Oscar Wilde Constanly Mocks Victorian Society in the Importance of Being Earnest but Is Ultimately Approved

Topics: The Importance of Being Earnest, Sociology, Virtue Pages: 4 (1572 words) Published: March 5, 2013
Act III offers happy resolution to the problems of identity and marriage that drive much of the humor in the previous acts. Wilde continues to mock the social customs and attitudes of the aristocratic class. He relentlessly attacks their values, views on marriage and respectability, sexual attitudes, and concern for stability in the social structure. Wilde attacks social behavior with the continuation of speeches by his characters that are the opposite of their actions. While Cecily and Gwendolen agree to keep a dignified silence, Gwendolen actually states that they will not be the first ones to speak to the men. In the very next line she says, "Mr. Worthing, I have something very particular to ask you." Wilde seems to be saying that people speak as if they have strong opinions, but their actions do not support their words. If actions truly do speak louder than words, Wilde has made his point: Society, literally, speaks volumes, but the words are meaningless. Wilde continues his criticism of society's valuing style over substance when Gwendolen says, "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing." Lady Bracknell discusses Algernon's marriage assets in the same light. She says, "Algernon is an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man. He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire?" Indeed, in a society where looks are everything and substance is discounted, Algernon is the perfect husband. What else do aristocrats value? They seem to esteem the appearance of respectability. Respectability means children are born within the context of marriage. Wilde once again mocks the hypocrisy of the aristocrats who appear to value monogamy but pretend not to notice affairs. Jack's speech to Miss Prism, whom he believes to be his mother, is humorous in both its indignant defense of marriage and also its mocking of the loudly touted religious reformer's virtues of repentance and forgiveness. He says to Miss...
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