Analysis of Humor in the Importance of Being Earnest

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The Importance of Being Earnest is replete with two elements: pun and paradox. These two are played up immensely to present a very humorous approach to cultural criticism. In essence, it is a satirical comedy on the aristocratic class during the Victorian Era. The text is full of epigrams that expose the characters’ views on lying, marriage, reputation, society, gender, romance and love. Additionally, the play keeps the audience involved by using several paradoxes- including inversions of reality and witty comments.

Aristocrats seem to have very skewed notions about marriage. Algernon considers marriage to be a business deal rather than a means to enjoy the
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The meaningfulness of Church and prayer seem to be lost during this era. Another example is how the priest refers to the Christening process. What once used to be a pious and significant event in the life of a person has now been reduced to ‘sprinkling’. There are no mentions of the importance of such an event.
Wilde critiques the literature and arts of the time. He says ‘more than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read’. These are some very powerful words. Firstly, they show that a lot of literature of the era was probably immoral and scandalous. Secondly, a majority of the people read it and got influenced by such material. Wilde made many sarcastic comments on the literature of those times. It was probably because of his own profession as a writer. In fact he considers modern literature to be impossible if the truth were simple and pure.
Wilde’s characters also reflect his views on music of those times. Lady Bracknell states, ‘if one plays good music, people don’t listen…’. This line shows that the playwright is quite frustrated by the lack of appreciation for truly good music in aristocratic societies.
Lady Bracknell also does not give too much, if not nil, importance to education since she feels it would be dangerous to tamper with ‘natural ignorance.’ This is a foolish and funny stance on the matter. Education is a way of advancement, not a source of threat to upper classes.
The aristocrats are also shown to be quite