Wilde as Parodist: a Second Look at the Importance of Being Earnest : a Review

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Although many of the early critics found Oscar Wilde’s final play strictly humorous, it clearly conveys social hypocrisies of the upper-classes of the period (late-Victorian). Wilde was being satirical and paradoxical in his play to show the hypocrisy and entertain the viewers in a play that is still being repeated till today. It is a witty and amusing comedy which conveys real life everyday themes such as real love as opposed to selfish love, religion, marriage, being truthful and country life as opposed to city life. Richard Foster, author of “Wilde as Parodist: A Second Look at The Importance of Being Earnest”, published in October 1956, writes on how the this play was viewed by critics, the techniques used by Wilde to achieve his purpose, and even compares this work to other similar works by other authors. Foster begins his article by explaining why critics cannot accurately name the type of this play. It is neither “farce” nor “comedy of manners”, although Wilde excessively makes use of both. The play is too intellectual to be considered a farce, yet too unrealistic to be considered a comedy of manners, even though ridicule and exposure of the vanities and hypocrisies of the upper class is surely the main function of the verbal wit. However, the comedy of The Importance of Being Earnest is not in the situations or actions for most of the part, but in the dialogue. Wilde’s play is a satirical demonstration of how art can lie romantically about human beings and distort the simple laws of real life with melodramatic complications and improbable easy escapes from them. "Earnest" suggests that we all lead double lives. This is the idea that homosexual Wilde was understandably obsessed with. “Earnest” as a name is also implicative of being honest and responsible, even if both men lied about their names. It turns out that the truth was told, and this rapid twist between truth and lies shows how muddled the Victorian values of honesty and responsibility were. There...
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