The Importance of Being Earnest
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a satire based on Victorian society in the late 1800’s. Everything about this play is a satire; from marriage to social class, and even the play’s name. Wilde criticizes these aspects of Victorian society with the use of witty puns and unusual, awkward situations. Wilde brings to light the fact that late Victorian society cared more about a person’s name and wealth than their personality. This debases the sanctity of marriage by putting emphasis on social advancement rather than on holy matrimony. It also locks a person within the confines of his or her social class. For example, in Act One when Gwendolyn tells Jack that she is absolutely in love with the name Earnest, Jack tries to convince her that Earnest is not a good name. He makes and effort to bring up other names like his real name, Jack, but Gwendolyn simply states that she could never love somebody named Jack like she could someone named Earnest. Because Jack is a lower class name, it is subpar in comparison to a powerful name like Earnest and is therefore rejected. Another example of Wilde’s satirical wit is also in Act One. Algernon is speaking with his butler Lane about marriage. Lane says that he believes marriage to be a pleasant state and follows that by saying that his own marriage happened because of a misunderstanding between himself and a young girl. This suggests that marriage of the time was not treated as a righteous act before God like it should be, but rather a tool for social wealth. Wilde went so far as to even make the name of the play true to his satirical intent. For one to be earnest, they must serious and sincere in his or her intention. Jack, who is pretending to be Earnest, does not have serious and sincere intentions. In fact, his intention for being Earnest was to have the ability to live vicariously in the city without consequence. When speaking of his reason for writing...
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