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. The double life led by Algernon, Jack, and Cecily (through her diary) is simply another means by which they liberate themselves from the repressive norms of society. They have the freedom to create themselves and use their double identities to give themselves the opportunity to show opposite sides of their characters. They mock every custom of the society and challenge its values. This creates not only the comic effect of the play but also makes the audience think of the serious things of life.
Oscar Wilde begins with a joke in the title that is not only a piece of frivolity. It concerns the problem of recognising and defining human identity. The use of earnest and Earnest is a pun, which makes the title not only more comic, but also leads to a paradox. The farce in The Importance of Being Earnest consists in the trifle that it is important not only to be earnest by nature but to have the name Earnest too. Jack realizes "the vital Importance of Being Earnest"(53) not till the end of the play. Algernon calls the act of not being earnest Bunburying which gives the plot a moral significance. Bunburying means inventing a fictitious character by which one can escape the frustrating social norms. Algernon says to Jack:
"Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth are you serious about I haven't got the remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. You have an absolutely trivial nature."(50)
To soothe a dying friend or to help a fallen brother is a respectable excuse to get away from the repressive convention. Bunburying is the reason for all the mistaken identities. Algernon is serious about Bunburying as the Bunburyist is serious about not ...
... middle of paper ...
...ngagement, their re-engagement. Cecily is not the natural country girl. She possesses the self-assurance of the experienced woman. Without being cynical she makes her desires clear. And when Gwendolen and Cecily discover that their Earnests are impostors whose names are Jack and Algernon they decide that love can be restored only if Jack and Algy christen themselves Earnest.
At the end the farce turns to be an idyll of wish-fulfillment- Cecily wishes to be engaged to Earnest and it happens so, Jack declares that he is called Earnest and he is in fact, Algy pretends to be Jack's young brother and it comes true too. The characters' fantasies are brought to life at the end of the play. Their double life is not a hypocrisy. They mock the laws and the customs of the society in which they live. The characters challenge society's values, free themselves from their rigid norms and at the end of the play they manage to regain their balance and become earnest.
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, Penguin Group, London:1994
Wilde:Comedies, ed. by William Tydeman, The Macmillan Press Ltd, London:1982
Revising Wilde, Sos Eltis, Clarendon Press, Oxford:1996
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Satire in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners, whereby Oscar Wilde uses satire to ridicule marriage, love and the mentality of the Victorian aristocratic society. It can also be referred to as a satiric comedy. What is a satire and what is Oscar Wilde trying to emphasize by employing it in his play. A satiric comedy ridicules political policies or attacks deviations from social order by making ridiculous, the violators of its standards of morals or manners.... [tags: The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde]
1998 words (5.7 pages)
- Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde is a legendary author who has composed many great plays including The Green Carnation and A Woman of No Importance, however, The Importance of Being Earnest was undoubtedly the most famous of his works. First published in 1930, yet acknowledged since the late 1800s, The Importance of Being Earnest helped to revive the theater tradition of Congreve and Sheridan. The story is a comedic view of romance and the emphasis we place on seemingly trivial articles, such as a name.... [tags: Oscar Wilde Earnest Essays]
3082 words (8.8 pages)
- Throughout The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde plays around with the standard expectations along with the absence of compassion of a Victorian society in the 1890’s, he demonstrates this through several genres of comedy such as Melodrama, Comedy of Manners, Farce, dark humour and Irony, as well as portraying the themes, death and illness, in this play in a brilliance of unusual amount of references. Death is an unstoppable event that occurs in every individual’s life, and yet it is a very taboo topic as people rarely broach the subject because it causes incredible distress; it is certainly not a comical topic of conversation and one that is very seldom and rarely congratulated.... [tags: Comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest]
1354 words (3.9 pages)
- The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners that is used to parody social aspects of a Victorian society. Wilde does this by incorporating farcical elements that would appear ludicrous to an audience and satirises Victorian social norms and values. Wilde also subverts the ideals of marriage by undermining the concept as a whole and at the same time he inverts traditional gender roles and class in society. Wilde has included serious and controversial subjects such as the influence of religion which implies Wilde’s comedy is not a game but a serious criticism of Victorian society.... [tags: The Importance of Being Earnest]
1687 words (4.8 pages)
- Mirroring his own life, Oscar Wilde’s witty plays explore the concept of truth and its role in shaping Victorian society. A vague question faced by readers is whether Wilde believed in untruth or supported the importance of truth. Oscar Wilde examines themes of truthfulness through the use of character deception in his social comedies The Importance of Being Ernest and Lady Windermere’s Fan. Both plays exploit situations shaped through secrecy and ultimately seeds a statement on social life, albeit a satirical one.... [tags: Literary Analysis]
977 words (2.8 pages)
- The Importance of Being Earnest is a play written by Oscar Wilde during the Victorian era. It is a farcical comedy in which the main characters live and maintain a fictional persona to escape their responsibilities. To which Oscar Wilde uses secondary characters within the play such as Lady Bracknell to humorously make her the tool of the conflict and much of the satire. She is the first and foremost a symbol of Victorian earnests and the unhappiness it brings as a result. Lady Bracknell was specially designed to represent Wilde’s opinion of the upper Victorian class repressiveness and traditional negativity.... [tags: Social class, Victorian era]
1092 words (3.1 pages)
- Wilde’s Earnest Satire The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedic play that was written by Oscar Wilde in the late 1800s. He believed that people in the Victorian Era took life too seriously. He wrote this play with various forms of satire to ridicule the strict lifestyle the upper-class were boxed into. The upper class had pretentious values and behaviors that characterized Victorian life. During the Victorian Era, people were living under Queen Victoria’s monarch. During her reign, “Queen Victoria, conveyed connotations of "prudish, "repressed," and "old fashioned" (Roth).... [tags: Victorian era, Love]
1485 words (4.2 pages)
- The Importance Of Being Earnest. 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.... [tags: story and character analysis]
1979 words (5.7 pages)
- The title is “The Importance of Being Earnest” and it had multiple meanings. The first meaning is the irony between earnest and the name Earnest. The meaning of earnest is honesty, which causes irony because the is opposite of what Earnest demonstrates in the play. In addition, Earnest was not honest about his identity in the play and was living a double life. The second meaning is the importance of being honest, which he realized when he discovered his name is actually Earnest. II. Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854.... [tags: Social class, Victorian era, Sociology]
1498 words (4.3 pages)
- Maxims and Masks: The Epigram in "The Importance of Being Earnest" 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,... [tags: Oscar Wilde Importance Being Earnest Papers]
1794 words (5.1 pages)