Get help from the best in academic writing.

Not Being Earnest in The Importance of Being Earnest

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. However, this same factor also serves to illuminate the major points that Wilde tries to convey about the English society in which he lived.

Throughout the course of the play, Wilde portrays each of the main characters in a way that reflects his views of the English aristocracy. Algernon Moncrieff and Jack(Ernest) Worthington represent the prototypical male bachelors. In the opening act, set in Algernon’s flat, the two meet and display what appears to be their usual daily activities. Neither is employed, and it is apparent that their only occupation is the pursuit of leisure activities and social matters, subjects of major importance to them. When Algernon inquires as to the purpose of Ernest’s visit to town, Ernest replies, “Oh pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring anyone anywhere? Eating as usual, I see Algy!”. Algeron and Ernest are characterized by their extravagance, a luxury affordable only because of the money accrued from family inheritance. Neither displays any notion of an appreciation for money. In fact, when Algern…

… middle of paper …

…nates in the planning of marriages of Ernest to Gwendolyn and Algy to Cecily. These marriages are made available only because Jack (Ernest) discovers his true identity as one belonging to the Bracknell family. When this is established, Ernest is allowed to marry Gwendolyn and it seems as though he will allow Cecily to marry Algernon. However, the identity Ernest discovers is the same that he has lied about throughout the entire play. Thus, the relationships forged arbitrarily on deceit and convenience is legitimated at the end of the play. Although Ernest declares, “I’ve realized now for the first time in my life the vital importance of Being Earnest”, the statement is actually ironic because he had never been earnest at any point. In fact, the end is only the result of a coincidental twist of fate.

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…

… middle of paper …

…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.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.