, implying that there is very little, if any, importance to being earnest, excepting that you give the appearan... [tags: Oscar Wilde Importance Being Earnest Essays]
1368 words (3.9 pages)
- The Double Life in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest appears to be a conventional 19th century farce. False identities, prohibited engagements, domineering mothers, lost children are typical of almost every farce. However, this is only on the surface in Wilde's play. His parody works at two levels- on the one hand he ridicules the manners of the high society and on the other he satirises the human condition in general. The characters in The Importance of Being Earnest assume false identities in order to achieve their goals but do not interfere with the others' lives.... [tags: Oscar Wilde Being Earnest Essays]
1331 words (3.8 pages)
- General Structure of Comedy and the Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde GeneralStructure of Comedy: * Things start out badly and end well * The deeper aim is broadly social: the kingdom or other city space is at first badly ruled or in turmoil for some reason--perhaps the values and institutions of the citizens and/or rulers are in need of some re-examination. * Next, the main characters leave (willingly or otherwise) the city setting and wind up in the countryside, in a pastoral setting.... [tags: Oscar Wilde Earnest Comedy Essays]
873 words (2.5 pages)
- The Importance of Being Earnest, a play by Oscar Wilde, explores the theme of deception and social class conflict, and how detrimental they are to forming new relationships, through the conversation between Cecily and Gwendolyn. In the passage that starts on page 78 and extends to page 80, Gwendolyn and Cecily are formally introduced to one another establishing the plot of The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde utilizes a compassionate and gentle tone as Gwendolyn and Cecily first meet. Soon after, however, this tone changes to a blunt spitefulness between the two women.... [tags: Social class, Working class, Deception, Marxism]
1045 words (3 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Victorian era, Marriage, Worthing]
1120 words (3.2 pages)
- ... This connects with Richard Jackson's judgement of the play as Wilde commonly engaged with society and mocked it's forms through the mirroring of characters. Throughout the course of the play, Wilde portrays each of the main characters in a way that reflects his personal views of English aristocracy. Algernon, often displays his negative views on marriage and love, believing that marriage is a social obligation in order to gain respect in social class and “that in married life three is company and two is none.” this line is a perverse take on the common conventions of married life- The third person being Bunbury.... [tags: play, satire, society]
1306 words (3.7 pages)
- Not Being Earnest in The Importance of Being Earnest While some critics contend that The Importance of Being Earnest is completely fanciful and has no relation to the real world, others maintain that Oscar Wilde's "trivial comedy for serious people" does make significant comments about social class and the institution of marriage. These observations include the prevalent utilization of deceit in everyday affairs. Indeed the characters and plot of the play appear to be entirely irreverent, thus lending weight to the comedic, fanciful aspect.... [tags: The Importance of Being Earnest]
866 words (2.5 pages)