The Importance of Not Being Earnest

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In his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde portrays his beliefs by satirizing the beliefs and values of his society. Within Act I, Algernon states that “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Wilde’s witty epigram projects a major theme within the play. It attacks the perception of fixed truth. The major target of Wilde's scathing social criticism is the hypocrisy that society creates. Often in Victorian society, its participants acted in overly sincere, polite ways while they harbored conversely manipulative, cruel attitudes. "Truth" in Victorian England was expressed in stagnant social conventions which suppressed individual expression. Wilde hated this conventional notion of truth because it was used to keep blinders on society and blocked individuals from looking at life from different angles.

This quote can be taken to mean various things. “The truth is rarely pure.” The definition of pure is without any extraneous and unnecessary elements. What exactly is the truth? Is it reality, sincerity, integrity? Is it accuracy and honesty? The truth about truth is that it is relative. Truth is subject to the people telling it, the people observing it. The truth can rarely be considered “pure” merely because everyone’s perspective is different. Many base what they believe to be true on their own definition of truth, on their own beliefs, on their own expectations of life. “The truth is never simple.” This second half of the quote states that because of human nature, the truth is never truly simple. Maybe in itself facts can be considered simple, but as humans, we complicate the truth, we interpret those facts in complex and very different ways. Two people standing right next to each other, viewing the same event, could see something completely different from one another. So what exactly is the pure and simple truth in a reality thoroughly mixed with perception? That may have been what Oscar Wilde was trying to address in...
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