While some critics contend that The Importance of Being Earnest is
completely fanciful and has no relation to the real world, others maintain that
Oscar Wilde's "trivial comedy for serious people" does make significant comments
about social class and the institution of marriage. These observations include
the prevalent utilization of deceit in everyday affairs. Indeed the characters
and plot of the play appear to be entirely irreverent, thus lending weight to
the comedic, fanciful aspect. However, this same factor also serves to
illuminate the major points that Wilde tries to convey about the English society
in which he lived.
Throughout the course of the play, Wilde portrays each of the main
characters in a way that reflects his views of the English aristocracy.
Algernon Moncrieff and Jack(Ernest) Worthington represent the prototypical male
bachelors. In the opening act, set in Algernon's flat, the two meet and display
what appears to be their usual daily activities. Neither is employed, and it is
apparent that their only occupation is the pursuit of leisure activities and
social matters, subjects of major importance to them. When Algernon inquires as
to the purpose of Ernest's visit to town, Ernest replies, "Oh pleasure,
pleasure! What else should bring anyone anywhere? Eating as usual, I see Algy!".
Algeron and Ernest are characterized by their extravagance, a luxury affordable
only because of the money accrued from family inheritance. Neither displays any
notion of an appreciation for money. In fact, when Algernon's butler hands him
bills that have just arrived in the mail, Algernon simply rips them up.
Wilde's conception of deceit as an accepted custom in English
aristocracy is also existent in this scene. The practice of "Bunburying" is
established, an act where each man lies to his family about an imaginary invalid
friend present somewhere else, in an attempt to pursue leisure... [continues]
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(1999, 10). Oscar Wilde's the Importance of Being Earnest. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 10, 1999, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Oscar-Wildes-Importance-Being-Earnest-4708.html
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