8 June 2014
In “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde unmasks the societal contradictions of modern Victorian society. In a way this story is a Comedy of Manners because it makes fun of the idea of the upper class and how the people in it went about getting married. I think Wilde was trying to accomplish something when writing this story and that was to show how ridiculous the process of marriage was in the upper class in particular. His main point of this story is to show how shallow and hypocritical Victorian society is.
The main two characters in the story are Jack and Algernon. They both have alter ego’s in order to escape the restraints that ...view middle of the document...
Even if you were feeling bad or upset, you were taught to suppress it and put on an act.
Earnestness, which means seriousness or honesty, can take many forms, including boringness, and self-importance. All these features are symbols of Victorian character and it is obvious that Wilde despises them. The self-righteousness and complacency of Victorian society encouraged Algernon and Jack to invent their alter egos in order to escape the restraints of decency. The play`s main paradox is the impossibility of really being earnest while trying to convince others that you are earnest.
The biggest thing that Wilde mocked in this story was marriage. Jack falls deeply in love with Gwendolyn and wants to marry her very bad but when Lady Bracknell walks in on Jack proposing to Gwendolyn, she flips out and tells Gwendolyn to go down to the carriage. Lady Bracknell basically does a background check on Jack by asking him questions like whether or not he smokes, what his income is, and who his parents are. In this scene, Wilde does a brilliant job at showing Lady Bracknell’s ignorance. When she asks him if he smokes, he responds saying that he must admit that he smokes. This word choice shows that he is somewhat embarrassed that he smokes and her response is priceless. Lady Bracknell responds saying, “I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is.” Lady Bracknell says that his income is “satisfactory” but when she asks him who his parents are the tone of the conversation immediately changes. Jack does not know who his parents are. All he knows is that he was found by Mr. Cardew in a black handbag in the cloak room at Victoria Station. This is unacceptable for Lady Bracknell and she urges him to find out who his parents are before the season is over. Jack responds saying that he doesn’t see how that would be possible and that he could produce the handbag at anytime. Jack says that that alone should satisfy her and she fires back an aggressive response saying “You could hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter- a girl brought up with the utmost care- to marry into a cloak room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr. Worthing!” as she storms out of the room. This shows the characters fascination with social status.
In Act III, Wilde also shows Lady Bracknell’s fascination with money. Algernon announces that he is set to be married to Cecily. Lady Bracknell is discussing the marriage with Jack and asks him, “As a matter of...