The Importance of Being Earnest Criticizes the Victorian Society

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, author Oscar Wilde criticizes the Victorian society. His characters represent the Victorian era and have twisted views on issues regarding intense emotions such as love and marriage. They do not fully appreciate these concepts and either disregard them or confuse them with emotions that lack depth.

Wilde depicts his Victorian society as superficial and incapable of love that is not shallow. In his comedy, both women, Gwendolyn and Cecily, believe to be head over heels in love with a man named Ernest. The reason for their love is simply that the name Ernest is appealing to them. In fact, Cecily has achieved her lifetime goal. She states, “…It had always been a girlish dream of mine to love someone whose name was Ernest” (Wilde 159). Loving a caring or intelligent man was not a priority. The basis of her love was a name. Wilde illustrates the ridiculous nature of his Victorian characters and their ludicrous perceptions of love. Wilde’s characters do not seem to connect intimate emotions with the word “love.” Though Cecily had never met Ernest, she developed a relationship between them entirely in her head. Upon meeting him for the first time, she begins to talk about the letters she received from him. When he tells her he has never written to her, since they have never met, she says, “… I was forced to write letters for you I wrote always three times a week and sometimes oftener” (158) Cecily and Ernest are supposedly in love but the only thing they share are the letters Cecily wrote to herself in Ernest’s name. There is no real affection between them and the only thing holding their “relationship” together is her attraction to his name.

In Wilde’s comedy, the concept of marriage is not seen as something to cherish but rather as inconvenient and bothersome. In an exchange between Algernon and his servant, Lane, Lane mentions that married couples often have an inferior quality of wine compared to bachelors. Algernon answers,...
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