A.P. Literature and Composition
Wilde. Take Away The “E”, and That’s Society
“Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.” The author of this quote, Swami Nirmalananda, was an enlightened anarchist who spread his message about peace and non-violence through letters he wrote to world leaders and followers across the globe. Oscar Wilde expressed his views on the Victorian society in writing as well, but not through letters. He chose to approach the subject by using his works The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan. In both plays, the characters were more focused on escaping society, then living in it.
The main characters in The Importance of Being Earnest use their double lives to escape social regulation, although in differing ways and on each character different social pressures are acting. Jack expresses his feeling of duty and responsibility for Cecily; due to his wardship he must “adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects” because it is “one's duty to do so.” (pg.12) He explains that this is a motive for his wish to create an alternative life saying, “A high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one's health or one's happiness...I have always pretended to have a younger brother“. (pg.12) In this way Jack could be seen to be escaping the social expectation of guardianship.
Another expectation of Victorian society to be escaped was that of family duty. Algernon’s opinion of his family was made abundantly clear. He states that, “They are simply a tedious pack of people who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.” (pg. 27) “The lack of family piety is added to by the authoritarian nature of his closest relative in the play.” This excerpt from bookrags.com is noting the influence Lady Bracknell has on him, which would give him a...
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