English III Honors
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde Reading Questions 1. Explain how Wilde uses satire to critique Victorian society. Throughout the entire play Oscar Wilde critiques the Victorian society through each of the characters. The characters represent the Victorian era but have twisted views on the major emotions love and marry that are mentioned in the play continuously. Wilde depicts the society in which the characters live in as superficial. During the Victorian era, men and women searched for an ideal relationship based on the expectations of a demanding society. Cecily and Gwendolyn fall in love with a man named Ernest. They both simply fall in love with him because of the appeal his name. Cecily mentions, “…always been a girlish dream of mine to love someone whose name was Ernest,” (Wilde 76). When Cecily stated this she was just meeting Algernon, pretending to be named Ernest so this shows that the women of the Victorian society develop relationships in their head rather than experiencing them in life. Lady Brackwell, Algernon’s aunt mentions, “…I’m not in favor of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable,” (Wilde 99). Wilde pointing out the way women living in Victorian Era rather marry a man before they get to know them. Wilde shows marriage as something not cherished but rather inconvenient and bothersome throughout the play. Lance, Algernon’s servant says that married couples often have an inferior quality of wine compared to bachelors.
2. Identify the main arguments the play makes about romantic love. The main argument shown throughout the play is the debate of whether love is business or for pleasure. This argument is first introduced when Jack and Algernon argue about whether or not Jack’s proposal to Gwendolen is business or pleasure, “I thought you had come up for pleasure?...I call that business” (Wilde 30). In addition, Lady Bracknell believes that marriage is only permissible when the bachelor has money and was born of a respectable family; which is shown when she interrogates Jack’s history. She asks him many personal questions that show whether he group up with money or if he worked for his money. Lady Bracknell says “An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be” (Wilde 44). Also Lady Bracknell proves the argument of love being pleasant or business, her belief in marriage shows that she believes that it doesn’t matter if her daughter is in love if the suitor is not eligible. Overall, throughout the entire play the main argument is whether love is business or pleasure which is a main part of the Victorian society which the play takes place in.
3. Understand why Jack and Algernon felt it necessary to adopt dual identities. Jack and Algernon felt it was necessary to adopt dual identities because they wanted to fit in society and be suitable bachelors in order to marry the women they love. Jack feels the
need to create an alter ego named Ernest to keep his honorable image intact. Ernest enables Jack to escape the boundaries of his real life and act as he wouldn’t dare to under his real identity. Ernest provides a convenient excuse and disguise for Jack, and Jack feels no qualms about invoking Ernest whenever necessary. He uses Ernest to escape from his real life. Similar to Jack’s alter ego Ernest, Algernon has invented a fictional character, a chronic invalid named Bunbury, to give him a reprieve from his real life. Bunbury provides Algernon with a way of indulging himself while also suggesting great seriousness and sense of duty. After Jack explains that he is going to kill of his brother, Ernest Algernon mentions, “Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to ...
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