Characterization in the Importance of Being Earnest

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Literary Analysis
Sonja Jankovic, group B

Characterization in The Importance of Being Earnest

Among Oscar Wilde’s varied works, a prominent place has been assumed by a notoriously humorous play The Importance of Being Earnest. Such has been the play’s popularity to this day that countless efforts have been retaken so as to adapting it for modern age due to its scintillating language and the author’s surpassing skill at creating immortal characters. In the attempt to spell out the importance of characterization we shall look at how Oscar Wilde carefully masters each marionette of his imagination for purposes of scornful, and yet irresistibly entartaining satire of Victorian society.

To unveil the secret behind the charm of Wilde’s characters we have to ask ourselves if we believe them. It is virtually impossible to mind a word spoken against the concepts of marriage, education, and overall hypocrisy of Victorian upper classes when the personae standing behind these statements seem to contradict themselves most of the time. Algernon, for instance, states that if he ever gets married, he will certainly try to forget the fact, he calls marriage business and finds it demoralising. When he meets his match, however, he resorts to all forms of affectionate courting in order to have himself imprisoned behind the irresistable bars of wedlock. Wilde did not mean to make Algy earnest or to make anyone Earnest for that matter. On the contrary, he was counting on the inconsistency of the character’s nature, not only to stress the far-reaching roots of Victorian deceitfulness, but also to make them less believable, surreal almost. Wilde meant to deprive his heroes of emotional or intelectual depth, that would otherwise make them appear more human. Only behind the lucid facade of absurd statements could he have masked his harsh criticism without offending anyone and still remain faithful to his aesthetic ideal of writing a work that would, regardless of its...
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