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Earnest

By emilyjayne3 Jan 07, 2015 567 Words
Earnest
The tone says that life is fun. The undertone suggests that life is a catastrophe. (How far do you agree with this model of comedy in relation to The Importance of Being Earnest?) With every light hearted joke that Wilde puts across to the audience there is a serious undertone to it, which relates to Victorian Society, and issues which were seen as taboo. Wilde’s play can be seen as quite a satirical play as it continuously mocks the upper classes and their values. Different characters in Wilde’s play bring forward different types of problems in Victorian society. Wilde through the presentation of the characters may have been trying to show that Victorian society at that time was dividing in two, you have the old Victorian society, which people like Lady Bracknell, Miss Prism and Chasuble all seem to follow, which is strict, full of rules, and converges very heavily upon status and wealth. The second you could call the product of the old society, with so many rules in place, many young people such as Algernon and Cecily decide to break away from, and live for pleasure, rather than living for a reputation. This may be seen as the Catastrophe of life. The character of Lady Bracknell was created as a comic tool by Wilde to generate fun for the audience; her dialogue is essentially a way of creating humour, despite her domineering nature which is made absurd and ridiculous to mock the upper classes. This creates a light hearted tone. However, Wilde also uses the character of Lady Bracknell to express the undertone of catastrophe through her unwittingly funny comments on serious subjects. As soon as Lady Bracknell enters in Act one Wilde uses her as a tool to mock marriage. She talks about Lady Harbury who has recently lost her husband and, Lady Bracknell comments, ‘she looks quite twenty years younger’. Lady Harbury looking well is certainly due to the restraints of her strict Victorian marriage being broken, so she can now live ‘for pleasure’. In the 21st century if your husband died you would mourn his death, because modern marriages are mainly for love, not to gain status and money. This is part of the tone which Wilde has set of frivolity over sincerity. One of the most noticeable of these is the trend of death. Death is mentioned several times throughout the play, in the form of flippant comments and offhand jokes. The initial thought one might have when realising the frequency with which death is mentioned in the play is that this was added to give the play dimension and a bit of dark humour. That may be true, but at the same time it highlights and compliments the lighthearted and flippant theme that is so evident throughout. Since the characters in Being Earnest* do not act in a manner that is appropriate or socially acceptable in modern times, it would make sense that their view on death, as a group, is exceedingly callous. The subject is handled with less gravity than most other issues (such as the consumption of cucumber sandwiches versus buttered bread or the rhythm of a name, to name a few painful examples). Instead of seeing death as most serious and expressing sorrow and sympathy for those who have happened to pass on, it is treated as no more consequential than an unfortunate sunburn.

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