The Importance of Being Earnest

1428 words 6 pages
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

Oscar Wilde mocked his audience while he entertained them. Perhaps his most loved and well-known work, The Importance of Being Earnest, satirises the manners and affections of the upper-class Victorian society. Satire is a literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, usually with the intent of changing or correcting the subject of the satirical attack. The play focuses on the elite, while making fun of the ludicrousness and extremity of their behaviour. By employing many different types of humour, including witticisms, sarcasm and irony, Wilde produced, arguably, the most popular and enduring pieces of social satire to ever surface from the Victorian era.
The major target
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Cecily proves herself as capable as Jack and Algernon at creating fictions when she reveals the made-up relationship with Ernest she documents in her diary. She claims “Worn out about your entire ignorance of my existence, I determined to end the matter one way or the other, and after a long struggle with myself I accepted you under this dear old tree here.” She even goes so far as to writing fake love-letters to herself, telling Algernon “I remember only too well that I was forced to write your letters for you”. Like the men, every aspect of Cecily’s life is controlled so she fabricates another life for herself to escape. Characters of both sexes in The Importance of Being Earnest invent fantasies – either through fictional characters or private novel-like worlds – to idealise and escape from the harsher realities of life.
Another victim of Wilde’s scathing criticisms is the nature of love and marriage, specifically, the use of marriage as a social tool. One of the questions the play raises is whether marriage is pleasurable or a restrictive social duty. Lady Bracknell epitomises the Victorian tendency to view marriage as a financial engagement or a way of bettering your social position, as shown when she questions Jack to determine if he is suitable for Gwendolen, providing a set list of bachelors that have been predetermined. Algernon’s speech often criticises the way that married couples behave towards one another by using sharp wit and sarcasm. Evidence of


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