In this essay, two characters and their respective definitions of and approaches to earnestness will be compared and contrasted. By examining the different definitions of earnestness, the writer will offer an argument about what the author defined as earnest and why he believed this quality was important. Interestingly, he creates an alter ego for himself, a character whom he calls Ernest, an obvious play on words that emphasizes the meaning of the title, The Importance of Being Earnest.
Ernest is everything that Jack is not: Over the course of the play, the tension of embodying two disparate personalities becomes unbearable, but the more Jack tries to be earnest and less Ernest, the more complicated his relationships become. Ultimately, he learns that he is Ernest, a change of name that also suggests a change of identity. When this information is revealed, it seems that Jack can finally embrace who he is: The male and female characters in The Importance of Being Earnest all fulfill Victorian gender stereotypes.
Jack in the guise of Ernest and Algernon are Victorian dandies, bachelors who indulge freely in the good life. Gwendolen is the very paragon of Victorian femininity, and is so superficial that she declares she refuses to marry a man whose name is not Ernest.
In this essay, the rigidity of gender roles, both for men and for women, and examined, and the effect of the inflexibility of these roles is analyzed. Of course, Jack and Algernon could continue to don their masks after they marry Gwendolen and Cecily, but they will have to be cautious and make sure society is looking the other way.
Wilde's contention that a whole world exists separate from Victorian manners and appearances is demonstrated in the girlish musings of Cecily. When she hears that Jack's "wicked" brother Ernest is around, she is intensely desirous of meeting him. She says to Algernon, "I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time.
Even using the name Ernest for his secret life is ironic because Algernon is not being dutiful — earnest — in living a secret life.
Various characters in the play allude to passion, sex and moral looseness. Chasuble and Prism's flirting and coded conversations about things sexual, Algernon stuffing his face to satisfy his hungers, the diaries which are the acceptable venues for passion , and Miss Prism's three-volume novel are all examples of an inner life covered up by suffocating rules.
Even Algernon's aesthetic life of posing as the dandy, dressing with studied care, neglecting his bills, being unemployed, and pursuing pleasure instead of duty is an example of Victorians valuing trivialities. Once Algernon marries he will have suffocating rules and appearances to keep up.
Wilde's characters allude to another life beneath the surface of Victorian correctness. Much of the humor in this play draws a fine line between the outer life of appearances and the inner life of rebellion against the social code that says life must be lived earnestly.
Oscar Wilde felt these Victorian values were perpetuated through courtship and marriage, both of which had their own rules and rituals.
Marriage was a careful selection process. When Algernon explains that he plans to become engaged to Jack's ward, Cecily, Lady Bracknell decides, "I think some preliminary enquiry on my part would not be out of place. Fortune is especially important, and when Jack and Cecily's fortunes are both appropriate, the next problem is family background.
Because Jack does not know his parents, Lady Bracknell suggests he find a parent — any with the right lineage will do — and find one quickly. Appearance, once again, is everything. Duty not joy, love or passion is important, further substantiating Algy's contention that marriage is a loveless duty: The strict Victorian class system, in which members of the same class marry each other, perpetuates the gulf between the upper, middle and lower classes.
Snobbish, aristocratic attitudes further preserve the distance between these groups. Jack explains to Lady Bracknell that he has no politics. He considers himself a Liberal Unionist. Lady Bracknell finds his answer satisfactory because it means that he is a Tory, or a conservative. Jack's home in London is on the "unfashionable side" of Belgrave Square, so "that could easily be altered. Education is not for learning to think; it is for mindlessly following convention. Lady Bracknell approves of ignorance.
In fact, she explains, "The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. Obviously Wilde recognized the absurdity of Victorian culture; otherwise, he could not have created a play whose humor is so relevant to both its contemporary and present-day audiences. The dialogue between characters, not the actions, is what makes The Importance of Being Earnest so humorous and transcendental The Importance of Being Earnest set many precedents.
It is one of the first plays to deal with modern issues, such as the New Woman. Wilde influenced many other artists to explore and critique societal norms and their ridiculousness.
The Importance of Being Earnest will withstand the test of time through its satirical comedy and relevance to all audiences, because all audiences and readers, regardless of the time period, can relate to love, marriage, and the absurdity of society. High quality and no plagiarism guarantee! Get professional essay writing help at an affordable cost. Order a custom written paper of high quality Professional Writers only. Free Quote or Order now. Related Articles Essay about Summer Traveling.
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The Importance of Being Earnest essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Importance of Being Earnest.
The Importance of Being Earnest, in particular, was immensely popular, its run cut short only by the real-life scandal that overtook the playwright. The man who exposed secrets so subtly in his.
- 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. Satire in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest Essay. 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.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a trivial comedy for serious people written by Oscar Wilde and set in late Victorian London. The comedy is made purposely to criticise the aristocratic. The play’s crucial themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the satire of the Victorian system and their strong beliefs at the time. The Importance of Being Earnest focuses on two main couples, Jack and Gwendolen and Algernon and Cecily. Both Gwendolen and Cecily yearn to have a husband called "Ernest." They both place emphasis on such a trivial matter as a name.